What is the Campaign about?

Welsh language information

The Family Arts Campaign is a national Sector Support Organisation funded by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to raise family engagement with arts and culture.

Since our beginnings in 2012, we have focused on three main areas of work:

  • Increasing the amount and range of artistic work available to families
  • Increasing the quality of experience for families
  • Improving marketing to reach more families

We are here to support National Portfolio Organisations, museums, libraries, community groups, individuals, and anyone else looking to better connect families with arts and culture.

You can take part by signing up to the free Family Arts Standards and Age-Friendly Standards quality-marks, by attending training and events, or accessing our online resources library. You can also promote all of your family and age-friendly events for free as part of our Fantastic for Families  campaign.


Who is running the Campaign?

We are a cross-sector and cross-artform initiative steered by a consortium of ten organisations and trade bodies. Our lead partner organisation is The Albany.

Logos of consortium partners: AMA, CVAN, ITS, One Dance UK, Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre, The Albany, Kids in Museums, ABO, The Audience Agency


The campaign is overseen by a Project Board:

Matthew Swann(Interim chair) Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia
Sebastian CaterHead of UK Theatre and Workforce Development, UK Theatre
Charlotte JonesChief Executive, Independent Theatre Council
Cath HumeExecutive Director, Arts Marketing Association
Robert O’DowdChief Executive, Rose Theatre Kingston
Gavin BarlowChief Executive/Artistic Director, The Albany
Mark PembertonDirector, Association of British Orchestras
Anne TorreggianiExecutive Director, The Audience Agency
Karla Barnacle-Best CEO, Discover Children’s Story Centre
Alison Bowyer and Laura BedfordExecutive Director and Head of Programmes, Kids in Museums
Paula OrrellDirector, Contemporary Visual Arts Network
Frederick HopkinsHead of Business Development and Membership, One Dance UK
Sarah Mears and Liz McMillanProgramme Manager, Libraries Connected / Libraries and Culture Services Manager, Slough Borough Council 


Central co-ordination team:

Anna DeverHead of Campaign
Rukhsana JahangirCampaign Manager
Sophie EvansDigital Marketing Manager
Daniela GerstmannDigital Marketing Officer

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Handprint Theatre: a how-to guide for making your online performance accessible

Two actors are signing in front of a tropical backdrop of palm trees

cr. Greta Mitchell


We’ve all been busy bringing creativity into the homes of the nation and rushing to get our work online. But how accessible is that content? We spoke to Laura Goulden, co-founder of Handprint Theatre, and Stephen Collins, actor, on how how ensuring performances are accessible will benefit everyone.

Congratulations for making it this far through Lockdown, and for adapting an industry of work based on people, human contact and presenting storytelling into high quality online content. Sharing creativity right now is so important for everyone, and especially families, but there are many families who are being excluded from the online performing arts world.

By not considering access when putting work online, we are limiting our audiences, and doing a massive disservice to Deaf and hearing families who are becoming frustrated from the lack of content amidst what is seemingly a hive of creative activity.


Why should my content be accessible?

It takes time and can be frustrating for the non-technically minded (we are storytellers, right?) but by putting that time into access there are so many people that will benefit, including yourselves.

By making you work accessible, you are immediately increasing your audience to include thousands of families (with Deaf children or parents.) If you add captions you are also providing access to those young people who have English as an additional language and may struggle to understand fast dialogue.  This will also include audiences watching internationally. There have even been studies that suggest that children develop English language skills by reading and watching captioned videos.

Within the social media world, many are watching your videos without headphones, and are statistically far more likely to stay watching if they can follow captions without having to put the sound on.

Ultimately, in order to increase your audience whilst raising the profile of your work amidst an ocean of online content, providing access can be a fantastic way to widen your audiences across the world, not just during lockdown, but also when we get out!


Two actors are signing in front of a tropical backdrop of palm trees

cr. Greta Mitchell

How can I ensure my work is accessible?

Access is not a one box that fits all (for person or for show), which can be daunting when first attempting to make your online work accessible. But, it has been done before, and we can all learn from each other. Additionally, there are always new creative ways to include access within the production itself, meaning that all young people can see any show, rather than a one-off accessible show. (This is a whole other conversation for another day!)

Captions: if you use automatic captions (YouTube) – check them! Many family shows I have seen with auto captions have not been accurate, adding much frustration and risk for the families watching, and your work is being misrepresented. There are various apps and programmes to add captions yourself and make them more creative, Stagetext have an excellent resource in how to add captions to your work.

British Sign Language: many Deaf people use BSL and adding written English does not make the work accessible. In order to translate your show into BSL, a Deaf Actor, or Deaf translator may be able to work with you in adding BSL access or if your content is live there are many webinars/workshops/sessions who have been providing BSL interpreters via Zoom (and other video communication platforms).

Looking for some extra support? Red Bee are a media company with access services for adding BSL interpretation to your performance, and TheatreSign provide BSL Interpreters specifically trained to interpret theatre. Meanwhile, Performance Interpreting can provide BSL Interpreters for festival and events.

Providing a Script: offering to share the script on request can be an option– although will definitely not enhance the creativity of your original show!

Look at who is doing access well: and reach out to them. There is a lot of online generosity right now and increasing access should be an immediate conversation that family theatre makers are having together. Edalia Day provide captions for all their online content, including their family show trailer. Deaf Campaigner @MFWillpower (Instagram/Twitter) is translating quotes and content for Deaf audiences giving access for Deaf people. Joe Wicks has even started having BSL interpreted workouts – even though you may expect a gym workout to be very physical already, but to properly and safely engage, instructions are important.

I’m on a budget. What can I do?

Lockdown is providing different opportunities to learn new skills, and this may be the perfect time to start making captions for all your work. Here is a great compilation of ten free tools to make your capationing process easier.

Looking to reach new families online? We want to share your work! Handprint Theatre are part of a network of accessible artists who are sharing work with Deaf audiences and are desperately looking for theatre to share with our online families. Please get in touch with us to find out more.


It is a duty to our audiences

As artistic creators who are part of the Family Arts Campaign, we are all striving to follow its mission – ‘to increase the amount and range of artistic work available to families, to increase the quality of experience for families, and improve marketing to reach more families.’ If collectively we fail to make our online work accessible, we are actively excluding a large number of families in the process.

It can be daunting, or not feel like a priority when we are all feeling vulnerable, with venues and schools closed, and families at home. Right now it is more important than ever to ensure that the work we are sharing, the stories we are telling, and the creativity we are inspiring will reach all families, no matter whether they can hear or not.


Handprint theatre logo with green handprint


Based on a conversation between Laura Goulden, co-founder of Handprint Theatre, and Stephen Collins, actor.

Handprint create theatre and education projects which are accessible to both Deaf and Hearing audiences not segregating but allowing all to share stories which communicate across language, disability or culture.

During the Covid-19 crises, Handprint Theatre are offering free advice and guidance on creating accessible theatre. To discuss a show or ask questions please contact handprinttheatre@googlemail.com.

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