Blog: Nickie Wildin

The theatre maker is inviting diverse families to a Christmas disco, and asking them to dance

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I’ve just finished work for the day and my head is buzzing. All I can think about is discos, bears, forests, friendship, farts and the excitement of Christmas. This isn’t my average day of thinking. This is being in a room with wonderfully creative people rehearsing The Forest Of Forgotten Discos by Contact and Jackie Hagan.

When I look at the people in the room I feel at home. We are the most diverse bunch of people telling this story of feeling forgotten, being brave on the outside whilst badly hurting on the inside and the desire for a disco! I love sitting in the room bringing stories to life with a group of actors and the added layer of creative access – how we make the story accessible to deaf audiences with creative use of sign language and visual story telling. How do we audio-describe moments for a visually impaired audience and do all the interactive bits work for everyone? It certainly makes my brain click into a different gear and I love it!

For instance, how can we signify a fart noise to deaf audience members in a fun, playful way? And how do we make Bear Hugs disguising herself with a massive Camembert sticker understood by visually impaired young people? Have you ever thought about those things during your time at work? Try it and let me know how you get on. Directing this show definitely brings the inner child out in me. It’s cheeky and playful with a deep meaning of accepting everyone as they are – celebrating difference. Think Royle Family meets Roald Dahl meets Vic Reeves Big Night Out.

Working in a vibrant venue, meeting different directors and creatives and working with young people is a truly invaluable experience

I made the move from acting into directing about four years ago and am slowly starting to make my mark on theatre land. Having this chance to work with Contact on The Forest Of Forgotten Discos makes me very happy. Contact are a brilliant company I have long admired, who make diverse, inclusive and exciting work. I’m also currently resident assistant director at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester on the Regional Theatre Young Director’s Scheme and I’m absolutely loving it. Working in a vibrant venue, meeting different directors and creatives and working with young people is a truly invaluable experience. But outside these venues it’s bloody hard being a director who is disabled.

There has to be a change in venues, big and small, in their attitudes to making work as accessible as possible

Theatre land isn’t the most accessible. Most theatres are not wheelchair accessible or have a limited amount of wheelchair spaces for performances – and some of those are at the back and to the far side, where you end up seeing only an eighth of the stage. Audio described or interpreted performances happen for one show only. This makes me angry. How can we develop our careers if we can’t watch a variety of shows and plays or make work for fringe or pub venues? Not only that, but without deaf and disabled actors on the stages can there ever be a change in the landscape of British theatre, TV and film? What’s important is to raise the profile of these performers, directors, writers, producers, etc, and give them space to hone their craft as much as their non-disabled peers. More disabled people in the public eye will help raise the aspirations of young deaf and disabled people. They will see themselves represented truthfully in theatre land and the world of TV. That’s exciting!

There has to be a change in venues, big and small, in their attitudes to making work as accessible as possible. As a collective we have to take responsibility to introduce new people to the theatre, tell their stories and inspire the next generation of theatre goers and makers. There is no excuse.

As I sit here and ponder the fart scenario I raise my cuppa to fellow theatre makers and this very show as we continue to have an impact on the mainstream world. No one should be left out or forgotten. To quote Verna Myers: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Contact, Jackie Hagan and I would like to invite you to The Forest of Forgotten Discos and ask you to dance.

Bring your teddy bears of all ages, shapes and sizes to The Forest of Forgotten Discos, 11-23 Dec, at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

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