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Access Audit - Aldwych Theatre

In the heart of London's theatre district, amidst the glitz and glamour, lies the Aldwych Theatre, a bastion of entertainment since 1905. For us, it was more than just a night out - it was an exploration of accessibility in the world of theatre, and a journey into the electrifying world of Tina Turner.

For our follow-up trip to London after attending the Northern Power Women Awards 2024, the magnetic allure of the Aldwych Theatre became our focus. Inspired by our dedication to accessibility in entertainment, we sought out venues that matched our ethos. The highlight was fueled by our founder, Tara Mackings BEM, whose admiration for Tina Turner’s empowering anthem, "Big wheels keep on turning," intensified her excitement. Determined to immerse herself in the musical magic of 'TINA: The Tina Turner Musical,' Tara, a spirited Tina Turner enthusiast, led us to the iconic Aldwych Theatre for an unforgettable night.

Navigating Booking Challenges: The Quest for Accessible Seating

Website Accessibility

Booking our tickets to the Aldwych Theatre was the first hurdle. Navigating the web, we encountered a bit of confusion over the correct website to use. The top two search results featured 'Nederlander Theatres' and 'London Theatre.' Initially, we hesitated, mistaking the Nederlander link for a third-party reseller.

However, after some research, we discovered that the Aldwych Theatre is indeed owned by the Nederlander Organization, confirming that their site was the appropriate place to secure our tickets. This insight allowed us to proceed with confidence.

Once we navigated to the Nederlander Theatres' website, finding the necessary accessibility information was straightforward. Prominently, the 'Access' tab was conveniently located at the top left of the page. Further exploration revealed that clicking on the 'Plan your visit' tab at the top right and the 'Access & facilities' link at the bottom left also provided detailed accessible information.

It was refreshing to see accessibility given such prominence, clearly positioned for easy access rather than tucked away at the bottom of the page as an afterthought, a common practice at many other venues. This thoughtful layout underscored their commitment to inclusivity.

Access & Facilities

The 'Access' tab on the website efficiently guides patrons to a dedicated page that consolidates accessibility information for three venues: Dominion Theatre, Aldwych Theatre, and Adelphi Theatre. Clicking on 'Aldwych Theatre' redirects users to a detailed 'Access & Facilities' page. Interestingly, the same 'Access & Facilities' page is also accessible through the 'Plan your visit' tab at the top right of the home page, as well as from a similarly named link located at the bottom right of the home page. This unified approach ensures that all patrons can easily find comprehensive accessibility information, regardless of how they navigate the site.

Access Tab

Plan your visit Tab

Access & Facilities Tab

The 'Access & Facilities' page on the website offers a detailed and comprehensive array of accessible information, utilising both written descriptions and photographs to assist visitors. While measurements for wheelchair spaces are provided, the images of hallways and doorways unfortunately lack this detail. Consequently, Tara experienced some anxiety and uncertainty about whether her powered wheelchair could navigate through some of the tighter spaces depicted in the photographs. This gap in information highlighted the need for more precise visual representations to better prepare visitors with similar concerns.

Telephone Booking Experience

After being unable to determine if we would be able to fit online, we decided to call the booking team. While the theatre's booking team provided ample information about accessible seating and facilities, navigating through the options felt overwhelming. We were still unsure about the dimensions and whether both myself and my partner would be able to fit inside a box with both our wheelchairs (we have different turning space requirements). Despite our efforts to clarify, we ended up choosing what we thought were stall seats, but were in fact in the dress circle, to ensure we had adequate space. The wheelchair spaces in the dress circle could not be accommodated together which meant that we had to sit at either ends of the aisle - a common challenge faced by wheelchair users in many theatres. The booking staff's support and flexibility eased our concerns about this arrangement, and helped us choose the most suitable seating arrangements available.

Planning the Journey: Overcoming Logistical Hurdles with TFL

Planning our journey to the theatre added another layer of logistical complexity. Navigating London's bustling streets with one powered chair and one manual chair required meticulous planning, courtesy of TFL's London planner. Thanks to efficient public transport routes, we arrived with ample time to spare, ready to immerse ourselves in the magic of Tina Turner.

Embracing Accessibility: A Warm Welcome at Aldwych Theatre

From the moment we stepped through the doors of the Aldwych Theatre, we were enveloped in a world of accessibility. Welcomed by an access guide, we were provided with dedicated assistance throughout our visit - from navigating the theatre's facilities to enjoying seated service during the show. The staff's dedication to ensuring a seamless experience was unparalleled, exemplifying a standard of care that other theatres should aspire to.

The highlight of our night came when we were surprised with a private box which had become available earlier that day, allowing us to enjoy the performance together with an unobstructed view of the stage. While some areas of the box had restricted views, it didn't detract from the overall enchantment of the experience. As the lights dimmed and the music swelled, we were transported into the world of Tina Turner - a memory etched into our hearts forever.

Lessons Learned: Clarifying Accessibility Information for Future Patrons

Reflecting on our experience, we recognise the importance of clarity in accessibility information. By having more dimension information available, our booking experience would have been less stressful and easier to select the seats most appropriate for our needs and wishes. An easy solution for this would be to insert the dimensions on the images they already have available on the website.

While the booking process had its challenges, the Aldwych Theatre's commitment to accommodating our needs ultimately triumphed. Clearer communication and visual aids, such as videos showcasing accessibility features, could further enhance the experience for future patrons.

Beyond the Curtain Call: Reflections on Exceptional Accessibility

As we departed the theatre, still buzzing from the electrifying performance, we couldn't help but marvel at the impact of exceptional accessibility. It wasn't just about being well-looked after; it was about being treated with dignity and respect, in a manner befitting of any theatre enthusiast. The Aldwych Theatre set a standard of excellence - one that serves as a beacon of hope for accessibility in the world of entertainment.

In the end, our night at Tina Turner the Musical wasn't just about the music or the spectacle - it was a celebration of inclusivity, a testament to the transformative power of accessibility. And for that, we are forever grateful.

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