Even the circus can put on a relaxed performance, says Emma Bradshaw.
The modern circus still retains the same elements of its eighteenth century origins: a circular ring, a travelling show and a big top tent. Traditionally, the circus would arrive on the village green to the delight of local people who would escape their daily lives as they stepped into the big top. People in small villages would experience magic and exotic sights. Circus was accessible for all, not only by being a cheap art form, but also thanks to the performers and people who had ‘run away’ to join the circus.
Circus is a lifestyle, a culture, a family, and an inclusive art form. Despite being a temporary venue, spending only two weeks at a time at any one ground, we have always strived to be inclusive. We provide ear defenders for people who need them. Aisle seats are reserved for people who need to feel they can leave easily if they want, and there’s ground level access and wheelchair spaces. Of course, being in the middle of a field will always provide challenges, but our front of house team are experts on doing all that they can to ensure that everyone has their best circus experience.
A Relaxed Show is a natural extension of this and has now become an annual fixture for us. We work closely with local charities and SEN schools to ensure that all audience needs are met, with break-out areas, free refreshments and staff who understand and respect the needs of everyone. There’s an information pack for the show, scene by scene, so that people coming to the show and teachers are able to manage expectations and prepare for any elements that may trigger their students. Sudden loud noises, strobe lighting and surprises may be dampened down, with the house lights kept on for reassurance and easy access in and out of the tent. At the beginning of the show all the characters and ponies are introduced to the audience and a British sign language interpreter signs throughout the relaxed performance. There is also a much reduced capacity giving everyone in the tent more space if needed.