Beauty and the Beast - ballet and the buses

National Express West Midlands is pleased to announce a new strategic partnership with Birmingham Royal Ballet, having been newly appointed as the dance company’s 2019 Accessibility Partner.

Having launched in January 2019, the partnership supports Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Relaxed Performances, Touch Tours and Audio Described Performances. National Express West Midlands is BRB’s first ever ‘Accessibility Partner’ - a strategic mission with the sole objective of celebrating and promoting the work of the company in the community.

The first half of the partnership will focus on relaxed performances. These are performances adapted for those not comfortable in a traditional theatre setting, such as people with learning disabilities or autism. Amendments include more room per person, house lights up and the ability to walk around and make noise during the production. There is also a calm space near to the auditorium that can be accessed throughout the show.

Some of the first people to benefit from this partnership, by enjoying an accessible ballet performance, were students from Birmingham’s Hive School.

Julie Pallister, Placements Coordinator from The Hive School in Birmingham, said:

“Students of The Hive School visited The Hippodrome for the relaxed performance of Beauty and the Beast. The staff were brilliant and very accommodating.

“The students and staff had a brilliant time and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. What a wonderful experience for them - it was great to be a part of it!”

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Chief Commercial Officer, Paul James, says:

“It is BRB’s founding philosophy that great ballet should be available to everyone and it is only by working with like-minded organisations that we can fulfil this ambition. We are absolutely delighted therefore to be able to partner with National Express on this exciting long-term initiative to transform access to ballet here in Birmingham.”

National Express has a history of supporting work of this nature, having partnered with The Hive School and Calthorpe Academy to run placements in the past.

The second half of the year will focus on Touch Tour and Audio Described Performances, designed to give theatre-goers with visual impairments a chance to experience ballet. A ‘touch tour’ allows people to feel the weight and texture of sets, costumes and props in a behind-the-scenes tour, before watching the performance accompanied by professional audio description through a headset.

Buses are a vital lifeline bringing independence to people with sight loss. All National Express West Midlands drivers are trained to help disabled customers use the buses safely, easily and confidently. In 2017, the bus operator signed up to RNIB’s Bus Charter, which sets out 13 commitments to improve bus travel for people with sight loss.

Speaking about the partnership, Tom Stables, Managing Director of National Express UK, said:

“Like buses, we believe that ballet is for everyone. So it makes us very happy to be Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2019 Accessibility Partner. We are keen to play our part in making it easier for more people to experience the wonderful ballet productions that we have happening right on our doorstep here in Birmingham.”

Published 16th April 2019