Audio Description for circus

Our founder and editor Kate has recently begun expanding her creative writing practice in the direction of Audio Description (AD) – a technique of translating visually led performance for blind and partially sighted audience members.

She has trained with Dr Louise Fryer, Amelia Cavallo, Chlöe Clarke and Alex Bulmer, and has worked on projects with Citrus Arts and Cirkus Xanti/Ali Williams Productions. Most recently she has received support from Arts Council England via their Developing Your Creative Practice fund, which has enabled her to explore diverse ways that access can be integrated into live performance work. If you would like to get in touch for more information or to discuss collaboration, please click here for email

These vlogs chart her experience in 2018 devising creative integrated audio description during the Circus Sessions residency in Toronto:

‘I went into this project believing that audio description was just a concern of the performance event itself, but I’ve learnt how much other accompanying elements must be accounted for, such as pre-show introductions, touch tours, and providing audio access to promotional material. Practically, I’ve learnt how to use technical equipment and digital tools that facilitate access for visually impaired users. Within the live event, I’ve learnt how to identify elements that require description and a variety of ways this can be achieved. Equally important, I’ve learnt to notice what elements don’t need description as they’re inherently accessible through other sound cues. I’ve also learnt the importance of consulting with a visually impaired person, following the disability rights mantra ‘nothing about us without us‘.

Through the project, I’ve become increasingly aware of disability rights and political angles that are important to understand when making accessible work. The most profound learning experience for me was that audio description doesn’t simply function on a ‘describe it and they will come’ basis. The performing arts have been chronically inaccessible to visually impaired audience members for so long that simply offering audio description with a production is unlikely to draw anyone in to utilise the service unless a considerable amount of relationship-building and interest-sparking activity has been conducted in advance. Access can’t be an afterthought. For a production to be successfully accessible, these elements need to be considered from the initial moments of creation, and worked through the entire creative process so that all elements of the production are complementary to each other and don’t hinder access.’

From Final DYCP Project Report to Arts Council England

Two of my favourite online resources for people wanting to learn more are:

Arts Council England logo acknowledging support of public funding