01 Aug 2018

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Auckland Art Festival recognised for accessibility programme

Auckland Arts Festival’s “strong leadership and outstanding efforts” in making its 2018 programme accessible to disabled and Deaf audiences were recognised in Parliament tonight (subs: 6pm Wednesday 1 August) when it received the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts for All Award 2018.

Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2018, held in the Banquet Hall of Parliament, celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members.

Judging panel member Stephen Wainwright, Chief Executive, Creative New Zealand, applauded Auckland Arts Festival for its “strong leadership and outstanding efforts” that resulted in 14 accessible events, reduced ticket prices and in-house ticketing.

“Strong leadership at the Auckland Arts Festival has changed attitudes and has showed what’s possible,” Stephen Wainwright said. “The 2018 Festival pulled out all the accessibility stops and the increase in ticket sales says it all.”

These accessible events attracted more than 425 disabled and Deaf patrons, along with friends and family, to attend a variety of national and international festival events, compared to 47 attendees at its accessible events in 2017.

A reduced ticket price enabled some people to attend for the first time, and others to attend multiple events.

Áine Kelly-Costello, who is blind and recently completed postgraduate study at the University of Auckland, witnessed firsthand “the genuine commitment to accessibility that the Auckland Arts Festival staff showed”.

“It was a pleasure to be able to attend the touch tours and audio described events and immerse myself in the soundscape, monologue or drama, confident that I would fully experience the show and not miss crucial information.”

The Festival’s accessible programme included theatre, comedy, magic, circus, contemporary dance, music and visual arts. For the first time, a relaxed performance was presented for people with autism, sensory and communication disorders or a learning difficulty.

The programme was developed in consultation with key community stakeholders to select shows that resonated and would translate well.

An access section was created on the website’s homepage, along with accessible communication channels, a dedicated contact for queries and inhouse ticketing.

Auckland Arts Festival is a member of the Arts For All Auckland Network, facilitated by Arts Access Aotearoa. There are four other regional Arts For All Networks in Otago, Wellington, Taranaki and Canterbury.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet, a member of the Arts For All Wellington Network, received a Highly Commended citations in the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2018 for its “wonderful programme of accessible events, making ballet cool and accessible to people who might not otherwise get the chance to experience it”.

Its 2017 programme included the first audio described ballet (Romeo and Juliet) in New Zealand, relaxed performances, and the first Sign Language Interpreted guided tour of the RNZB at the St James Theatre in Wellington during New Zealand Sign Language Week.

Executive Director Richard Benge said the Arts For All Networks, which Arts Access Aotearoa established in 2011, had resulted in a significant increase in the number of accessible arts and cultural events in New Zealand.

“Last year, we recorded 65 accessible arts events around the country,” he said. “These were driven by Network members who are passionate about accessibility.”

One in four people in New Zealand – more than one million – live with a disability or impairment that impacts on their daily lives. “That’s a lot of people, who all have the right to enjoy the arts as artists, participants, audience members and gallery visitors,” Richard said.

“Tonight, we celebrate the achievements and contributions of people and communities who make Aotearoa New Zealand a rich, diverse and creative country.”

Arts Access Aotearoa receives core funding from Creative New Zealand.