I can sadly speak from first-hand experience, when we were asked to leave a performance of the show ‘Wicked’ at a London West End Theatre in July 2011, when a sound engineer claimed to find the soft vowels sounds our autistic son Gregor made, distracting.
Apart from my mind being awash with disbelief, I just knew this wasn’t right, fair or acceptable, but the most frustrating part of all was a simple lack of understanding.
It was at this point, the need to create a more accessible society across all sectors had to happen and why Friendly Access was born.
Spearheading a national campaign promoting positive awareness and calling for theatres to open their doors to autism friendly and relaxed performances was launched with immediate effect. This involved working closely with primary theatre industry bodies including the theatre we had the issue with, The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), the largest theatre group in the UK. I was also involved with the steering group which was formed to look at ways forward. As a result, Autism & Theatre – An Industry Inspiration Conference Day was held in London, October 2011, the first of its kind to take place in the UK and with overwhelming support and theatre representation throughout the country. Owing to the success and inspiration from this, we secured the first major west end autism friendly/relaxed performances of The Lion King in April 2013 at the Lyceum Theatre, London and The Edinburgh Playhouse. Both of which sold out in under a week. That single leap of faith paved the way for theatres across the UK to open their doors to relaxed and autism performances on a regular and sustainable basis.
The campaign won over huge public and industry support, and was recognised by The Scottish Charity Voluntary Organisation (SCVO), in being nominated as a Charity Champion finalist in June 2012 and Campaigner of the Year finalist for The Charity Staff Foundation Awards March 2013.
In some of the spare time……
Establishing and chairing National Autistic Society Moray & Nairn in partnership with Kev Anderson, Riding High, we introduced Scotland’s only autism surfing school which won us Most Creative Community Project Award, 2016 Autism Professionals Awards and Community Engagement Award, 2015 sportMoray. I have always been curious in where by moving centre of focus, you are placing barriers in the peripheral. We don’t push individuals’ comfort zones, we just help them push their own. We haven’t stopped at autism and since then, true to our holistic approach, introduced classes to cater for everyone, including all who require additional support. We have featured in many articles including The Scottish Field magazine. Click here for our recent class taken in Aberdeen in partnership with Me Too! Magazine.
– Glyn Morris Chief Executive, Friendly Access
‘Most Inspirational Volunteer Award’, 2016 Autism Professionals Awards, Telford International Centre.