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Relaxed Performances Project

As highlighted in a number of news stories in the UK, there is a real and urgent need for more awareness and understanding of autism as well as a concerted effort to welcome and accommodate young people with autism as audience members in theatres across the UK. There has been growing interest in increasing arts engagement for young people with special needs including autism and other sensory, communication and learning disorders through the programming of ‘Relaxed Performances’. Relaxed Performances are designed to have a less formal, more supportive atmosphere to reduce anxiety levels. This can be achieved by adapting the performance in a number of ways including changing lighting and special effects to accommodate sensory sensitivities and training theatre staff in how to work with children with special needs. The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts, in partnership with the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association, researched and developed a best practice model to share with all theatres across the UK and beyond to create a sustainable route into theatre for this new audience. This grant supported the presentation of ‘Relaxed Performances’ in theatres across the UK and these performances were presented under one umbrella scheme which supported the development, production, marketing, presentation, and evaluation of the performances over the course of one school calendar year. A comprehensive research program measured the impact of the project both during and beyond the project period. The aim was to provide access to creative, safe and inspiring public theatres for children with special needs and their families.