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Arts Marketing for the Visually Impaired

With nearly two million people in the UK who are blind or partially sighted, making theatre accessible for the visually impaired is crucial. This month, the Albany is presenting The Chairs (Tuesday 29 April – Friday 2 May), produced by Extant, Britain’s only professional performing arts company led by visually impaired (VI) people.

In advance of the show, the company visited the Albany to give staff a workshop on  improving accessiblity for the VI community. Our Marketing Assistant, Allison Gold, tells us what she learned, particularly about marketing to a VI audience:

Working in arts marketing for the past few years, as well as being involved in the performing arts my entire life, I had never previously explored effective ways of communicating to a visually impaired audience. Just being near sighted with contact lenses, I admittedly took for granted my vision and how that makes watching theatre relatively easy. So, when this workshop with Extant was announced, I was immediately keen to learn more.

Facilitated by Sue Perry, Extant’s Training Development Manager, the workshop included the entire Albany team, from our Box Office Assistants, Technical crew and Communications team. Extant members Marion Mansfield and Tim Gebbels, both of whom are visually impaired and obviously involved in the performing arts, guided us through common misconceptions about the VI community. We were then introduced to various gadgets that VI people often use, such as magnifiers, money readers that measure the size of notes and coins, and machines that say the colours of things out loud. It was fascinating – things I had never even thought of before!

From there, we broke off into our respective teams to work through specialised case scenarios. This part of the workshop was especially beneficial to the Comms team as we focused on how marketing to a visually impaired audience differs from a fully sighted one, and the best practice for marketing to both on an everyday basis without alienating the other. As marketing is often a visually led platform, with most arts campaigns focusing on one lead image and using it for print, website, social media and advertisements, it’s not exactly VI-friendly. Here’s what we’ve learned about marketing the arts to the visually impaired:

What issues do you need to consider when marketing for a VI audience?

How will they  find you? Include a detailed description of how to get to the venue on the website.

How will they view your visual marketing? To those who are partially sighted, large enough font sizes and clear colour contrasts in all communications are vital to reading your communications.

How will they hear about you audibly? Including radio announcements and audio podcasts into your communications plans could make the difference to VI people finding out about your events.

How will they read your digital communications? VI people often have different computers that read out internet pages and e-communications. Image links should be properly named so they know where links will be directing them to, instead of just a string of nonsensical code.

How will they read/see your website? As with e-newsletters, make sure everything is properly labelled and links are working correctly. Large enough font sizes and colour contrast is also key here. Perhaps involving the VI community at the beginning of your website, by auditing it, would bring up any areas to develop.

How will they have the most hassle-free experience? Ensure that they know what to expect when arriving at your venue, ie. if there is the Deptford Market on Monday and Wednesday mornings right outside your door, then stating this on your website might alleviate any unnecessary travel woes and confusion.

How can you make this experience better, particularly since they cannot see the costumes and sets? Consider areas to enhance their experience and personalise it for them. Since they may not be able to physically see a production’s set or costumes, why not offer a Touch Tour? Work with other areas of your venue and organisation to make these opportunities happen.

How will you know if you are effectively marketing to them? Just ask. Evaluating their experience via normal channels, such as using audience feedback forms etc., would definitely do the trick.

Are there areas that you can add to better serve the VI community? Other forms of communications that are not often included in your strategy might be worth considering, including telemarketing campaigns and online surveys.

Doing all of the above, and more, can build good relations with blind and partially sighted people, enriching their experience at the venue and make them more likely to become regular audience members. Once this trust has been established, and once they’ve successfully visited a first time without any large hiccups, they are far more likely to return, whether shows are specifically for the visually impaired or not.

More generally, here are 10 facts that Extant taught us about visually impaired people. Did you know:

1) There are about 5,000 Guide Dog owners in the UK.

2) Four out of five people with sight problems are aged 65 or over.

3) You do NOT have to be totally blind to be eligible for a guide dog.

4) Most blind people can see something.

5) Braille is NOT the chief written medium by which blind and partially sighted people communicate. Only 4% of VI people can read it; it is after all another language.

6) It is unlawful in the UK for a taxi driver to refuse to take a passenger because they have a guide dog.

7) Four out of five blind and partially sighted people of working age are unemployed.

8) It’s NOT okay to feed or attempt to play with guide dogs when they are on duty; it distracts them from their job.

9) It’s all right to say ‘see you tomorrow’ to a blind person!

10) Blind and partially sighted people may not go to the theatre quite as often as the fully sighted, mainly due to inaccessibility.

Following this informative workshop, we are working to further improve the Albany’s accessibility for the VI community.

Check out Extant’s The Chairs, here from 29 April to 2 May, starring two blind actors in the lead roles to bring a new interpretation to this classic text by Eugène Ionesco, adapted by Martin Crimp. Extant is also offering free Touch Tours before each show (a guided opportunity to handle and feel key props, costumes or set, with detailed description around how they feature in the play).

To find out more about The Chairs and to book tickets, click here. To find out more about the pre-show Touch Tours and to reserve a place, click here.

Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany


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Reflecting on our £1 Ticket Scheme

We’ve made a Storify reflecting on the impact of our £1 Ticket Scheme. Click on the title above to check it out.

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January 6, 2014 · 4:09 pm


Or, why we’re selling tickets for every show in our Spring season for just a quid. On a market stall.


Today we announce our £1 Ticket Scheme, which will see an allocation of ten £1 tickets for every show* in our Spring Season go on sale this Friday 6 December at 9am from our (bright pink!) stall in Deptford market. Remaining tickets will then be released through our website at 2pm. Head of Communications, Amber Massie-Blomfield, fills us in on the background to the scheme.

Have you ever been to visit us on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday morning?

If you have, you will have made your way through what, in my opinion, must be one of the finest local markets in London:  greengrocers rub shoulders with hat shops and florists, Jamaican bakeries with Vietnamese cafes, house clearance stalls selling a random array of broken furniture, second hand toys – and once even a model solar system that was evidently someone’s school science homework.

There are not many arts venues in the country that have a (proper, old school style) market literally on their doorstep. It’s really part of the lifeblood of our venue, with our café full on market days of punters showing off their latest purchases over a coffee, and our friendly local stall holders popping in to borrow our toilets.

It’s also a wonderful source of everyday poetry: one of my favourite soundbites from one of the traders was ‘shoes, three pounds each or two for a fiver’  – eat your heart out, Hemingway.

This Autumn, we decided to take this relationship a step further, by setting up our own market stall. I joined the Albany team in September, and within my first week I was out on the stall, bright and early (in the pouring rain and inappropriate footwear), chatting to local people about what we do and what makes them tick.

It was a remarkable experience. Having come from the world of big brands, where the customers you are talking about are so often slightly nebulous entities called things like ‘terraced melting pot’, it was thrilling to engage with individuals on a one-on-one basis, having proper conversations about what motivates them.

One discussion in particular stayed with me. I got chatting to a lady with a young daughter who knew all about the Albany but had never visited. She felt that she couldn’t take the risk of spending money on a ticket when she didn’t know what to expect (worth pointing out that our average ticket price is just £6** – but we do recognise this represents a big investment for many people).

Happily that Sunday we had a free family event (the launch of our Yam Yam Festival of arts and food), which I duly employed all my persuasive powers to encourage her to come along to. And she did. And she brought her whole extended family. And she stayed. And she’s planning to come back.

Our £1 Ticket Scheme is a direct result of that conversation. Through the scheme, we’re selling an allocation of tickets for £1 each, for every show* in our Spring season.

We want to empower our audiences to take a risk on something they wouldn’t normally see, and by offering them tickets for £1 – less than the price of a cup of coffee, or half a pint, or one and a half Kit Kat Chunkys – we hope that many of them will be able to take that risk for the first time.

The tickets are being sold on a first come first served basis through our market stall from 9am on Friday, before any remaining tickets are released through our website at 2pm, because we want to ensure they reach (in a very literal way) the people of Deptford High Street first.

This makes great business sense, of course. The people who have the tickets will bring their friends and family, they’ll share their experiences on social media, and hopefully, they’ll come back. But the most important thing for me is the fact this is a symbol of what I believe the Albany does best: and that’s truly engaging with its local community, on its own terms, in a fashion that is fun, creative and meaningful.

So come Friday at 9am, the Albany team will be out on the market on our (bright Albany pink) stall, selling tickets for next season at a pound a pop. Do come down and see us. I’ll try and wear sensible shoes this time.

Amber Massie-Blomfield, Head of Communications, The Albany

*£1 Tickets are subject to availability

**£6 average ticket price based on all 2013 sales to date

Booking Details

We’ll be putting ten £1 tickets for every show* in our Spring Season. They will be released to the public at Deptford Market from 9am – look out for our bright pink market stall! We’ll then be releasing any remaining tickets through our website from 2pm.

Tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis. Ticket buyers will be able to buy two tickets per performance for up to three shows in the season.

Allocations of £1 tickets will also be made available for shows going on sale after Friday 6 December. Subscribe to the Albany mailing list as well as Albany Facebook and Twitter profiles to be kept up to date with the latest releases of tickets.

Visit our blog to find out more about the scheme.

*£1 tickets are subject to availability

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