Families across Tyneside enjoy Relaxed Performance of The Snowman at Sage Gateshead.

The music was low and the lights were dimmed at the Sage Gateshead today (Tuesday 22nd December) as over 600 families enjoyed a ‘relaxed performance’ of Howard Blake’s magical score The Snowman.

The iconic venue teamed up with the North East Autism Society (NEAS) to host the event to ensure families and people on the autism spectrum or with sensory/learning disabilities had a more relaxed experience. Families enjoyed the magical experience of watching this seasonal family favourite film, with live score performed by Royal Northern Sinfonia, in a supportive and relaxed environment.

Kerrie Highcock, Family Development Manager at North East Autism Society said; “A visit to see live music or performance can be just a standard experience for many people, but for someone with autism it can be very difficult, confusing and overwhelming. By making a few adjustments at the venue means that people with autism can experience the show too, many for the first time.”

Kerrie added; “At the performance members of the audience are welcome to move around within the hall, move seats if necessary and relax in the knowledge that the space will not be filled to capacity – this is not a performance where listeners are expected to stay still or remain silent.”

Mum Emma Thomas (34), from Stanley went to the performance with her son Ed (10) who is on the autism spectrum. Like many other families this was the first time the Thomas family had the opportunity to go to a live music performance. Emma said; “It means a lot when an organisation decide to host events like this. The main thing is being able to take children somewhere where people won't stare. Making the reasonable adjustments helps Ed have a normal experience without feeling like he's sticking out. We’ve had a fantastic time.”

Emma Thomas (34), from Stanley with son Ed

Ahead of the Relaxed Performance of The Snowman, Sage Gateshead arranged a pre-show familiarisation visit where groups, families and individuals could explore the venue. This helps audiences prepare for their visit also allowing the opportunity to ask any questions about the performance.

Sage Gateshead has recently signed the Autism Charter which is an initiative by Autism Alliance UK and the Department of Health. The autism charter has been produced in collaboration with people with autism and is a framework for making venues more autism-friendly. By signing the Charter, venues receive additional free autism awareness training and support for staff.

Dawn Williams, Health and Social Care Strategy Leader at Sage Gateshead said; “We are committed to trying to help more people to gain access to live music and creating relaxed performances is one way in which we can do this. Our venue has won numerous awards for accessibility and we wish to ensure that our programme content matches this. As an organisation we value working with expert partners to inform our programme and staff training.”