Nimax Theatres releases statement addressing access issues at Six's new Vaudeville Theatre home
Nica Burns has responded to the issue
Nimax, owners of the Vaudeville Theatre (where Six will make its new home from September, as announced yesterday), has responded to frustrations regarding accessibility constraints at the Strand-based building.
The venue received a number of online complaints yesterday, voicing concern over the lack of accessibility at the theatre – particularly with regards to its lack of on-site step-free toilet.
Freelance journalist and disability activist Rachel Charlton-Dailey said on social media: "Theatres have an accessibility and ableism problem in general but I expected more from a show like Six, which claims to champion diversity so much. So many fans will be heartbroken today."
One blogger, Shona Louise, who worked with Six to help make the production's "sing-along" shows more accessible earlier in its run, said: "I worked with Six to help make their singalong performances more accessible. I gave so much to that show. And now, myself and many others just aren't welcome."
According to the venue's website, disabled toilets are "available by arrangement with our neighbours, the Strand Palace Hotel and the Adelphi Theatre". As some have noted on social media, some patrons may have difficulty exiting and re-entering the building if necessary.
Today, Nica Burns issued a statement, empathising with the frustrations of Six fans. She said: "When we bought the Vaudeville I thought, 'No problem, we can sort out disabled access'. It's six steps to the auditorium. Just six steps which are the only accessible route in to or out of the auditorium. We have conducted a number of feasibility studies on solving these six steps and on installing an accessible loo but the particular dimensions and layout of the Vaudeville continue to be a challenge.
"The reason why we can't install stair lifts is that these six steps are the primary entrance and exit from the stalls and we have not found a stair lift which complies with our fire regulations. In May this year I thought we might solve it when the lovely Sarah Howard, the access coordinator at The Park Theatre, sent me a link for a specialist lift company in Ireland that turns steps into ramps. ‘This is it' I thought. We explored, we investigated and again, because of the particular dimensions at the Vaudeville, it couldn't work as again it fell foul of our fire regulations.
"We've also put a lot of work into trying to find a place to install an accessible loo. Again, we've looked at numerous schemes but none of them worked. The Vaudeville front of house footprint is tiny and we simply don't have the room.
"So, we try very hard to make our bespoke access service as friendly and comfortable as possible. We provide a trained member of staff to discuss access requirements with each customer which is why we ask access customers to contact us via our access line. We tell people upfront that we escort access customers a short distance down the Strand to use the Adelphi accessible loo.
"A new stairclimber is being tested which will take the weight of 400 kilos and enable greater access for our customers. In the meantime, we will continue working on the Vaudeville challenges, checking new technology as it comes on stream and doing the best we can. The Vaudeville is a little gem of a playhouse and we've presented hundreds of brilliant shows to our audiences and welcomed many disabled customers.
"Let's be very clear, we do care. We do think about you. We respect you. From the bottom of my heart I wish we had better facilities for you. In the meantime, we will do our best to accommodate all of our customers' needs and give you a very warm welcome."
Shona Louise responded to Nica Burns' statement today:
This is really all I have to say for now. I know that Nimax and Six truly believe that they care, but please, look at it from the perspective of the disabled people who are now shut out of your show. This industry needs to do better. @NimaxTheatres @sixthemusical pic.twitter.com/H45DkD7ArY— Shona (@shonalouiseblog) July 15, 2021