Update Aug 2019: The Globe has been nominated for Blue Badge Access Awards because of this nomination………..
“Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and its access manager David Bellwood.
They provide access across the board as well as accessible performances such as relaxed, captioned, audio described and signed. After losing my sight they gave me back Shakespeare and theatre through their amazing audio described touch tours and performances and this alone would be enough to nominate them. But what changed my life was the welcome I received, the attitude of everyone I met from Front of House to the actors. This is what makes them stand out: the people. The profoundly human encounters that first visit redeemed me after a disabling two years of sight loss, related unemployment and extreme poverty. They simply saw me as myself and in that moment helped me to see me as my true self again. It was transformative, redemptive and I’ve never looked back. The Globe remains the place in which I am happiest, guaranteed to be welcome and never feel disabled or visually impaired. It is my second home. They are truly a gold standard in access.”
David Bellwood has been nominated for Leonard Cheshire, Employee of The year and The Globe for Most Inclusive Building, Arnold Fewell Award.
See who wins and attend the final on 7th Oct at The Langham Hotel, tickets here.
Update 2018: The Globe still wins on accessibility according to this review from Joanne,
‘This place is amazingly accessible – not just for wheelchairs but they welcome people with hidden disabilities as well. Surely puts to shame people who try and hide behind the fact that their building is old!’
The Globe has been upgraded to the max. 3 BBS Ticks and maybe it will win a 2019 Blue Badge Access Award??
The historic Shakespeare’s Globe sits on the Southbank of the Thames, in the same place where the original Elizabethan theatre once stood. Originally built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644, The Globe in its current form was built as a close replica of the traditional open roofed theatre and opened in 1997. Along with Stratford-Upon-Avon The Globe is the spiritual home of The Bard and people flock here to see Shakespeare’s iconic plays in the same environment they were originally performed.
2014 is the 450th anniversary of the great playwright’s birth and with this week being Shakespeare week we thought it was a good time to add the Globe to our ratings. At the Globe, the anniversary celebration kicks off in earnest on the 23rd of April with the year’s first performance in the main theatre which will be the opening night of a touring Hamlet production. After a small number of performances at the Globe, the show is going on the road for two years and visiting every country in the world (including North Korea).
The rest of the 2014 season at the Globe “follows mankind’s endless capacity for conflict”. It’s often said that conflict is drama, so you’ll have to go a long way to find as ambiguous a theme as this. But with runs of Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, All’s Well That Ends Well and more you can see that they’ve selected some of the more merciless conflicts from the Shakespeare canon. There’s also going to be a week long run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed entirely in British Sign Language in June which should be of interest to readers with hearing impairments.
The theatre was designed to replicate the entire original Shakespearean experience not just with the look of the theatre and the traditional costumes of the actors but also in terms of the audience experience. This involves opening the theatre to the elements somewhat, with its open roof, and having the majority of the audience standing in the courtyard stalls. With up to 700 spectators standing in the courtyard and acting as potential obstacles, you’d assume there would be difficulties regarding disabled access, but the team at the Globe have done well to make things accessible.
One option for physically less able visitors is simply to eschew the courtyard altogether and head for a box seat instead from where you can comfortably look down upon the hoi palloi in the stalls. Gentleman’s Box P can be accessed via a backstage lift and overlooks the side of the stage. It has enough space for 3 wheelchairs and a companion for each. You need to arrive relatively earlier so that a FOH member to take you there but once you’re there the view is unobstructed and it has the added bonus of being covered if it starts to rain.
If you’d prefer to soak up the atmosphere in the courtyard, the other option for wheelchair users is a raised wheelchair platform in the yard itself. It’s not possible to access the courtyard in a scooter but you can transfer into one of the theatre’s wheelchairs. Again, arrive in plenty of time so that the platform can be placed in the best position. There are accessible toilet facilities near the main entrance to the theatre.
There is a hearing aid induction loop within the theatre but you need to be aware that because it’s open-air the loop will amplify all sounds and that the loop works best in the lower gallery. There are also audio described and captioned performances on certain occasions. Guide dogs are always welcome and the Globe also has a phone line and email address dedicated to access enquiries, both of which can be found here. You can’t book access tickets online and need to call the box office to do so.
The Globe is a unique theatre within central London and by its old fashioned replicative nature is not the easiest building for disabled access. This makes it all the more remarkable that it has become one of the more accessible London theatres. You’d certainly assume that the facilities for less able visitors would no have been up to this level during the days of Shakespeare! We give The Globe a provisional 2.5 BBS Ticks.