Fringe World Congress 2020 – Panel Discussion
- Carly Findlay, Access and Inclusion Coordinator, Melbourne Fringe (AU).
- Caroline Conlon, Auslan Instructor, Deaf Can Do (AU)
- Ellen Denherder, Community Programs Director, Hollywood Fringe (US)
- Kym McKenzie, Artist, No Strings Attached Theatre (AU)
- Katie Queen, Artist Development Manager, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society (UK)
- Kelly Vincent, Access and Inclusion Coordinator, Adelaide Fringe (AU)
Writer, speaker, and activist, Carly Findlay (Melbourne Fringe), facilitated a panel discussion at World Fringe Congress 2020 in Adelaide. The discussion centred on increasing inclusivity and implementing access standards for artists and audiences with adaptive requirements at fringe festivals. Listen to fringes and organisations discuss how to make a fringe festival as inclusive as possible—whether that’s implementing sign language, increasing wheelchair access, creating sensory reduced spaces, or more.
Carly: Thank you everybody. I would like to acknowledge the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. Our traditional owners of this lovely nation have been making art, telling stories for over 60,000 years - and we're so, so lucky to be guests on this land. And I am very, very thankful for them - for their stories, for their mentoring and for their knowledge.
I have an amazing panel today. We're going to be talking about access and inclusion and we've got guests from Hollywood Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne - me. And also Adelaide. We have - sorry, I've drawn a little map on my piece of paper so I know everyone's names. Because this panel is so big.
To my left, we have Caroline Conlon from Deaf Can Do. We've got Katie Queen from Edinburgh Fringe, Kelly Vincent from Adelaide Fringe, Kym McKenzie from No Strings Attached Theatre, and Ellen Den Herder from Hollywood Fringe. Welcome everybody. I'll get them to introduce what they do. We've also got Gerry, our interpreter, who will be interpreting for Caroline and also speaking in the microphone. Caroline.
Caroline: Good afternoon everybody. As Carly said, I do work for Deaf Can Do. They are part of the Can Do group, and I am an Auslan instructor and also do deafness awareness training. However, in my past life - for more than 20 years, I was a performer and artistic director for the Australian Theatre of the Deaf.
Katie: Hi, my name is Katie Queen. I'm the Artist Development Manager at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Just to preface this discussion with, I am not the Access Manager. I don't directly work on access at the Edinburgh Fringe. But we like to think that access infiltrates every department of our work. I work in advising artists on their professional and creative development at the Fringe and I work with a lot of disabled artists that come to the Fringe in those areas, rather than on accessing the Fringe. We did want to talk about all of the work that Edinburgh Fringe has done in this area. So our Access Manager is very pregnant and couldn't be here, so I'm here instead.
Carly: When you're done with your job, or not - I want to be your assistant.
Katie: You can just have my job.
Carly: I'm Carly and I work at Melbourne Fringe as Access and Inclusion Coordinator.
Kelly: Kelly, and I work in Adelaide Fringe as Access and Inclusion Coordinator. So me and Carly are in very similar roles. Probably going to mess with you, but sorry about that.
Kym: Hi, I'm Kym McKenzie, and I'm a performer for No Strings Attached, Theatre of Disability and I'm here to represent No Strings Attached for the Access Inclusion Program.
Ellen: Hi, I'm Ellen from Hollywood Fringe Festival. I'm our Community Programs Director, and I work on all our public programming - including our brand new accessibility initiatives.
Carly: Amazing, thank you so much everyone. I'm going to start by asking everybody what you do to make your festivals or your workplaces, your theatres, your performance spaces more accessible and inclusive - both to audiences and performers. Kelly?
Kelly: Sorry, I'm very - as an ex-politician, very used to just jumping in, grabbing the microphone. So I have to kind of train myself out of that now, and I've gone too far the other way. So this year I'm very proud of a number of initiatives that we've taken at Adelaide Fringe. And I think that having that lived experienced as a disabled person myself, has really translated into that. Because I have existing connections in the community that I can consult with and talk to, that maybe didn't exist in the previous role.
So this year, I'm very proud that we've done things like put out an easy English version of our Access Guide, so that people with literacy issues can get access to shows and know what's going on. We've also made sure that in every aspect of everything really, whether it's the contrast on the volunteer t-shirts that you see on this lovely man here. I hope Paul doesn't mind me using him as an example. But working with the Royal Society for the Blind about "How does that contrast work for you?" We're also making sure that our access platforms are actually elevated this year, so that people that are seated on the platform can actually see.
So there are lots of things that are happening gradually that I hope are making a big difference because of that lived experience, that connection to community that I think allows us to consult in a way that we maybe haven't had previously. But I guess my job, really - as I see it, is - taking away all that soul draining logistics stuff that comes along with going out to an event and making sure that from go to whoa, how do we make this as seamless an experience as possible. And that will increase over time. I think with us existing for 60 years, societal attitudes have changed a lot in the last 60 years as well - and that will only - hopefully, continue.
Kym: With No Strings Attached, we're a theatre company which run - we're, it's a disability theatre company. So people with intellectual disabilities or wheelchair accessibility's - people, everyone's welcome into that company. And are wheelchair accessible friendly. And it's fun having the, fun doing the workshops and everybody gets enjoyment out of it.
Carly: What about you, Katie?
Katie: So I guess a lot of the work that we've been doing has been working directly with the venues in Edinburgh. As Edinburgh is a medieval city and a lot of the - well most of the buildings are protected, I think access to those venues is - it's very hard to adjust that. So working venues, we have a "Venue Access Award." That is a toolkit for venues to be able to achieve different levels of access. This year we had, 61% of our shows were in accessible venues - which is a huge improvement on previous years.
I'm going to read out some figures, because I don't have them off the top of my head. Last year in 2019, we had 3,841 shows across 323 venues. There were 1,193 customers who used our Access Booking Service. Our Access Booking Service is currently accessible over the phone and email and in person only. I know you have a future section, so we have a future thing that we're going to talk about too.
So we issued a huge amount of tickets for those shows via our Access Booking. So there was over 2,500 transactions processed on that. And last year there were 69 BSL interpreted shows, 165 "no sight needed" shows, and 175 "no hearing needed" shows. There's not a huge number of those. It is very expensive to make access adjustments to those. There are some bits of funding available, but as it's a Fringe festival, you all know that funding is really difficult to come across.
So we have done amount in the past few years on this, and we have worked really, really closely with communities. And we have a great, really strong audience base of disabled and deaf audience members. And we're working a lot with artists. That's kind of the area that we have found more challenging in the past few years. It's more of an influencing role, influencing the venues to program disabled artists. And because we don't program, obviously it's really much an advocacy role that we take.
Carly: What about you Caroline?
Caroline: Just to add - I do think it is very important when you are making decisions around access requirements, not to make assumptions. And to consult wherever possible with all of the relevant groups, and those with lived experience. I think it really is a priority for each and every one of you.
Ellen: Sure, hi. So at Hollywood Fringe - I want to be transparent first, I am not an expert in this. And I do actually rely on advocacy groups in Los Angeles to give me the information that we need to make our shows more accessible - as an open access, non-curated festival. And I did that, I started that doing a program through the City of Los Angeles called "Activate," which is a cultural policy program.
And through that I learnt about all of the gaps that we had in our programming and the lack of access for us was specifically with people with disabilities - as well as language access for the large deaf community that we have in Los Angeles, as well as the Spanish speaking community in Los Angeles. And we've created a 5 year access initiative plan from that.
The first 2 years being more of an incubation stage, where we're learning and working with partners like "RespectAbility." Which I was only able to reach out to because of the program that I was doing. But also by connecting with disabled producers within our festival already and just asking questions and saying, "How can I make this better for you?"
And from that, we've started to develop an Access Committee - which is launching this spring for us. And they will be working with us over the next 2 years, for us to set initiatives - including ticketing initiatives, other logistics throughout our festival. So we're very lucky to have those people who are kind of just telling me how to do the work. We're a young festival, we're only 10 years old - and as you know, a lot of that falls on you. And since I'm not an expert, I can just do the work that experts are telling me to do.
Carly: Thank you. I'm going to talk a little bit now about what Melbourne Fringe does. I'm part of the 3 year Access and Inclusion program. And this has meant that it was an advertised position as an Access and Inclusion Coordinator. They invited people - particularly with lived experience with disability and deafness. I was lucky to get the job.
And in my 2 years that I've been here, we have worked with venues to increase the level of information that they put out around accessibility, to advise them on accessibility. We've created Access and Inclusion information packs for producers. We have had an amazing deaf producer work with us as part of the Independent Artist program last year for 6 months. And she had a really great connection - of course, to the deaf community - which brought an amazing amount of deaf audience members to our shows. And she also produced a show in last years' festival, and the festival before.
We also have had a really great series of mentoring programs that are targeted towards people who experience barriers through art. And we have had a number - I think there were 14 places last year, and 8 of those were dedicated to deaf and disabled artists. We bring in Auslan interpreters to each of our information sessions. So I think we run 8 information sessions around the year?
Simon's giving me the okay. And we make sure that those are accessible to our community. They're all free. And also, they're live streamed. So people who are homebound or bedbound and can't make it, can watch those sessions. Anyone can watch those sessions actually. They're very, very useful for all independent artists.
And we also have been - as Kelly said, I find it really useful to be a disabled person in this role. Because it means that I can connect with the community that I already belong to, and also make connections to the communities I haven't before. And I've learnt so, so much. And personally for me, I feel very, very supported in the role. I think that because the role was created for - about accessibility, Melbourne Fringe is very good at walking that talk.
I want to talk now about how - because Fringe is an open access festival, it means anyone can register any type of show - and they can choose to make it accessible or not. How do we encourage people who are independent artists who have very little money, to make their shows accessible and also free from ableism - which is discrimination towards disabled people, anyone?
Ellen: So at Hollywood Fringe - how we kind of started this was realising that as an open access and uncurated festival, that we needed to make it clear to our audience that 20% of Americans have a disability. And also that 68% of people in Los Angeles don't consider English to be their primary language. And so once we were able to do that - we consider ourselves to be - a core part of our mission is training producers to produce even outside of our festival.
So this year we're having workshops hosted by RespectAbility, which is an advocacy group in our area. And they will be training our producers how to make their shows more accessible. And then in the fall, we're going - we have our creative workshop series, which is based on writing. And they will have other experts come in and talk about writing for disabled characters and making sure that their stories are being told clearly.
Kelly: This probably seems like too obvious an answer. But a lot of it I think is really just getting the information out there. A lot of people are - through no fault of their own, but just ignorant. And I don't mean that in a derogatory way, just factually - about how to book an interpreter. "How do I work with an interpreter? How do I identify what's somebody's needs might be?"
So for example - I worked with Caroline and the other staff at Deaf Can Do, to put together a very simple - I think it was 6 step guide about how to book and work with an Auslan interpreter. And from that, we started to get even more enquires about, "Oh this is great that I know - I now know who to contact, and you've demystified that process a little bit for me." So I think even the simplest information is really positive.
And also I think, just - again, it comes back to that lived experience thing of working with people like Caroline and interpreters from the community. To kind of - not laugh about it in a pejorative way, but kind of just to show people to chill out about it a bit. That it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to have questions. And we would rather you ask those upfront, and we can choose whether or not to answer. But if you don't ask for fear of offending somebody, then it might be that we're not getting information that we need, or not being able to give you information that would benefit you in terms of making your shows more accessible.
And I think also coming back to your point about 20% of people globally having some form of disability as well - not that this is what it should come down to, it should be about that social inclusion as we're supporting each other. But there's also an economic argument to be made - that if you do spend the money on making your show physically accessible or booking an Auslan interpreter, you're actually going to have more people come that have those needs as well. And it's really hard to understate that need.
Because - for example, one of the things that we've done for the last couple of years is broadcast our opening night Sunset Ceremony on Radio Adelaide. And that is not only beneficial for people that need the audio description from a vision perspective - you can tune into that on the night. If they're not able to see what's happen, they can get that description.
But broadcasting on the radio has also meant that we've had feedback from people in the autistic community - for example. Or who maybe have significant physical challenges or managing crowds and that kind of thing, who do opt for that option as well. So it's really that ripple effect that you don't necessarily see. That's such a simple thing that actually opens your show up to an even wider audience that you maybe even previously imagined.
Katie: Yeah, I would say we are quite similar in Edinburgh. We very much talk to-- It's just about information sharing. It's just about raising awareness. I think one of the most important things that we try to do is get artists thinking about it from the very, very start of their journey to the Fringe. So we start talking about it probably in October, November at our first info sessions that we--
It's very much like people are just starting to think about coming to the Fringe in August the following year. And just getting their thoughts around it before they start making their budgets, before they start talking to venues. Getting it - like that planted seed in there, and then getting the information out on our website obviously. We've worked with really great disabled charities - like "Attitude is Everything," "Birds of Paradise," to work on getting information up there about interpreting your show.
And if you can't afford that, captioning your show. Making sure that you have some relaxed performances - which is a really accessible way of making adjustments to your show, and it's budget friendly. Ensuring that if you don't have audio description, what show or what elements of your show are not for non-sighted people. And just making sure that even if you can't make adjustments to your show, what shows are available to people?
So obviously, stand-up comedy is a very good one for - perhaps, the blind community? And it's just - yeah, making sure that there are elements that are accessible for people to make those adjustments to. We also have sensory backpacks that people can borrow from the High Street, from our Fringe shop. So we have 80 sensory backpacks available to borrow, that people can just take away.
And they have - they're for the autistic community, and it's- They have ear defenders and fidget toys and just kind of some sensory items that will help with their experience of the Fringe and getting people out there, knowing what information and what is there that's friendly for a tight Fringe budget.
Carly: Great ideas. What about you Caroline?
Caroline: Oh definitely, that's a brilliant idea, Katie. And I think stand-up comedy may suit the blind community, but for deaf people - the experience of being deaf is actually about language and access to language. So Auslan, here in Australia - but also various sign languages around the world have a natural visual element. And there isn't a written version like there is for English.
And some shows won't automatically translate as easily as others. When there's a show with a lot of puns or where a lot of meaning is based around the English word, it may not translate so well. Having said that, if you had an Auslan show, they may not translate back the other way into English. So you are working between 2 languages. And I'm not saying not to do it. Because some shows are, like comedy can be translated. But again, it comes back to that element of consultation. If you can consult with the community and determine which shows may or may not be better suited to interpretation.
Carly: Have you got any ideas Kym?
Kym: Yeah, well with No Strings Attached, we've been around for 25 years. Like we had our 25th anniversary, I think - was it last year, Kelly?
Kym: Yeah, yeah. Well this year, yeah this year. And so we've been around for quite a while. And we get our money from Arts Health Australia, yeah. So we've got a 3 year grant funding thing from them. So we're covered for the next 3 or so years. And with the workshops that - are spoken in Clear English, the workshops.
Carly: I think it's also important to remember that you have to communicate your accessible shows to the community. A lot of artists and the wider public who engage Auslan interpreters or other access provisions say, "Well we've done one show where nobody came." But they didn't engage with the community to advertise or connect that the show was happening. So that's a really, really important thing.
The other thing that Melbourne Fringe has recently does, is - we have a new venue called "Common Rooms." And Common Rooms has taken over a venue within Trades Hall. And during the festival, there are a number of venues in Trades Hall that we use. But Common Rooms is a year round venue. And we are prioritising artists that have barriers to art. So deaf and disabled artists, Aboriginal artists or First Nations Artists - sorry. LGBTI, and artists with diverse cultural backgrounds - cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
And it's a really unique space in Melbourne, because it is one of the only venues that there is an accessible performance space. It's very, very hard to find accessible performance spaces for disabled artists - because I don't expect the general public believes we can be leaders. And so they don't ever plan an accessible performance space for us. So we have a Mobilift for the stage. There's an accessible room for people to get ready in.
And there's a new lift outside the venue, outside Trades Hall. And again, like you were saying - Trades Hall is a heritage listed building, and it's very hard to make adjustments to it. But it's very good now that there is this lift outside. You may know of Stella Young - the late, great disability activist and comedian. And I remember Stella saying that she didn't want to enter venues around the back the garbage bins. So if she was alive, she could enter our venue from the front.
So I think it's really important. And I think it's also very important that access isn't just given funding - a once off, or for a number of years. It's an ongoing thing, and disabled people make up 15% of the world's population, 20% here in Australia and in America - and varying in other countries. But it's very, important that we are not penny pinching to access. And to provide access, and that we - that funder's take that seriously. Lots of arts organisations really need - yeah, need to be more welcoming to society.
Katie: Sorry, just to jump in on that very quickly. I think - following on from what you're saying, Carly. It's really important to see you providing access as an investment in the future of the arts and society more broadly. Because at the end of the day - we're all getting older. People are surviving accidents and injury that previously would've ended their lives, because of advancements in medical technology. So the diversity that exists with the human body and the human mind is only going to continue. So rather than something special for these people over here, it's actually about investing in the future of the industy.
Carly: Yeah absolutely. I mean, I think access benefits everybody. It benefits parents with prams and older people who use walkers. I went to Ubud Writers Festival last year. And my access needs are for air conditioning. And it's very, very hot and humid in Ubud - and all of my events were either in an air conditioned venue, or I had a lot of fans. And it was good, because everybody benefited from that air conditioned venue.
Carly: Useful. I've got another question here around, when-- And it relates to Fringe being an open access festival, so people don't need to make things accessible. What do you do when there are social media outrages or people emailing to say that "The access provided wasn't good enough." Or, "The information provided wasn't good enough," how do we manage that?
Kelly: I think it's a really interesting question. With being an open access and giving artists and venues that kind of freedom. But at the same time, we do hold people who participate in Fringe to a standard of - really I think is just reasonableness and human decency. And some of you might have seen recently in the papers, there was a particular artist who appeared in a photograph wearing what was very obviously a KKK outfit. And they tried to sort of call this "kink shaming," that we sort of weren't too happy with that. But they were removed from the festival.
We've also had another example that comes to mind, where a particular venue-- So all venues, sorry - all events in Adelaide Fringe provide Companion Card access. So for those who don't know - just very briefly, a Companion Card is-- A Companion Card holder can have someone attend with them for free. Free of charge, to help them with access. And this particular event had said, "Oh well - if these people have to come, then they're going to have to come in, provide the access support and then leave. Because otherwise, they're getting a show for free." And so, if we don't laugh, we'll cry.
Kelly: Honestly, so much of my life is like that. That was a very sad thing to say out loud.
Kelly: But I'm sure Carly can back me up that it's true. Laughter is definitely a coping mechanism. But to bring them around to that and say, "No, this is actually because the person needs that constant person with them. And so to not provide that is actually blatant discrimination and I will sue you." Not Fringe, but I will - I will try in my spare time. So again, it's just that information.
But every day, coming up against that ignorance is so exhausting. And especially because it turned out this particular show had been in the Fringe for a number of years, and they had been providing Companion Card access, they just hadn't realised. And so when it was actually raised with them, they sort of went, "Oh what's this?"
So again - but just the, the human decency really - is not a particularly high bar, I would have thought to hold people to. To be accessible. To be decent to one another. To accept that people are going to need someone to come along. And accept that that enables that person to come along as well and spend their time and money in that venue as well. So providing those very, very basic elements is not too high a bar to hold people to, I would've thought. But I would hope that the Fringe has shown that we - just because we are open access, doesn't mean that we're open to everybody who doesn't hold that standard of basic human decency.
Carly: Anyone else?
Kym: Yeah. I thought it come-- Like No Strings Attached, we have our own like website and we also have the chance to be photographed as well. And they always come up with the handwritten things like, "Would you like to be photographed?" Or, "If you don't sign," or whatever. Yeah.
Katie: So it's kind of like making sure that people aren't photographed just because they have a disability and it's not tokenistic?
Kym: Yeah, yeah.
Caroline: Just to chime in there--
Kym: Everyone's treated--
Caroline: Sorry, Kym, sorry.
Kym: Everyone's treated, like given a fair go too.
Caroline: Oh definitely, absolutely. And just to add to Kim and Kelly's comments regarding dignity. It's also about general awareness attitudes. I have always said that one day when - and it's not a matter of if, but when I become Prime Minister of Australia--
Caroline: The very first thing that I will do is look at the education curriculum in this country from primary, secondary schooling and take out a compulsory subject like algebra or trigonometry or one of those - something that you never ever use once you've left school. And replace it with a compulsory subject around disability.
Where we can learn about various disability groups access needs, inclusion - and so that every school leaver would come out with the same understanding and awareness as the person next to them, and that would just ultimately change the way people think about access right from the word go. From the beginning of an initiative. And whether it's creating something new, building on from something that's already existing - it would change our lives.
Carly: Can we overthrow Parliament now?
Carly: Let's do it. I think one of the things that I'm really proud of is - a few years ago, a woman in Melbourne called Larissa MacFarlane, who is a visual artist. She creates paste ups of her doing handstands. She created a disability pride mural for Disability Day. No - just before disability day in December. And on Disability Day, the council awfully removed it. And it made a lot of news, and she and others who participated in it were very, very distressed. Because it was around disability pride.
A lot of people are very scared to come out - I guess, with their disability - and lots of people are putting time and money to this. And we gave-- I called her and said, "Would you like to submit or register a show in the 2018 Melbourne Fringe?" And she said - she was very hesitant at first, and she said, "Okay, I'll think about it." And she happened to get some funding, replacement funding from that council who removed the initial mural. And she was able to create this incredible mural - which is still up, in Footscray in Melbourne now. And her and Naomi Chainey made a short film, which has gone to a number of film festivals.
And it's been an incredible thing for the disability community, and I think for Fringe to give that space - not give the space, but make that space open to somebody who was really hesitant about putting on a show and possibly going through the heartache of this again, but didn't. I think that was a really, really positive thing.
So as much as we need to educate non-disabled people and disabled people in how to make things accessible - we need to make it very, very welcoming for disabled artists who might have had a really bad experience in the arts as well. Because we constantly face barriers and like stages aren't made for us. We can't get into mainstream arts a lot of the time. So it's very important that we provide a really safe space for disabled and deaf artists to thrive and not only work in emerging arts positions, but in real leadership positions as well.
Yeah, we've got a little bit of time left. I'm just going to ask everybody to - across the panel, to say what their dream is - where to from here? What would you love to see at your festival - at all festivals, in all arts organisations in the future? I know it's a big question. You're going to be Prime Minister, Caroline - so you've got a lot of work on your plate--
Carly: Can we all come work for you?
Caroline: Oh, look I think it would be absolutely amazing to live in a world where access is not an issue. That's it, in a nutshell.
Katie: How do I follow that? To be honest - I mean, coming from my background in artist development - I would like to see more artists accessing my services that are disabled and deaf. I think especially-- I think, I mean last year we - my team advised 700 shows. I don't remember a single deaf or disabled artist coming to my team for advice on their professional development.
And I think a lot of the services that we as Fringes provide to disabled and deaf artists, is services that help them access the Fringe. But actually what about accessing opportunities for beyond the Fringe? I don't just want disabled or deaf artists to come to the Fringe. I want them to get opportunities for their careers from being there. And so I want to see a lot of disabled and deaf artists coming to me for advice from now on.
Carly: Yeah, great - Kelly?
Kelly: Thank you. Well firstly, I want to live in a world where I am Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Caroline Conlon.
?: Bring it on.
Kelly: You know where I am, call me, call me. And it's really hard to follow Caroline's answer, because she's just nailed it - absolutely. Often when I talk about access issues - I talk about living with disability, living as a disabled person - as being a full time job in and of itself. And I think people still don't quite understand what we mean by that.
But it's just the barriers every single day. Whether it's somebody taking our parking or wanting to do a show, but not having the access or not being able to find a rehearsal space. Or fighting against those assumptions that people might make about the nature of our show because of our disabilities. I remember once doing this monologue that I thought was brilliant at the time, but I've read it back since and it was, I was--
Kelly: You know when you're like a teenage writer and you're like, "Yeah, no one's ever done this before, I'll show them." And then you read it back, you're like, "Dear God." Anyway, but we performed it, didn't we Kym? At Awakenings Festival many years ago. And a lot of people kind of got the message. It was about this girl that wanted to be a ballerina and grow up with the arts, but she was forced to be like an accountant and that kind of stuff. I don't know? Anyway, at the time it was a good thing.
And a lot of people kind of got that message about how we lose our dreams as we grow up and lose contact with our true self. But other people would come up and say, "That was really beautiful. Because you can't dance, can you?" And I went, "Well no, it's - I can't, but it's not because I'm disabled, it's because I'm incredibly white."
Kelly: "And I've got no, there's no rhythm going on here." But also it wasn't about me. And the assumptions that people make because we are disabled performers or actors or writers, is something that we really need to address too. But also the - I think we need to address the fact that people think they have the right to know that information about us.
I remember I was involved in a creative development of a show many, many years ago. Caroline was there actually, that's where we met when we were song signing together and I was lip syncing for you very, very badly. But - and I went and watched the final production of the show, and there was one point during the performance where the performance was deliberately interrupted - because one of the performers needed to go to the toilet. And I could tell this was part of the performance, making a point that this is part of someone's life.
But once I explained that to someone else in the audience, they started going, "And what's her disability and what's hers and what's hers?" And, "I don't know man, I don't-- You know? And even if I did, I wouldn't tell you." So those assumptions that disabled artists can only do shows about disability and for disability, is something that we need to address as well.
But I think, just going back to my previous point - it's just about that thing of it not being a full time job. Being able to book online accessible tickets. Being able to get the information you need in the language you need it. And just being able to turn up like everybody else and have a great time.
Kym: Yeah. First of all I would - on your idea about being Prime Minister, Caroline - I would be your Deputy Prime Minister.
Caroline: Yes, Kym.
Kym: So I think generally society needs to change. And that's why I've been-- And it's not happening yet, but I'm trying to get a group together of advocate people to talk about society and say, "We need to stand up for everyone." Like people with disabilities, racism and indigenous people or - everyone should be treated fairly. Like the founder of No Strings Attached, Helen Flinter Leach - she is a person with - yeah, mental illness. And she knocked on everyone's door and said, "I'd like to perform." And they had a look at her and said, "Oh yeah, we'll give you a role, you can work backstage or work on sound." And Helen Flinter Leach just said, "No, I'm going to create my own theatre company." And she has.
Ellen: Ditto to all this. I would say for us, specifically in our Fringe context, it's more funding for our scholarship programs for disabled artists, as well as language artist - which is especially important to us in Southern California due to our politics that are happening in our country in the United States. And just listening to my access community and seeing what I can do to continue to do work on their behalf.
Carly: Yeah, they're fantastic suggestions, and I just want to echo the funding. We need ongoing funding to be able to do our work and know that access doesn't just stop when funding's over. But I also want to share a story, I guess that - like Kelly said. The ridiculous things that people say because of their low expectations.
When I was in Ubud last year, I was facilitating a panel on activism and fashion with 2 Indonesian designers. And afterwards I sold one of my books - which is a feat, because you don't sell any books at writer’s festivals. And I was interrupted by a very rude lady as I was signing my book. And she said, "Honey, when you open your mouth to speak, I don't even notice your face." And I did not know what to say. I was very polite to her, but I swore a lot and got a bit drunk afterwards - at a government event actually. And yeah, I just thought, "We shouldn't have to put up with this stuff at work." Like essentially, that was my work - even though I was on a working holiday.
Kelly: We should get drunk together and exchange stories, because I've got some.
Carly: Let's do a show.
Carly: I'm going to open it up to questions now, and there's going to be a roving mic. Please speak into the microphone. That is an access requirement if you have questions. There's about 7 minutes or so.
Kevin: Yes. So it's Kevin from San Diego Fringe Festival. I was going to ask if you know anything about a roster of artists that would feature accessible--? Artists that have productions that focus on accessibility and inclusivity rosters.
Kelly: I'm not sure about a roster, but Adelaide Fringe does have an access guide, which specifically outlines shows that have provided for accessibility requirements. So everything in there from Auslan to captioning to wheelchair access to relaxed performances for people with sensory needs. So there is the access guide that provides that information, and it is available on the website as well. But I'm not quite sure if I follow your--?
Kevin: It's - a roster of artists that are specifically focusing on inclusivity. So like we have one artist that came to our festival. The name of the show was "Wink." And he, the entire show was sign language. And it changed the demographics of our festival. You walk outside of the venue, and the sidewalk is filled with people doing sign language. It was absolutely silent, and I would walk down the sidewalk and be like, "This is so beautiful."
And then also once we had a group that came from New Zealand with a bunch of Maori artists sharing the history of their culture. Well that changed the demographics. The audience was filled with Polynesians. Again, you look at the line of people waiting to see shows, and it's so many people of colour, it was beautiful. So finding a roster of artists that help boost our demographics is wonderful.
Carly: Melbourne Fringe has the disability and deaf guide to Fringe every year. And so, it's probably still on our website from last year. Yeah, Simon's nodding, it is. No? Maybe.
Simon: (off mic, inaudible) 44:10.
Carly: Live content. Yeah. So you can have a look. But yeah, I mean I think one of the important things is to - for everybody to connect with disabled artists and Google "Melbourne Fringe" or "Adelaide Fringe" or "San Diego Fringe," "disability." Or "Maori artists," and you'll find people. Yeah.
Kelly: And I think it will-- Sorry Carly, I was just going to say - I think it also comes back to - yeah, I think it was your previous point. About actually communicating this out to the target communities. Because often we - as you said - set up events, and then people don't show up. And it creates a cycle where you provide the needs, and people don't show up - so you don't see the need, so you don't provide it. So that actually communicating to and with those communities is really vital as well.
Q: I have a question about staffing. I have a very small festival, the Richmond Fringe Festival. And for large festivals - again, with "lots of funding" quote unquote. It might - what is the--? What can we do to create points of access literally at the door for our staff, who might be volunteers - and who are front of house - to have the agency and the preparation, as future Prime Minister has said. That we all are on the same level and we're all prepared the same way with the same sort of agency and comfort. So that we can be as staffers, and all the way down to our - down to, alongside our volunteers - prepared to do what we say we want to do the best we can.
Carly: Can I answer that one? I - at Melbourne Fringe, we have had disability awareness training in the first year that I was there. Last year we had deaf culture training. And we also had 12 lessons of Auslan before work on a Wednesday. And we practised that Auslan when Anna was there, and also during the festival. The other thing that I have done is briefed our volunteers - and also, core staff have been at that as well. So they were familiar with providing great customer service to disabled and deaf patrons. And also what the level of access that we provide. We also had access champions in our volunteer cohort. And you've got them, I think we stole the idea.
Carly: From you. But we had - yeah, we had access champions, where I gave them a separate briefing after the main briefing and talked about the importance of great customer service. Looking out for accessible entry points and barriers as well. And we had a few Auslan speakers and one deaf access champion as well. Which was really great for engaging with the deaf community. Yeah, anyone else got any suggestions?
Ellen: I think, just speaking to both of these points for Hollywood Fringe - which was really important for us, was working with advocacy groups in our neighbourhood. And also looking within our own community for artists that already existed, and uplifting them onto a committee where they had the power to start making decisions. And then we were able to enact them.
Katie: With Edinburgh, it's a huge challenge. Because obviously the Fringe Society, we upskill all of our staff and give everyone disability awareness training. And we have an online disability awareness training platform as well. And that upskills our-- So we have a core staff of 30 and then it grows to about 200 of our own staff during the Fringe. Then each of the individual venues have their own staff.
So it's that kind of decimation of knowledge to all of our own staff, which is something that we can absolutely control. It's then the venue staff that are getting that trickle down effect and hoping that we can influence the venues to train their staff. We host a few sessions of disability awareness training in our kind of professional development centre at Fringe Central, which are completely free and we put that information out to venues and ensure that they send their staff to that training as well.
I think it's a condition of getting a Venue Access Award, is to train your staff in disability awareness. So actually it's adding that as a field to the award has increased it hugely. Because people want that plaque on their venue. And giving people a tangible thing that they can display, saying, "We are making strides in this area, and we're providing training for our staff," has really seen huge increases in access across the entire fringe.
Kelly: And we have stolen that idea from you, so--
Carly: And we're on our way.
Katie: It's on our website. There's a toolkit on the website, I think it's open access - as everything is. So please do steal it - I think, maybe. Don't tell them I told you to do that.
Carly: We've got a question from Caitlin over there.
Caitlin: Hello, I'm Caitlin, I work for Melbourne Fringe, as well - with Carly. I've worked in contract jobs for festivals for about 5 years, starting at Edinburgh Fringe. And I had amazing access training there as a box office casual. It was - yeah, it was incredible and that's the first time I've had it. And now I've had about - I would say 40 disability awareness training's at various festivals that I've worked at. And so I - yeah, anyone who's done the circuit and worked front of house, box office - they know--
In Australia at least, and the Edinburgh Fringe. They know access really well when it comes to customers. And yeah, it's great. And like you here in Adelaide, we've had - like always disability led access awareness training. At Melbourne Fringe, like Carly said - we learnt Auslan. And I think going back to what Kevin said, we do have a company that works a lot with Melbourne Fringe - Different Theatre, who do shows entirely in Auslan. And so it's actually like integrating access into the show, instead of interpreting a show that is in English.
And we - yeah, again - the demographic changes when that show is at the venue. So, yeah - it's really important. I think if you do have shows that are interpreted or - that you actually have staff at the venue that can communicate with the audience. Because - or, things like communication boards at the bar, etc. Yeah. I don't know where that was going, but I--
Carly: That was great. Thank you. It was good.
Caitlin: I've finished all the words I had to say.
Carly: Simon's got one.
Simon: Hello, Simon from Melbourne Fringe. As you can probably tell, access is - it's really become part of our culture, it's something we're really passionate about at Melbourne Fringe. And I just wanted to answer the question around how we pay for it. Because I know that probably comes up a lot.
And so - I mean, one of the answers to that is - it just becomes central to our culture. So there's just no question. It doesn't become an option. It's like anything else that just has to be paid for. But a really obvious thing is, it's incredibly fundable. Like people want to give you money for this.
So I went to a donor, for example - and he, and I asked for $10,000 to pay for the registration fees for artists who are deaf or with disability. And he gave it to me. So then we're able to offer a registration fee free process for those artists. We have staff positions that are paid for through philanthropy. And again, employing deaf or disabled people on staff - it completely changes the culture and changes the way everything works.
And so the legacy of that - and we will continue to do that. But the legacy of that work becomes so kind of integral to what we do. So I think it is - of the things that we talk about being hard to pay for, it's not the hardest thing to pay for.
Kelly: I think - sorry Simon, just to follow up on that. I think people need to be aware of - more and more aware to ask for help as well. Because for one example, one of the things that we are in the process of doing at the Adelaide Fringe office, is automating the door to our office. The door to the main building is automated, but not the door to our personal office. And so this was something they wanted to do before I arrived, with that access requirement. Scrounging and scrounging for this money - and then I went, "Do you know there's the--?" It's changed the name, but you know what I mean, Carly. The Workplace Modification Scheme."
Carly: Employee Assistance Fund.
Kelly: Employee Assistance. I had EAF, but I couldn't find the words. The Employee Assistance Fund. So actually having those employees with disability and access requirements in your workforce opens you up to make those changes, with government funding as well - at least here in Australia, that will benefit everybody as previous points have said.
Carly: Literally opening doors. We should get, we should fix our door, Simon.
Carly: One more question.
Cathleen: I'm Cathleen, with the BorderLight Festival. We're based in Cleveland, Ohio. And we are fresh out of the session about sustainability. And our festival - like many festivals, like many people have spoken up - is deeply concerned with accessibility, particularly for low income communities where digital ticketing and digital marketing can be a barrier. Also age diversity as well.
And there was a comment, Kelly you made about ticketing and digital ticketing. And I was wondering if you or anyone on the panel can talk about digital ticketing and sort of sustainable - moving towards - moving into technology. And things we might not be aware of as producers that are barriers that exist at every point along the ticket buying process. And even - really even at the level of getting into the theatre and figuring out where to be and how to do it.
Carly: I know Red61, who do our ticketing and maybe many other fringe ticketing systems - are looking to make everything online - accessible bookings online in 2021. You saw that?
Katie: We have - yeah, a goal of - in 2021, having all of our access booking online. Which includes - I think, for-- Do you have something back there, Ella?
Ella: (no mic, inaudible) 55:13
Katie: Okay. So yeah - it includes wheelchair booking, which is a huge challenge for Fringe venues - just because there's so many venues and so many seating set ups, and so many rules around taking seats out to put a wheelchair in. But all of our booking is currently - access booking is currently over the phone, in person or email - and that's a huge barrier for people that want to access the Fringe as an audience member and are disabled or deaf. So we have a commitment to make it online by 2021.
Kelly: Sorry Carly.
Carly: It's all good.
Kelly: But I guess, on the flip side of that - and online booking is definitely something that Adelaide Fringe is working towards for accessible bookings as well. But the flip side of that is - there was a report that came out from the South Australian Council of Social Services. Because about a year ago, but my sense of time is terrible. Called "The Digital Divide." And it actually talks about people still in 21st century Australia who don't have stable internet access. And disabled people are disproportionately represented in that figure. So having that variety of options is also really important.
Carly: Absolutely. And also not on ticketing, but on straws. There's a really big push to remove plastic straws from venues. And I know our venue at Common Rooms is sustainable in that way. However, I have talked to a venue manager about the importance of having some plastic straws for disabled people who cannot use alternative straws. And where they're not made to feel bad for asking for those straws. And often we're made to feel burdensome for ruining the environment. And I think it's very, very important to have potentially non-sustainable options for people who need those things.
Yeah. And we're going to wrap up now. I know there was one point to be made up the back, maybe? No. Okay. That's okay. We're going to wrap up now. Thank you so much to my amazing panel. My diagram's wrong, sorry. Ellen, everyone clap for Ellen.
Carly: Kym, Kelly, Katie and Prime Minister, Caroline Conlon. It'd be great if you wanted to contact us. You are very, very welcome to get information, to get our access packs, etc. I've got some cards up here if you would like. I'm email@example.com. Yeah, we'll hopefully talk to you by email or in person soon. Have a great festival, thank you.