With their silent audiences, formal attire and clapping etiquette, classical music concerts don’t scream accessibility.
But BBC Proms has committed to making classical concerts welcoming to all, with a new disability-inclusive event at the Royal Albert Hall.
The first Relaxed Prom, taking place on Saturday (29 July), is an informal event designed specifically to cater for adults and children with autism, sensory and communication impairments and learning disabilities.
The concert will also be accessible to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind and partially sighted.
Unlike the strict seating of a regular prom, there will be an open attitude towards movement and noise in the auditorium during the hour-long Relaxed Prom.
The planned programme will feature music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Rossini and Johann Strauss II, as well tunes that may be more familiar to attendees, such as Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’ and the ‘Doctor Who’ theme.
Visitors are welcome to move about, dance or sing during the performance, or simply watch and listen.
For those who may find the loud noice and big crowd overwhelming, there will also be “chill out” spaces outside the main auditorium where visitors can take a break while also feeling part of the action.
The Royal Albert Hall has also organised an extra wheelchair platform to accommodate for more wheelchair users and made wheelchair storing provisions for those who wish to travel to the venue in a wheelchair, but transfer to a chair throughout the performance.
There will also be no bright or flashing lights throughout the performance and no lights shining out into the audience. The house lights will remain on throughout the concert, making the auditorium lighter than usual.
Presented by conductor Grant Llewellyn and musician Andy Pidcock, the concert will also include picture communication systems projected onto large screens, as well as audio description and British Sign Language interpretation.
To top it all off, members of the orchestra will be introduced to the audience throughout the event, giving the audience a chance to meet the performers.
For any anyone interested in attending this weekend’s event, the BBC has created a handy guide for parents and carers with more details of what to expect.
Actor Richard Mylan attended a trial run of the concert in Cardiff earlier this month with his son Jaco and is pleased BBC Proms has made the trailblazing move.
“It was my family’s first experience of live orchestral music. What an incredible experience it was too,” he said.
“The whole event was thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end. My son Jaco who’s nearly 12 and autistic, felt relaxed and included. His face lit up as soon as the music began. He loved trying out the instruments beforehand and I commend everyone involved.
“It’s so important that we teach neurodiverse individuals that classical music is accessible to them. Music is so important, whatever the genre.”
The Relaxed Prom is a collaboration between the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Royal Albert Hall Education and Outreach and is a continuation of BBC NOW’s dynamic learning work.
BBC NOW is dedicated to developing innovative, exciting and distinctive experiences for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Suzanne Hay, head of learning and partnerships for BBC NOW said: “We are thrilled about our first Relaxed Concerts in Cardiff and London and are passionate about finding new ways of presenting concerts and making music inclusive.
“Over many years our musicians have developed a fantastic
rapport with Andy Pidcock and Grant Llewellyn, devising an extensive programme of workshops and concerts for special schools across Wales. This unique concert format is an exciting next step.
“We hope that through creating a relaxed approach to the concert environment, we can offer an accessible introduction to the orchestra in an atmosphere that is fun-filled and welcoming.”
To book tickets for the Relaxed Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, London, visit the BBC Proms website.
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