Greenwich and Docklands International Festival: Accessibility for Visually Impaired and Deaf Audiences 

Audience Development

Developing Audiences at Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Without Walls supported GDIF to extend the reach and impact of the festival by increasing access provisions whilst contributing to GDIF’s Creative Case for Diversity. 

Without Walls has helped GDIF to increase their local and digital access to Deaf, partially sighted, and blind audiences through a new trial in digital audio description, live socially distanced audio introductions and a series of BSL Interpreted videos for audio installations. This digital access was available on-site via QR codes, and on GDIF’s website. By creating digital access, these audio descriptions and BSL interpretations will be available for the artists and companies to use in their future work to ensure their pieces have a legacy of accessibility.

Alex Covell, Engagement and Access Producer at GDIF and Without Walls Access Advisor, tells us about the project in her own words.

Explore the many resources that came out of this audience development project below.

Installations and re-working accessibility for Visually Impaired and Deaf audiences at GDIF

Covid gave an opportunity to re-examine how we offer audio description over durational performances and across a variety of locations. We created 16 show-specific recorded audio descriptions, filmed 36 BSL (British Sign Language) information about the festival and events and 7 artistic BSL videos.

The Audio Description was created through a conversation between our Audio Describer and each artist. The text was then checked by a visually impaired consultant for clarity. It was then recorded, audio quality edited and uploaded onto our Digital Access page on our website.

On site, we had QR codes to link to our Digital Access page

For installations that were durational such as Gaia, Fire Garden and Weavers of Woolwich, we chose to work with Remark! who are a Deaf-led company and therefore employed deaf interpreters for authentic communication.

We had an incredibly positive response to the BSL available, and in addition to the BSL available during the festival, we have used this within our post-show video highlights, see videos below.

Our digital audience for our Access provision was 50,652, which includes the 50,000 audience for the BSL Lullaby.

Audio Tour

In partnership with VocalEyes, we provided a Covid-version of a ‘Touch Tour’ for 5 Visually Impaired Audience members. This held space for our Visually Impaired audiences to have a bespoke tour of the space, audio description of the set, costumes and then live, full audio description of the performances as part of our On Your Doorstep: Greenwich St Alfege Park event.

We had a holistic approach to providing this tour, through communicating with the audience as to their route to the site, meeting at the nearest train station and offering information about the local area.

Tim Calvert, who runs ‘A View on Access’, attended the event and reflected on the day here

 “GDIF go the extra mile to make the event inclusive and accessible.. demonstrates slick professionalism when it comes to access as they think of every possible scenario from meet and greet, to guiding, alternative accessible formats that include digital large print and audio introductions, an access tent manned by a trained, professional team and are very open to feedback.”

Jess and Jason Beal also shared their feedback: “The audio description was incredible, and made it even better and easier to follow”, “It was very straight forward to book, and it was great to meet someone at the station. Keep it going!”


Without Walls Audience Development funding supported GDIF to create a set of access training videos to support their volunteer staff working with Deaf and disabled audiences during the festival.

Watch GDIF’s Access training videos below

These were viewed by all 116 volunteers and staff members to offer an unbiased approach to supporting Deaf and Visually Impaired audiences. We had extremely high feedback from volunteers about this training, that they felt more confident to be proactive and engage with Deaf and disabled audiences.

BSL Lullaby

This was created to compliment our community lullaby that was curated as part of our performance Lullaby, that cycled through Plumstead at twilight.

This short film is a collage of deaf parents sending their children to sleep, using BSL and creative captioning with a snippet of our community lullaby, curated by Dan Jones and Guy Hughes. In conversations with Deaf creatives who are parents, we opened a space for this to be created to show authentic communication between Deaf parents and their children.

As part of the project, we worked with Deaf parent and creative, Deepa Shastri to coordinate a BSL video response to our community lullabies. She formed a collective of Deaf parents and worked with acclaimed Deaf film maker Bim Ajadi to form an authentic night time routine using BSL, sign communication and sharing the close bond between parent and child. There was an incredible response on Social Media with the film reaching an audience of 50,000 views,

Viewers commented: “Beautiful, simple and powerful little film. The is #BSLEnlightenment. It really matters for BSL to be SEEN being used in everyday ways. Great initiative”, “Ending each day with natural language and strong family bonds — a lovely visual bonbon.”

Watch BSL Lullaby below

Watch GDIF Highlights Videos - Access Provisions Supported by Without Walls

Gaia with BSL & David Attenborough soundtrack

Luke Jerram’s illuminated 3D installation with surround sound from award-winning composer Dan Jones

The Weavers of Woolwich

This specially written piece of prose/poetry from Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo

Fire Garden with BSL and Dock Workers Voice

Walk the Plank presented this immersive fiery installation in the Thames Barrier Park, Royal Docks