OOTS believes that children with Autism, learning disabilities and sensory and communication disorders, should have access to the same life-enhancing opportunities as their peers and was delighted to partner Performances Birmingham Limited (PBL) and Autism West Midlands in a ‘relaxed performance’ in Town Hall Birmingham.

Generously supported by:

  • Birmingham Bodenham Trust
  • Boshier-Hinton Foundation
  • D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust
  • Eric W Vincent Trust
  • Edward & Dorothy Cadbury Trust
  • George Fentham Birmingham Charity
  • Grantham Yorke Trust
  • Henry James Sayer Charity
  • Mrs Wingfield’s Charitable Trust
  • Eveson Charitable Trust
  • W E Dunn Trust

“Having an autistic son, I was over the moon to hear you created a relaxed performance of the show.  I am sure you can appreciate it’s extremely difficult finding somewhere to take your child that doesn’t cause them unimaginable stress.  We utterly enjoyed the performance and my son was entertained throughout.  The changes made to the environment lived up to all expectations, and your staff were more than helpful and appreciated the needs of my son.” Audience member

For most young children, a trip to see a show or a concert would be an exciting adventure but for children with Autism it can be sensory overload; many aspects of a production can cause difficulties such as busy foyers, unexpected music, lights going up and down and applause. Even the interval can be confusing because it seems strange to leave the auditorium in the middle of an event.

This means that many parents fear taking their children to see a performance; they worry about the negativity that may be directed at them from the audience or musicians, and they don’t want their children to have a stressful experience.

This performance was presented by James Rowney, a ventriloquist who is himself autistic, and his puppet, Little Jim, who has never been to a concert before and is excited by the prospect of seeing an orchestra perform live music. At the end of the performance, Little Jim led a Q&A session taking questions from the audience and the orchestra joined families for a chat and blow and scrape.

The Family Concert provided:

  • A video guide with introductions to the concert, interviews, and musical excerpts;
  • A story book with information on the concert and musicians with images
  • Video and hard copy venue guides
  • Venue alteration with ‘chill out’ areas including soft bean bags, dimmed lighting, and sensory toys
  • Autism Awareness training to musicians and staff

Project Outcomes

This relaxed family concert:

  • Enabled children and their parents to experience the inspiring and exciting world of live orchestral music;
  • Enabled parents to relax in the knowledge that they were in a supportive and non-judgmental environment
  • Ensured families living with the challenge of Autism could go and see a live performance together, possibly for the first time
  • PBL, participating tour partners, and Orchestra of the Swan developed a better understanding of the Autistic Spectrum
  • Raised awareness of the need for more relaxed concerts across the wider sector