Access All Areas is an access and engagement programme for children and young people with special needs, learning disabilities, including those with neurodiverse and/or autistic spectrum conditions and other sensory or communication needs that ran during BCF20.

Creative Child Extended Experience Nettlefield Nursery

Access All Areas provides ‘relaxed performances’, offering a more informal performance experience suitable for neurodiverse children and young people or those with autistic spectrums conditions (ASC) and/or physical or learning disabilities with adjusted lighting and sound levels and anxiety aids (including stress balls/ear defenders). 

Along with the ‘relaxed performances’ a specially-developed ‘visual story’ pack was also distributed in advance of the theatre visits and detailed the experience of arriving at the venue and what to expect at the performance to reduce visit anxiety.

Special schools also received a Teacher Resource Pack (one for each production) tailored to each show with pre- and post-visit activities to prepare for and unpack the experience of the show to reduce the potential anxiety and stress on children, teachers and support staff.

Specialist training was provided for event and venue staff. Anxiety aids and ear plugs were available for all ‘relaxed performances, and a ‘chill out’ zone was located adjacent to the auditorium so children experiencing anxiety could leave and re-enter the performance as needed. These measures remove ‘unknowns’ and reduce the children’s anxieties both prior to and during their visit to the festival. This in turn reduces the stress on parents, siblings, carers and teachers and makes for a more enjoyable experience for all.

This project was delivered with support from the following funders:

·      The D’Oyly Carte Trust

·      The Enkalon Foundation


With thanks to prior support from:

·      Replay Theatre Company’s

·      The Arts Council NI’s Pilot Premium Payments Programme

·      The Blackburn Trust