Photography by Holly Revell
Guest Nights are usually held around theatre shows to invite funders and significant stakeholders in the production to see the work. Sometimes they’re the same thing as a press night, though it can be difficult to host press and funders simultaneously so I prefer to organise them on a separate night. They are almost never organised on the same night as an accessible performance. There’s a culture in theatre that access is an “add-on”, something that happens on a random Wednesday in the run when the important people won’t attend.
This has obvious consequences like devaluing the work done in theatre to deconstruct ableism, and make performances more accessible, but it goes deeper than that.
If guest nights are not accessible, then how can funding bodies send disabled people to see the work they have funded / might fund? The “pity” narrative around disabled people gets reinforced here, funding is given FOR disabled people, instead of BY disabled people.
It seems like a small difference, but if we had more disabled decision makers in funding bodies then the statistics around how much money is given to disabled artists and disabled-led companies might not be so ridiculously low.
We often think of access as something that gets arranged IF a person needs it, but this just gives disabled people more labor in terms of advocating for their needs. In order to change the culture around a practice, someone needs to go first, and at Zoo Co. we want to go first.
The entire run for Perfect Show for Rachel has a significant number of access features integrated into the art of the show, so when we hold our guest night stakeholders will be able to enjoy this. We specifically ask with our invites if we can do anything more in terms of access, to ensure we are dismantling ableist barriers.
Disabled people can and should be decision-makers, we shouldn't just have decisions handed to us.
If you are part of a funding body and would like to know more about our accessible guest night, please get in touch with our Development Director Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org