Hearing Link

Blog: Cinema and theatre in Buxton

By John Newton, Hearing Link volunteer

My local cinema in Buxton, grandly called the Buxton Opera House, hardly ever screens films with captions. When most modern films are already captioned, and it is so easy to switch them on, I wondered why the cinema were not showing more captioned films. There surely must be a demand as the town must have a fair number of people with hearing loss.

When it comes to theatre or live shows, the Buxton Opera House has an old infrared system which requires the wearing of cumbersome, embarrassing headphones or a neck loop. Not great.

After a quick look at performances in the coming weeks I saw featured the Hairy Bikers (live performance), Verdi’s opera Macbeth (live theatre) and a famous medium (live show). All for very short runs, often just one night. Of these Macbeth I think, will be the only one with captions (that seems to be the norm with opera where the script doesn’t vary). And the others? Well, people with hearing problems would presumably have to rely on the outdated infra-red system. Or not bother going at all.

With these burning issues in mind, I decided to contact the Buxton Opera House. I wasn’t very hopeful of getting a response, but I was pleasantly surprised to get an invitation to meet with the person in charge of accessibility.

Taking things slowly, because I wanted to build a good, positive, ongoing relationship, I brought up the issues of screening more captioned films and the installation of a modern induction loop system. One of the points I made was that making performances more accessible to people with hearing impairment would attract more visitors i.e. it makes financial sense. They invited me to become one of their ‘Access Ambassadors’. I am not yet sure exactly what that role would involve but I have great hopes!

I would dearly like to hear from other Hearing Link members who live in areas with small, independent cinemas and theatres. What sort of access do they provide? Have you been in contact with management? What did you discuss? What were the outcomes? What can Hearing Link do to support you? If you can help, contact me at socialmedia@hearinglink.org.

A bit of history about Buxton Opera House…Buxton has only the one cinema which is part of our local theatre, The Buxton Opera House. Buxton is distinguished for its water and beautiful Opera House, not to mention its location amongst the hills of the Peak District. The water came first (even the Roman’s drank it), and today you can buy it in most shops and supermarkets. The Buxton Opera House was built around 1900 when variety theatre was at its peak. Today, opera features occasionally amongst an extremely varied programme, but I suspect it was named Buxton Opera House to give it prestige amongst the predominantly middle-class visitors who were, at the time, the mainstay of the town’s economy.

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