Make it so, Hall for Cornwall, make it so!

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Dear Trustees and Director of Hall for Cornwall,

I attended our lovely theatre last night and had a wonderful evening. Bill Bailey was fabulously entertaining and my cheeks ached for some time due to the hours of constant laughter.

My seat was comfortable, the ice cream was tasty, the bar was welcoming. During the interval I was able to pop to the ladies room so that I could continue to laugh my way through the second half without discomfort.

And that is where my discomfort set in.

Your facilities were clean despite a great many people making use of them. Clearly many other ladies wished to laugh their way through the second half without discomfort.

I felt uncomfortable because I know that there are many people who could not have enjoyed the evening which I enjoyed. I did not see any wheelchair users last night but I am sure that many wheelchair users are also Bill Bailey fans. He is, after all, a wonderfully entertaining and talented man. I am wondering if they knew that they would be unable to enjoy the second half in comfort so decided not to risk an unpleasant incident.

I know this worry.

It is my son’s worry.

I saw some leaflets for The Gruffalo’s Child on my way in to the show and for a fleeting moment thought it would be a great show to bring my son to. I am sure it will be a great show but we will not be watching it. My son is a full time wheelchair user and he needs a little extra help to go to the toilet. He needs to go, just like everyone else.

I attended a meeting some time ago where your representatives were asking for information about the barriers people faced in coming to the theatre. I explained that a lack of fully accessible toilet facilities with a hoist and a bench was a massive problem for many families. Theatre tickets are not cheap. If you can’t go to the toilet in the building then you have to leave. Would your theatre be a popular place for able bodied people if you had no toilets?

If we come my son knows that we may have to leave. He will try to hold on. He will try to stay to watch the show. He is not quite 10 years old. He shouldn’t have to do that.

I will need to buy an extra ticket for a carer because if something goes wrong and he can’t hold on, we will need to find somewhere in your lovely building to sort the aftermath of the incident. Yet you don’t have anywhere.

After attending the meeting I was certain that my son’s plight and that of many others had been heard. After all, there is a multi-million pound refurbishment planned, this is the ideal time to ensure that the theatre is fully accessible to all.

Can you imagine my dismay when I saw the plans?

Do you have children? Can you imagine the hurt at being shown that your child does not matter?

And now your plans have been passed. Without any mention of fully accessible facilities. You see, that slightly-larger-than-average-toilet-with-a-wheelchair-logo-on-the-door is actually just another disabling toilet. Access just means you can get in the door. The room needs to enable a bit more than just access.

I have commented on your Facebook page, asking you to care. You have found space for an extra 250 seats, you have found space for a fancy new foyer but you cannot find space for a Changing Places toilet.

You have said that your architects are going to try to incorporate some of the suggestions made by various people during the consultation period.

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“Where we realistically can.”

Seriously?

You have found a way to add 250 extra seats. You made that possible.

My “recommendation” is actually a request to ensure that the theatre is accessible to all people. It was not a recommendation, but a plea on behalf of all those people who are currently unable to enjoy shows like the one I enjoyed last night. I have passed on my contact details and I eagerly await a discussion, not that one should really be required.

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There is another option which I have already given the information for. The diagram above is taken from http://www.clos-o-mat.com/index.php/away-from-home/space-to-change.html

I recommend that you take another look.

I never set out to be a campaigner. I am not a boat-rocker. I am not someone who enjoys arguing. I am not someone who enjoys spending her evenings pleading with a business (which already plans to spend an enormous sum of money) to do the right thing.

I am, however, a mother who will not sit back and allow her child to be discriminated against. I will find whatever strength it takes to stand up and be heard.

When you set out to increase the space inside the theatre it probably seemed quite a task. Getting your plans passed has probably been challenging at times. Yet you have been determined and you have made it happen.

A fully accessible toilet with a changing bench and ceiling hoist really doesn’t seem much of a challenge in comparison. It actually seems very straightforward.

So please, listen to my plea. Know that my heart aches every time my son wants to see a theatre show. He would love to have a snack and a drink with his friends before watching a show. His friends would love to enjoy it with him too.

So please, make it so.

Rachel George

Mother


 

 

16 thoughts on “Make it so, Hall for Cornwall, make it so!

  1. Well said. The Hall for Cornwall should be exactly that, a facility that makes the performing arts accessible to us all. When committing to spend such a large sum on redeveloping the hall, the cost of a fully accessible toilet seems trivial. The benefit of doing so to its users, on the other hand, would be immense. It should be a priority for us all. Hall for Cornwall already manages to have relaxed performances and sometimes especially low ticket prices to enable more people to attend. I took my son to see our first ballet there and it makes us both sad to think that not all of our friends have these opportunities. Is it too late for Hall for Cornwall to do the right thing?

    A message from my son (age 7):
    I did a big sponsored cycle to help my friend because he needed a new wheelchair. If I can do that to help then the theatre can give him a toilet. If he could go to the theatre he could see giant science explosions and I’d like to come too! Please make a theatre that all disabled people are able to go into.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adam would love to come to enjoy the giant science explosions. It would bring a lot of joy to him to be able to go to the theatre with his friends.

      I am very hopeful that Hall for Cornwall will realise that a commitment to making the theatre inclusive is what is needed. Not a vague “we will do what is reasonable and practical”. If it is possible to make the enormous changes they are currently planning it is infinitely possible to put a hoist and bench in a larger toilet. I am sure that finding room for 250 extra seats was quite a challenge. This is nothing in comparison but will make the theatre accessible to us all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad to hear it has not been added to the plans. I signed a petition to help the theatre understand this is a need, it should not be seen as a luxury. My son can stand & use the standard slightly larger toilet, but we have been there with the horror of having no choice but to use the floor as a changing place.

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    1. Nobody should have to make that horrible choice, Sandra. I feel for you, and for your son. I can understand that sometimes businesses do not know what is required. If I didn’t live this life I would not know either. When you do know though, that is when you should make it better.

      Like

  3. Our son has recently started using a wheelchair and will need to use a Changing Place in the future. I been told by one of his Occupational Therapists that equipment for Changing Places is provided free of charge by the manufacturer, all they have to do is provide the space. No excuse not to then.

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    1. I think your Occupational Therapist is misinformed. The equipment and installation in public places and businesses is not, to the best of my knowledge, provided for free. If your Occupational Therapist can provide any information about the free provision I will be very interested to have that information though.

      It makes good business sense to include everyone and is absolutely the right thing to do. When you are doing a massive upgrade of facilities like this, there is simply no excuse.

      I wish you and your son well. There are many challenges in life but there are many wonderful people who will help carry you through. I am so very thankful that we have so many amazing friends.

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    1. They are also putting in a fancy new foyer and moving benches outside!

      It does seem to be a huge amount of money though and I am sure there is no reason to not ensure the building is fully accessible. Not having accessible toilets is nothing to do with the building being a listed building or any other difficulties. At the current time they are saying that they will make it “a priority to try” to include these facilities. It isn’t hard, just needs a slightly larger room with usiual toilet facilities and a hoist and bench. There are many companies who provide and fit the equipment. It really isn’t as hard as finding room for 250 extra seats must have been, let alone as hard as finding the funding, and certainly not as hard as it is for a disabled person who just can’t “go”.

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  4. Gosh, a very moving and thought provoking read. I wonder if we can help crowd fund for the facility if HFC provide a dedicated and large enough space? I work in theatre and am also a mum and feel very sad that children and young people, as well of people of all ages, may be unable to access the magic of theatre due to lack of suitable loo facilities. Very keen to help if I can.

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    1. Thank you for understanding just how awful it is. The Gruffalo’s Child is coming to our theatre next month and it is such a shame to not go to see it. Knowing that you can’t “go” if you need to is hellish though. Every parent knows how it feels to have a child announce that they “need a wee now!” just moments before the show starts (or just near the end, kids are great at that) but imagine knowing that you can’t take them because there is no toilet they can use. It really is less hurtful to stay away. I can hide the fact that a show is coming to the theatre so that he does not feel any hurt at not going. I can’t hide the fact that there is no toilet he can use.

      Many people have these same difficulties. It really shouldn’t be this way, especially not when our local theatre has such a big refurbishment project planned.

      Like

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