WAO Ghost Spotlight with Jacqueline Homer
As we prepare to welcome audiences to The Nightingale next weekend, it is imperative we take a moment to reflect on why inclusion is so vital both inside and outside of the theatre. From planning to performance, we want to shine a spotlight on our creatives working tirelessly to bring the magic of opera to you. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and learn how crucial it is to remove barriers preventing full engagement with the arts.
Join us this week with DADAA’s Access All Arts Program Producer Jacqueline Homer as she explains her work managing accessibility for The Nightingale, the importance of consistency in access provision, and why the arts are integral to the health and wellbeing of all people.
1. Tell us about developing the relaxed performance for The Nightingale – what has your role been and what did the process involve?
West Australian Opera approached DADAA to assist in creating a Relaxed Performance for young people with autism. I have essentially been production managing the access aspect of The Nightingale.
After various meetings, we devised a scope of works that included advising the different departments and production teams at WAO in making this production accessible, including marketing measures, ticketing options and a Quiet Area where young people who are overwhelmed by sensory inputs can take some time out. We devised a social story for families with young people with autism that shows them what to expect when they attend His Majesty’s Theatre. We also conducted disability awareness training for WAO staff where we discussed barriers that people with disability face and communication strategies that staff can implement.
2. What challenges and opportunities did the pandemic period present for you? How did DADAA continue to work and engage with audiences?
It was brutal. The pandemic hit the arts, culture and events sector like nothing we have ever experienced before. I remember a phone conversation during the lockdown with Pam Barras, one of DADAA’s access consultants. Pam is vision impaired and an avid theatregoer who would normally attend as many audio described shows and tactile tours as she could. She was fearful that there would be no more audio description or tactile tours for people who are blind or vision impaired. She relayed to me that she could not fathom how she and the rest of the blind community could ever experience arts and cultural activities in a way that is truly inclusive like they have before. During the lockdown, we started investigating 3D printing and how we could bring art galleries into people’s homes. That is still work in progress. While DADAA’s studio and workshop program moved to online delivery, we have only just started to get our access programs going again in the last couple of weeks after shutting down in March.
3. What is inclusion and how can arts organisations be more inclusive of all artists and audiences?
Inclusion is a human right. Inclusion means that everyone has the same opportunities. It can be achieved by removing barriers that prevent people from fully participating in the community. Everyone deserves the right to be socially accepted, feel valued, respected and treated equally. In the case of theatre, people with disability – whether they are vision impaired, deaf or have other forms of disability – should not be discriminated against and should be able to fully experience a performance, just like everyone else.
There can be a lack of consistency in the access provision for people with disability as audience members in both venues and at performances. This contributes significantly to the barriers people with disability encounter when engaging in the arts and cultural sector. Access policies need to cover every department of an arts organisation – from management, marketing, producers, directors and designers, through to FOH and tech crew – a holistic approach that would ensure inclusive best practice for both audiences and artists with disability.
4. To what extent do you think access to arts and culture positively impacts people with disability or mental illness?
The arts are integral to health and wellbeing. For audiences with disability, going out and getting involved in arts and cultural activities builds social connectedness. The joy, the laughter, the tears, the gamut of emotions that go with watching a piece of theatre can often be a cathartic experience, not just a social one. For artists with disability, this is also a means for them to express themselves creatively. Their art empowers them and also challenges audience member ideologies, which can have transformative outcomes.
Check out this video from Arts Access Victoria from artists that talk about the significance of art in their lives.
5. Self-motivated learning has become increasingly important this year. What resources are there for people who would like to learn more about accessibility in the arts?
Get involved in some disability awareness training provided by organisations such as DADAA, WA’s premier arts and disability organisation! There are also peak bodies for arts and disability in every state in Australia that have resources one can access such as Arts Access Australia.
Due to the pandemic, arts and disability talks and conferences have all moved into the digital realm which makes it easier to broaden one’s understanding.
6. Can you share with us a musical moment in your life that you found illuminating or inspiring?
The first that comes to mind involves when Grace King (a performer who is blind), myself, and other members of an arts collective collaborated to develop a performance for Fringe World 2018. Grace has an amazing vocal range and a hauntingly beautiful voice, not to mention a wicked sense of humour. We brought the show to a mainstream audience who saw past her disability and instead celebrated and applauded her ability – which was very powerful.
7. What is your biggest hope for the future of the arts sector?
That the arts and cultural sector becomes consistent in its approach to providing access for people with disability. This goes beyond making sure the performance space has lifts, accessible toilets or ACROD parking bays. Best inclusive arts practices are essential to ensure people with disability are not excluded from full participation.
The Nightingale is fast approaching – click here to find out more about the Relaxed Performance supported by Lotterywest.
ABOUT JACQUELINE HOMER
Jacqueline has a background in theatre, with a BA in Theatre and a Diploma in OSH, and extensive experience working in Singapore’s theatre scene as a Production Manager, where she managed hundreds of school performances, and corporate and government commissioned shows. Since joining DADAA in 2005 she has been working on Community Arts and Cultural Development programs and is currently DADAA’s Access All Arts Program Producer. In 2015, Jacqueline developed a program that would extend accessibility to the arts for people who are blind or vision impaired. She is passionate about promoting disability awareness and accessibility for people with disability in the arts and cultural sector.