Audio describer training to fill a gap in Christchurch
5 November 2015
By Andrea Moxham
A shortage of audio describers in Christchurch has prompted the Blind Foundation to work with The Court Theatre and Arts Access Aotearoa to offer free audio describer training from 21 to 22 November.
Claire Noble, Community Development Co-ordinator, Arts Access Aotearoa, says 14 people will participate in the workshop. Claire, who co-ordinated a similar audio describer training course in Wellington in March 2014, will introduce the course and provide an insight into the training.
“Becoming a qualified audio describer is an employment opportunity for people with an interest in the arts. They need to be able to communicate clearly, have an eye for detail and a voice people will enjoy listening to for a couple of hours,” she says.
The provision of audio description in musicals, drama, opera, concerts and dance, as well as galleries and museums, is growing in New Zealand. In in the Canterbury region alone, there are more than 24,000 people who are blind or vision impaired.
Audio describers talk into a microphone to provide a commentary, which is transmitted to wireless receivers and headsets worn by audience members on gallery visitors. At live performances, they speak between the breaks in dialogue or sound, describing what’s happening on stage.
In support of the course, The Court Theatre has waived its venue hire fee.
“The Court Theatre is excited to play a part in offering this audio describer training, which we hope will have a long-term impact on increasing access to the arts in Christchurch,” says Rachel Sears, Education Manager at The Court Theatre.
“We look forward to working with newly trained audio describers in the future to create more opportunities for blind and vision impaired audiences to access our programme.”
In her role at Arts Access Aotearoa, Claire advocates for audio description and promotes accessible projects to five Arts For All networks in Otago, Christchurch, Wellington, Taranaki and Auckland. These networks are made up of representatives from the disability sector, performing arts companies, venues, producers, festivals, galleries and museums.
Audio describer team for Christchurch
“Since the Wellington course, audio description has increased in Wellington and there is a real buzz for this to happen in Christchurch,” Claire says. “It's key that Christchurch has its own team of audio describers,
“Venues such as Isaac Theatre Royal, The Court Theatre and Canterbury Museum will be able to bring their shows and exhibitions to life for blind people, who may never have been to a show or gallery before. For art lovers who have recently lost their sight, audio description will enable them to enjoy the arts once more.”
Working as co-trainers on the course are Nicola Owen, Paul Brown and Judith Jones.
Nicola Owen led the Wellington training course with Robyn Hunt. She is a professional audio description trainer and runs a business called Audio Described Aotearoa.
Paul Brown who is blind, is a passionate advocate for audio description. He will provide a user’s perspective and advice on engaging with blind people.
Judith Jones took part in the Wellington course and says the knowledge she gained adds a new dimension to all her work as host and tour guide at Te Papa. She's recently been an audio describer for a pilot tour of Ngā Toi | Arts Te Papa, working with curators and conservators to deliver a sensory experience.
Earlier this year, 20 clients of the Blind Foundation attended an audio described performance of New Zealand Opera’s Madame Butterfly at the Isaac Theatre Royal. The opera company flew two audio describers from Auckland to provide this service.
The two-day training course has been funded by the Christchurch City Council and Creative Communities Christchurch.
Read Robyn Hunt's blog about Te Papa's pilot tour of Ngā Toi │Arts Te Papa for blind and sight-impaired visitors.