IT IS one of the most popular animated films and holds a festive place in the hearts of many.
Now, at the beginning of its run, a special performance of The Snowman has been held at the Festival Theatre for hundreds of children with special needs, many of whom had never set foot inside a theatre before.
About 450 children, teachers and carers across six special schools in the city were treated to the “relaxed” performance from Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company yesterday.
A number of measures were put in place to accommodate the children, who have a variety of additional support needs ranging from autism to respiratory problems.
Seats were removed in the auditorium to accommodate 50 wheelchairs, the lights stayed on during the show and the sound levels were reduced to help the children and their carers feel as relaxed as possible.
As it was a private performance, children were able to move around and make noise.
The project was led by the Festival Theatre’s learning and participation manager, Cerin Richardson, who believes the one-off performance was the first of its kind in Scotland.
She said: “What I hoped to achieve was to offer a truly accessible experience of the theatre to children who never normally have that opportunity. I wanted to allow them a relaxed environment in which to enjoy what most theatre-goers take for granted.
“I want to increase opportunities for children with additional support needs to enjoy live theatre and other performance experiences. I hope this will be the first of many.”
The idea came about after Cerin learned about similar performances that have taken place south of Border, in theatres such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and after receiving feedback from a schools advisory group at the Festival Theatre. The group is comprised of teachers who felt there was a lack of provision to enable children with complex physical and behavioural needs to attend theatre performances.
Pupils from Braidburn School, Prospect Bank, Oaklands School, Redhall, Pilrig Park and St Crispin’s School attended the performance, many of them singing and dancing along to the music.
Cerin worked with the advisory group and teachers from the schools to tailor the performance to the pupils’ needs.
Irene Scullion, teacher at Oaklands School, said: “Our pupils have few chances to experience a theatre and a real performance – for some this may indeed be the only opportunity they will ever have.”
Headteacher at Braidburn School, Arlene Mooney, added: “This was the first occasion that Braidburn has been able to attend an outside event as a whole school. A visit to a theatre was a first for many of our pupils, the experience of which will last a lifetime.”
The Festival Theatre is now showing The Snowman until December 30.
The National Theatre of Scotland will hold a similar event – an autism-friendly performance of A Christmas Carol – at The Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy tomorrow.