Mind the Gap: Audio Description Workshop

Mind the Gap, Europe’s leading theatre company for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, has been a fantastic project partner for the IDEA project. We loved their innovative approach to the audio description for the film of A Little Space, led by Mind the Gap Artist Paul Bates and Vicky Ackroyd from Totally Inclusive People. Read the transcript or listen to the recording of their Showcase if you missed it first time round.

After many meetings in a Zoom room, it was an absolute pleasure to travel to Bradford to meet Vicky and the Mind the Gap Artists and creatives in person. This time, we were there to explore the audio description for a new production, Leave the Light on for Me. This is a new piece of outdoor theatre, by Mind the Gap and Nickie Miles-Wildin, which reflects on climate change and the serious consequences of excluding people from these conversations. Vicky is taking an integrated approach to the audio description. This is likely to incorporate sensory elements with a particular focus on sound – the rustle of costumes/props as well as a supporting soundscape from composer and sound designer Sarah Llewellyn.

Led by Vicky, we were joined by the Mind the Gap Artists for a workshop with a difference. In pairs, we each chose a hat from a box and modelled them on an impromptu catwalk, with one person from each pair describing the other as they sashayed their way across the room and showed off their chosen hat. This got everyone thinking about how we describe other people, their clothes and personal appearance, and what the sensitivities might be.

Mind the Gap artists strut the catwalk

Image Description: six MTG learning disabled artists, all white and ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s, model a variety of hats with a range of poses, some with hands on hips, others with arms outstretched. Others look on in the background.

Next, the artists got into groups and discussed how they would describe various objects which Vicky had handed round. Introducing a healthy bit of competition, Vicky then rolled a dice and the group had to limit themselves to the corresponding number of words when describing their object (we did re-roll when it landed on 1 or 2 – we are not that mean!) This was a great way to think about how audio describers must choose their words carefully, so that they don’t bore their listeners or talk over dialogue.

Finally, we thought about colours. Each group was given a paint chart with a range of blues, reds, greens or yellows and asked to come up with a range of descriptors. A great way to encourage us all to think about multisensory language, and how to make descriptions vivid and interesting.

We were accompanied by biggerhouse film, who are creating a film about the IDEA project for the AHRC. We are looking forward to their footage of the workshop, also the reflections from the interviews conducted with Vicky Ackroyd, Hannah Thompson, IDEA Project Fellow, Deborah Dickensen, Senior Producer at Mind the Gap, Joyce Nga Yu Lee, Artistic Director, and Paul Bates, Mind the Gap artist. One theme which flowed throughout the interviews was how to develop AD as a creative layer in theatre making. This also came into our discussions with the biggerhouse crew – how do we ensure that this film about access and inclusion is itself fully accessible? For a team used to working with a visual medium, this provoked a lot of thought and questions about alternative creative approaches. We are looking forward to the result.

Thanks to Deborah, Vicky and all the Mind the Gap artists for a fantastic day.