Sunderland Empire handed award at star-studded ceremony

L-R Kerry Highcock (NEAS), Jade Natalie, Pawsum (NEAS Mascot), David Barrett Charlie Guest and Lisa Taylor (NEAS).
L-R Kerry Highcock (NEAS), Jade Natalie, Pawsum (NEAS Mascot), David Barrett Charlie Guest and Lisa Taylor (NEAS).

Sunderland Empire has taken a bow after receiving an award for its autism-friendly performances.

The theatre’s creative learning team took centre stage to receive the Member’s Award from Action for Children’s Arts for their autism specific projects, specifically in the field of relaxed performances.

Hollie Coxon and Anthony Hope from Sunderland Empire were nominated by Dr Chris Abbott, trustee of Actions for Children’s Arts Charity, and they were presented with the award at a star-studded ceremony attended by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Maureen Lipman and author Philip Pullman.

Hollie Coxon, creative learning manager at the Empire, said: “Winning the award will make such a huge difference in raising the profile of the importance of inclusivity, which we are so passionate about.

“We share this award with our multiple partners who we have worked closely with over the past five years. Together, we have grown Sunderland Empire’s relaxed performance programme, as well as a strong inclusive strand to our Creative Learning programme, which engaged 2,395 disabled participants this year alone.”

The team have worked on a host of projects which engage groups, special schools and families in creative learning activities, to complement the growing programme of relaxed performances.

Kerrie Highcock, family development manager at the North East Autism Society, who work closely with the theatre, said: “We have had the opportunity to work with the Sunderland Empire for a number of years on developing and delivering a relaxed performance for people with autism and their families. It has been fantastic to be part of something which can make a difference to so many people’s lives.

“A visit to the theatre can be just a standard experience for many people, but for someone with autism it can be very difficult, confusing and overwhelming. But making a few adjustments at the theatre means that people with autism can experience the show too, many for the first time.”

The next relaxed performance will be Jack and the Beanstalk on December 27 at 5pm which is aimed at patrons with additional needs, such as autism, ADHD, dementia, young children or anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment.

Slight alterations such as technical changes to lights, pyrotechnics, and noise levels are made to the performance though the overall content does not change. In addition, pre-show familiarisation visits can be arranged along with visual stories to supporting the visit.

•For further information about the relaxed performance call 0191 566 1054 (during office hours Monday-Friday) or email SunderlandEducation@theambassadors.com