Here is an Open Access (free to read and download) paper by me and Dr Shaun May from the University of Kent, discussing last year’s Autism Arts Festival in Canterbury: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569783.2018.1468243
‘Relaxed performances’ allow theatre spectators to experience a non-judgmental environment, featuring adjustments to make them more accessible to a range of audiences. The Autism Arts Festival attempted to develop the idea of relaxed performances further to create an entirely autism-friendly festival in Canterbury. The organisers developed a suite of features to make the festival more accessible, and the suite as a whole was effective at increasing the accessibility of the festival. Moreover, discussions with performers indicate that the festival, as an ‘autistic space’, was conducive of both a sense of community solidarity and engagement with the politics of neurodiversity.
Easy to read abstract
This paper looks at relaxed performances, which are theatre performances where it is OK to talk or move around during the show. Relaxed performances are often enjoyed by people on the autistic spectrum. This is because the lights are less bright, the sound effects are quieter, there are more theatre staff to help, and you can read about the theatre and the show before you visit, so you feel more comfortable and relaxed.
This paper looks at the Autism Arts Festival, which was a two-day festival of theatre, films, comedy, and art where all the performances were relaxed. The people who ran the Festival wanted to make sure that people were comfortable before and during their visit – especially if they were autistic. To do this, they tried lots of new things, such as videos of the paths around the theatres, and free toys to fidget with. We found out that most people who visited the Festival thought it was friendly and welcoming. We also found that people used lots of different things to help them feel comfortable.
The people who made the shows told us that the Festival felt like an ‘autistic space’, which means a place where autistic people feel at home. They liked meeting other people on the autistic spectrum. They had interesting conversations about how autistic people and people who are not on the spectrum could work together and learn from each other.