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.
“Where we realistically can.”
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.
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.