Autism-Friendly shows at the McNeill Theatre in Larne

Autism-Friendly relaxed performances will soon be on the billing at the McNeill Theatre in Larne after Mid and East Antrim Borough Council was awarded funding of £30,000 from the Department for Communities (DfC) to upgrade the venue’s lighting system.

The new fit-for-purpose lighting will be fully automated and bring the facility up to similar standards in place at some of the most modern theatres across Northern Ireland.

As well as improving health and safety for staff, the upgrade project means Council will be able to deliver better access to the arts to a greater number of people from all abilities, by planning the introduction of performances which can be enjoyed by those with Autism and other sensory related conditions.

The McNeill Theatre has earned acclaim for its programme of arts, drama and cultural performances in recent years, and is home to Larne Drama Circle and the Larne Drama Festival.

Through a comprehensive Arts and Culture Programme, Council has forged links with a number of public sector and voluntary agencies to improve access to the Arts, including the ‘Building Bridges’ project, which delivered dance-based workshops to 200 service users in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Council has been recognised for its work in dementia awareness in Larne, and as well as health literacy and education classes, nostalgia workshops have taken place, while staff have participated in training in the area.

Delivery, installation and staff training in the new equipment is expected to be complete by next month.

Alderman Paul Reid said: “This is great news for the people of Larne and the surrounding areas. The McNeill Theatre has delivered a first-class programme of arts and drama throughout its existence and has a reputation for welcoming some of the biggest names and performers.

“Council continues to make great progress in its commitment to accessibility for all across its leisure, arts and sporting facilities, and to be able to offer performances in a relaxed format to those with Autism and other sensory processing conditions, is another major step forward in that.

“Well done to all those in Council who have worked to secure this funding under the Department for Communities!”

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