Lockdown stories of learning disabled artists transformed into sound walk by theatre company

Access All Areas – Still Here audio walking tour: Pic by @_otherrichard

A local East London theatre company has set up a free audio exhibition exploring the changes and challenges the learning disabled community have had to face during lockdown.

Helen Bryer and Adam Smith co-directors of the 90-minute exhibition  ‘Still here’ set up the immersive project back in September.  

The project is a sound walk with eight stops each lasting around five to 10 minutes, with every break displaying the events poster and QR code.

The simple use of a camera on your smartphone can scan the code and access each audio recording and sound. The choice of video caption and audio description are also elements included to help aid with any visual impairments. 

Access All Areas usually hosts inclusive productions performed by a variety of learning disabled and autistic actors.

This year however saw a dramatic change in the way the theatre ran and produced its shows. Access All Areas decided to engage their performers virtually in creating a catalogue of personal experiences as told by the disabled artists themselves.

Bryer said:  “We wanted to create something that reminded the community that learning disabled and autistic people are literally still here; they are still being creative and still supporting each other.” 

She added: “Still, Here, came about through our conversations with the Black Cab Theatre Company – a group of learning disabled and autistic artists that usually work with Access All Areas in Hackney to produce shows in the borough.” 

“Through these weekly check-ins with the company we got an insight into the performers lives, we didn’t always see in the rehearsal room. People were more open, we got to know them in new ways.”

“Still, Here is really about sharing some of those perspectives – the hopes, fears, frustrations and everyday moments of people living with a disability in London right now. Life has changed for everyone, because of this we saw this as an opportunity to share stories from people whose voices are not always heard.” 

Production images featuring Paul Christian, the artist that narrates the final stop, Stop 8.: Pic by @_otherrichard

The exhibition showcases a collection of eight different spoken word reflections, recounting insightful experiences, thoughts, feelings, and discussions that include past and present conversational auditory.

A further assortment of recorded fun sounds and noises are also present throughout the exhibition. 

Musician John Kelly and Adam Smith both worked together to interpret and adapt  “all the stories they had been hearing over the phone.”

With Smith adding: “an audio exhibition doesn’t require any performers to be present. Everything was recorded by the artists in their homes on phones or tablets.”

“We just really wanted to create something that shared our message and could be experienced now, even with all the restrictions.” 

Shot around the streets of Hackney. Featuring Paul Christian, the artist that narrates the final stop 8: Pic by @_otherrichard

There is no official booking needed as the barcode scan method will allow you to begin the tour in real-time.

The unique excursion begins outside the Hackney Town Hall at the information display and finishes at Homerton hospital. The last showing will be held until October 31.

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