Leeds Heritage Theatres – where every seat tells a story. Find out more about how you can name a seat at one of our venues.

Two images - one of a woman with a white cane in the auditorium of Leeds Grand Theatre in front of the orchestra and stage. The other is a photo of two women holding out an embroidered costume for three people to touch as part of a touch tour.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thu 16 May 2024, we’re taking a look at our upcoming Access performances and all of the ways what we offer is helping audiences.

Written by Aaron Cawood

Access at Leeds Heritage Theatres

Leeds Heritage Theatres is committed to being open for all to enjoy live performance and film in comfort. We are working hard to continue adapting our buildings and developing our team to provide the best possible facilities and service. 

As we’ve continued to develop our approach to Access, this has included our Theatre For All fundraising campaign and our dedicated Access Membership to provide specific support to audience members with access needs when booking tickets for themselves and companions and more.

Find out more on our Access page.

A view of the Leeds Grand Theatre auditorium from the stage. There are people with a guide dog on stage and a group doing a touch tour.

Opera North Touch Tour at Leeds Grand Theatre. Credit Tom Arber

Why it matters

Two audience members touch a piece of set on stage at Leeds Grand Theatre

Opera North Touch Tour at Leeds Grand Theatre. Credit Tom Arber

According to Creative PEC’s recent study, in terms of cultural engagement and attendance, there is a measurable gap across the board between disabled and non-disabled attendance rates.

Not limited to theatre, this is evident across all forms of arts and culture; from cinema, to reading, to carnivals. With a gap of around 10% in theatre attendance between the two audience types, we feel strongly about creating a space that leaves our doors open to as many people as possible.

With our Access Membership, access lifts now at all three of our venues, and ongoing work to increase our number of Access performances, the work we are doing is only continuing to expand. We have taken action to improve the accessibility of our website, keeping in mind elements such as navigation and colour contrast, and continue to utilise alt text across all of our platforms. In-house, we have an Access Group that meets regularly to make plans to improve access at The Grand and City Varieties. Following access audits by Page/Park Architects, who oversaw the renovation of Hyde Park Picture House in line with those same access goals, we are constantly working to fix elements of our venues with their guidance – from fixing lights in the Box Office to reviewing placement of safety equipment to ensure access routes aren’t blocked. The impact is perhaps no better described than in the below testimony, from our Access Member, Katy.

“My nine-year-old daughter is autistic and has ADHD. The last time I took her to the see panto in 2019 she had to leave the theatre seven times because she was overwhelmed – even though it was something she’d loved before. I became too worried about booking again and having to leave halfway through – the price of tickets meant this felt like a big risk. By signing up for your access scheme and being able to gain a free carers ticket, I felt I could try again.

“The world has become increasingly overwhelming for Pippa. I’ve been concerned that her universe is shrinking and she is losing the opportunity to try new things and find her joy. Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat seemed like the ideal opportunity to try the theatre again, and inject some colour into her life. 

“Although she spent the whole performance sat on my knee, wearing her ear defenders, she also spent the whole performance transfixed by the spectacle of the show, to the extent that she never left her seat at all, or asked to go outside the auditorium for a break. 

“Thank you so much for your access scheme which has opened up the theatre to my daughter again.”

Upcoming accessible performances

Over at Hyde Park Picture House, there are regular access screenings for the movies on their slate.

Check out their upcoming Audio Described, Captioned and Relaxed screenings.