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> > > Stratford Circus, Face Front Theatre & Ramira Arts Collective: No Barriers with Barriers

19 June 2014

Peter Faventi of Stratford Circus’s Blue Sky Actors and associate artist at Face Front Inclusive Theatre Company, with Ramira Arts Collective present: No Barriers with Barriers a striking site-specific play performing at Rowans Bowling Alley, in the heart of Finsbury Park London. Sophie Partridge went along to find that access barriers are still grossly misunderstood…

It’s MANY Moons since I was at a Bowling Alley, watching my brother play and when I arrived at Rowans, confronted by a staircase – I thought it was gonna be a good few more! 

I was aware that the piece was site-specific and therefore, access is often a challenge. Steps, ramps – even evacuation chairs had been mentioned before-hand but in my naivety, once I had clarified that I use a small but heavy power-chair, I assumed all would be well; particularly as the cast is inclusive of disabled performers in the piece.  Surely what’s acceptable as access AND WHAT IS NOT, would be understood…? 

Unfortunately, it seems access is still something open to a very `wide’ interpretation.  The producers considered my being carried up stairs on an evac’ chair whilst my most precious `chair was manhandled up separately, acceptable access.  I don’t!  

To be honest, it’s a long time since I’ve found myself in such a situation and I was unsure what to do. My Social Model guru shouted “Don’t Do It Partridge” whilst waving an `Everybody Out’ placard but my slimey, Medical one, whispered “Ah but you CAN, can’t you Pixie; you can fit in someone’s pocketsys! My Preciousss...”   

Alas Gollum’s prevailing whine plus the forlorn and embarrassed looks on everyone’s faces, along-side apologies, won out.  That plus the fact that I was really keen to see the show and the bar was up-stairs!  I slipped on the ring of temptation and onto a sofa (with the aid of my PA), then up the stairs (I drew the line at using the Evac-chair) whilst my `chair was magicked up stairs by 6 blokes.  

Once up in the parallel universe of the bowling alley, with my glass of Rescuing Rose and pondering the so-called Legacy of 2012, I then realised the loo was back down stairs!  Probably my just deserts for shafting those who couldn’t have `accessed’ the show in that way, nor should have to.

“But what about the show Sophie?” I er.. very much enjoyed it!  The inclusive cast included several actors who have performed with FaceFront and the story revolved around 2 opposing teams and a 3rd, find themselves in the competition after some miscommunication (ahem!).

Interspersed with factoids about bowling, characters got to tell their own stories of triumph and tragedy in the alleys. All with a live game going on and very atmospheric with music blaring through the speakers.  

The piece was ambitious and I did feel that, in some of the movement pieces, there wasn’t perhaps enough awareness of all the ensemble members; elements needed to be at a pace where everyone can show skill, not just the non-disabled performers. 

It was interesting how some `diversities’ were hinted at, such as girls fancying girls but there were no specific `disabled’ or `ethnic’ characters, rightly or wrongly, yet several actors were from those communities.  

All in all, despite the many barriers I encountered to `Barriers without Barriers’ I do recommend this show, once it’s REALLY accessible!

No Barriers with Barriers continues until 30 June. Please click on this link to go to Dao's listings pages for more information


Liam O'Carroll

10 August 2014

Annie makes a good case, the thing is, the same argument has been made over and over again for the past 25 years: we don't seem to have moved on enough despite all we've learnt collectively about attitudes and access: how else can we explain why these things just keep on happening? the kind of experience that Sophie had tells us that basically, if an artistic company wants to put something on in a particular venue for creative reasons, it will do so even at the cost of access: I guess the artistic drive is more compelling to the artist than the duty to be accessible. Would we feel happier if artists were more open about this, or would that just invite more condemnation? I suppose it is a bit frustrating if you have to forego a project idea as you had visualised it because the venue is inaccessible to part of the audience, but if we want to be inclusive ... few will admit they don't give a stuff about inclusiveness but it may be that we think it is something that exists outside the art and therefore somebody else's responsibility. We'll be having this discussion 25 years from now I fear.


25 June 2014

I would like to know how much of an effort was made to find an accessible bowling alley. At the very least there is no excuse for not being up front about taking the decision to stage the event in an inaccessible venue. It should have been made clear on the publicity that the venue was inaccessible. For a company that supports inclusion, to leave it to chance that a wheelchair user may turn up and discover that the venue is inaccessible is completely unacceptable. The fact that the lead artist has a learning disability is irrelevent to the point Sophie is making.

Sophie P.

20 June 2014

Thanks both for your support & comments :-)

Best wishes!


20 June 2014

Good review Soph...We've all been there before, especially when it involves something you really want to see. fundamentals vs. emotional response is what makes it so hard, especially when you know/have some level of relationship with those involved. 'Ark at me gettin all deep!

Annie Smol

19 June 2014

Please can I clarify that Face Front Inclusive Theatre was not one of the producers of the 'No barriers' production. We do support the development of Peter Faventi as a founder member of Face Front and also The Blue Sky actors of which he is a member at Stratford Circus.

When I was asked by the producers of the show what I felt about the lack of access to the building, I made it clear that Face Front would not use any inaccessible venues as we work to the social model and promote inclusion through physical, sensory and attitudinal access for all. However 'No barriers' was led by Peter Faventi, a Learning Disabled artist, supported by Ramira Arts and Stratford Circus and it was Peter's dream to perform in a bowling alley, but the venue would only allow the performance if it was upstairs. The producers were very torn as to whether the venue could be used or not and did ask my opinion.

As far as I am aware, the final decision made to use the bowling alley was by Peter as the lead artist on the project, and the producers have gone to great lengths to be as inclusive as they can in an inaccessible venue.

I appreciate that Sophie's experience was undignified, frustrating and a very difficult situation to be in, but I know that the producers did not believe that this was 'acceptable access’ and the decision to do the show in an inaccessible venue was not taken lightly.

We need to work together to improve physical, attitudinal and sensory access everywhere so that in the future all artists can perform wherever they choose and all audiences can access their performances.

Annie Smol Artistic Director Face Front Inclusive Theatre

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