Sydney – Wednesday 8 March, 2017. The Sydney Opera House last night unveiled its 2017 Access Program, featuring more than 70 accessible performances, workshops and experiences to ensure the Opera House is open to all.
Underpinned by the Sydney Opera House’s Access Strategic Plan 2016-18, the 2017 program is the Opera House’s biggest yet, increasing the number of accessible performances available to the community. Highlights include:
- Australian Ballet Education Access Residency – After a successful pilot in 2016, The Australian Ballet’s education team will take up residency in the Utzon Room in May, giving school-aged children with disabilities an unforgettable introduction to dance through workshops and performance.
- Accessible performances – AUSLAN interpreted, captioned or sensory/Autism-friendly performances of the year's most anticipated children’s shows.
- Accessible Performance and Sing & Play series – Select accessible performances of children’s shows such as Music of the Forest will be followed by Sing & Play sessions where kids can experiment with musical instruments. Led by music therapists, the sessions will be presented in partnership with Lifestart and the Royal Institute of Deaf & Blind Children.
- Dancing Story workshops – A new dance workshop for children aged 3-5 years, led by The Australian Ballet’s education team, will give little ones their first experience of dance, regardless of their learning styles or physical abilities.
- Dancing Connections – These community Dance for Parkinson's classes build on the themes and repertory of the most exciting dance performances staged at the Opera House throughout the year. Presented in partnership with Dance for Parkinson's Australia and Mark Morris Dance Group's ‘Dance for PD’ program, the first series of 2017 partners with The Australian Ballet and brings to life The Nutcracker: The Story of Clara
Alongside its year-round Access Program, the Opera House is making significant progress with its plans to open up more of the building to the public and improve access around the site for those with mobility issues. These essential works, which form part of Stage 1 Renewal of the Opera House, include greater access to the Concert Hall and Joan Sutherland Theatre, wheelchair accessible seating positions and new Box Office and Foyer lifts and escalators.
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said: “Accessibility is a major focus for us. As we renew the building for future generations we are looking at every possible opportunity to make the Opera House more accessible – from programming to the building itself.
“Since opening in 1973, the Opera House has played a significant role in the life of this country. It belongs to us all and our Access Program and Renewal works are vital to ensure it is accessible to everyone.”
Sydney Opera House Accessibility Manager Jenny Spinak said: “It's important that everyone feels welcome at the Opera House and is able to experience all this magnificent building and world-class performing arts centre has to offer. Through our inclusive program of accessible shows, workshops and programs, our goal is to increase cultural participation across the community. ”
Additional initiatives include:
- The Balnaves Foundation Open House Program – The initiative provides $5 tickets to people who face barriers to accessing live performances at the Opera House due to social and financial disadvantage.
- Bella at the House (for adults or children) – A joint excursion program with the Museum of Contemporary Art giving an introduction to performing and visual arts with an emphasis on performance and location.
- Professional Development Training – The Australian Ballet’s residency will provide accessible ideas for specialist and generalist school teachers to complement the curriculum.
- Annual Teacher Development Forum – creative learning forum on engaging students with disability.
In early 2017 the Opera House’s Accessible Performance and Sing and Play series was a finalist in the NSW Disability Industry Innovation Awards for Leadership in community inclusion.
With thanks to Access Program Patrons: Rae Assender; The Balnaves Foundation; Dr Eileen Ong and Yarranabbe Foundation.