June 8, 2022
The past few years have seen a light shone upon accessibility in the arts, sparking a change in how arts programming caters for disabled people. The sudden impossibility of in-person events due to the COVID-19 pandemic has required cultural institutions to adapt their programming to online events, which removed barriers such as crowds, physical inaccessibility or overstimulating environments and opened up access to those with mobility or sensory issues which had previously prevented them from attending.
Now, as COVID restrictions have lifted, arts organisations must explore new ways to return to in-person events whilst retaining the same level of access for and engagement from disabled populations. At Hidden Door, we are proud to have a team of artists, practitioners, organisers and volunteers with a range of abilities, and strive to make the 2022 festival as inclusive and accessible as possible to both punters and performers.
Hidden Door is unique in that we host our events on temporary sites, many of which have been left derelict and unused for years beforehand, and these older buildings and spaces were built without accessibility considerations in mind. At Hidden Door, we work with accessibility advisors for each venue that we transform, in order to design the layout and programming to ensure safe access to as much of the festival as possible.
This year, most of the outdoor areas of the Royal High School site are fully wheelchair accessible, including a bar, toilets and food stalls, as well as the four largest performance spaces; the Outdoor Stage, the Indoor Stage, the Central Chamber and the Pianodrome. As a result, the vast majority of the music, theatre, dance and spoken word programming will be accessible to those with mobility issues.
For the music stages which are not seated, Hidden Door volunteers are able to set up seated viewing areas for those who are not able to stand for long periods of time, and free tickets are available for personal assistants and carers.
Unfortunately, the lower levels of the High School were not able to be adapted to accommodate wheelchair access, and discounted tickets are available for audience members who won’t be able to access the full programme for this reason.
Additionally, this year’s Hidden Door will be offering midweek “quiet” sessions, on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th of June, from 1pm – 2:30pm. These fall during the times when the festival is open to the public for free (from 1pm – 5pm on June 10th – 18th), but there will be no performances or soundchecks happening at this time in order to keep auditory stimulation to a minimum.
There are also designated “chill-out” zones set up across the site in case anyone needs to take a break, and a group of our wonderful volunteers will be onsite to take audience members on a guided tour of the site and artworks, if needed.
Rhona Sword, Hidden Door’s Evaluation Lead, said: “Hidden Door is committed to making our festival as accessible to as many people as possible, and we understand that sometimes the bustling crowds, booming bass and pop-up performances aren’t for everyone and can feel a bit overwhelming.
“We’re passionate about bringing you the best of Scotland’s emerging talent within some of the city’s most exciting buildings, and we want you to be able to discover it in the way that works best for you.“
These quiet sessions are also a great opportunity for those still practising social distancing to come and see the site and explore the exhibitions away from the crowds. In keeping with government guidelines, masks and social distancing will not be required during the festival, but the Hidden Door team encourages those with concerns about COVID safety to reach out and discuss what we can do to make them feel safe and comfortable.
It’s important to us that everyone can experience our festival, and we’ve always offered time slots for people to visit for free. This year, half of the total festival opening time is completely free for people to explore the building, grab some food and drink, discover the art and even catch some of the early performances on certain days.
We’re open to the public for free 1pm – 5pm from Friday June 10th to Saturday 18th, and are completely free all day and evening Monday 13th, Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th until late. We won’t have live performances Monday – Wednesday but there’s still lots to see and it’s a chance to explore in more peaceful surroundings.
Accompanied under 18s are also very welcome between 1pm-5pm.
Support and guide dogs are welcome on site at all times and in all areas, and our volunteers will be on hand to provide extra assistance to audience members, from guided tours of the artworks to assisting with seating.
We’re also working hard to be as inclusive as possible for our volunteer team. Elliot Pettitt joined us in 2021 as a volunteer and is helping us as an accessibility advisor.
Elliot told us: “Offering to volunteer at Hidden Door last year having a visual impairment, I had many trepidations but they were met with understanding and compassion. The inclusive community that is Hidden Door welcomed and encouraged the best out of me. I felt so at home in the festival and I feel privileged having the opportunity to return this year advising on accessibility to best enable others to share in this character shaping experience.
“What a spectacular reintroduction to life and what a stellar send off to summer!”
If you would like to attend and have any requirements that are not covered here, the Hidden Door team can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to welcoming you to our festival!