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Deaf community welcomed to WOMAD festival

Deaf community welcomed to WOMAD festival

Arts Access Aotearoa - Whakahauhau Katoa O Hanga

WOMAD New Zealand, recipient of the Big ‘A’ Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2012, is providing sign language interpreters for Deaf and hearing impaired festival-goers at this year’s festival in New Plymouth from 15 to 17 March.

For the first time, Deaf festival-goers will be able to book sign language interpreters at the festival’s information centre for stage performances, workshops and cooking demonstrations.

Chris Herlihy, Business Manager at Taranaki Arts Festival Trust, says the festival has been spreading the word about the sign interpretation services through the Taranaki Disability Information Centre, the local media and networks, and on its website.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how this new accessibility initiative for hearing impaired people goes,” Chris says. “It’s always rewarding to see everyone having a good time at the festival. Seeing so many happy faces at WOMAD makes it all worthwhile.”

Marama Simeon, who works at the Taranaki Disability Information Centre and is hearing impaired, says there is a “huge” Deaf community in the region. She is one of five sign language interpreters who will be volunteering at the festival.

Chris Herlihy
Chris Herlihy, Business Manager at Taranaki Arts Festival Trust

“In the Deaf world, I would show thumbs up and hands waving out of shared excitement,” Marama says. “For local and international Deaf people, it’s a key to unlock the barrier door so they can hear and feel the vibe. To know that someone will be speaking their language and available to meet their needs when they arrive, they can say, ‘This is why I came to WOMAD. It’s fantastic!’.”

Lisa McMullan, WOMAD’s Marketing and Communications Manager, attended the WOMAD UK festival last year and was inspired by the sign interpreters she saw there. “I immediately thought: ‘Why haven’t we done this before? We can do it in New Plymouth’.

“Having sign language interpreters for the stage performances will enhance Deaf patrons’ experience of the wonderful music that is centre-stage at WOMAD.”

Chris says that receiving the Big ‘A’ Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award has helped raise awareness of WOMAD’s accessibility and enhanced their networks with the disability sector. “Personally, I found our involvement with Arts Access Aotearoa and the awards very rewarding and it has led to new initiatives to support the Deaf community at WOMAD 2013.”

The recipient of the Big ‘A’ Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award receives $2500, to be used to progress its work in improving access to disabled audiences. As well as supporting the sign interpretation, it will also be used to provide caregivers for disabled festival-goers, where required.

“We encourage people to contact us directly at TAFT so we can talk with them about their specific requirements and do whatever we can to make WOMAD accessible for them,” Chris says.

Situated in New Plymouth, the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust was established as a charitable trust in 1991, and has presented WOMAD every year since 2003. Part of Chris Herlihy’s job is to ensure that accessibility is embedded into the WOMAD culture.

“WOMAD’s success is derived from its uniqueness, incorporating international and local acts in a fantastic park setting, and having something enjoyable for people from all walks of life,” he says.

WOMAD New Zealand 2013 takes place at New Plymouth’s Brooklands Park and TSB Bowl of Brooklands from 15–17 March. As well as 30 hours of music on the six stages, it will feature artists in conversation, live cooking demonstrations and workshops by artists, a global village, sustainable village, Kidzone and the option to camp at the adjacent racecourse.


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