Travel Without Limits Winter/Autumn 2024 Issue OUT NOW! Subscribe Here →


Last Friday I was invited to a briefing on the access and inclusion for Sydney Festival’s 2017 program. Now, this may sound like a dry topic but it proved far from dry. When I was sitting in the room listening to everything that has been put into place to make this year’s festival inclusive to all, I couldn’t help but feel excited. To see how far events like this have come in BJ’s lifetime is heartening.

Sydney Festival 2017 - Access & Inclusion
AJ & BJ with the performers at the Sydney Festival

We visited the Sydney Festival last year and the kids absolutely loved the performance we saw. If you live in Sydney, or will be visiting over the summer, you should definitely take a look at the program. All venues are wheelchair accessible, there are Auslan interpreted performances, captioned performances and workshops for people with a disability. Downloadable social stories, tactile tours and pre-audio descriptions are available for some performances. Sensory performances, now called “relaxed performances”, are available for some shows in the Festival’s program.  There is even an Access & Inclusion Accessible Performance Guide and comprehensive information online.  It’s easier than ever to enjoy the Sydney Festival this year.

Sydney Festival 2017
This year’s guide and the Access & Inclusion performance guide.


At the briefing, festival organisers ran through some of the shows and the features incorporated in those shows which are designed to make them inclusive to all. There’s a diverse range of performances to choose from but today I’m just highlighting a few that stood out and took my fancy. Check the Festival guide for the comprehensive listing.


Sydney Festival 2017 - Access & Inclusion
Kaleidoscope – photo courtesy of Sydney Festival

I think this show will appeal to our whole family and we hope to get along to this one.  Kaleidoscope features 13-year-old Ethan. Ethan was diagnosed with Aspeger’s Sydrome at four. On stage, he’s joined by five circus performers and together they explore colour, chaos and incredible beauty of his world through acrobatics, slapstick, music, movement and vibrant video projections.

Ethan’s mother wrote a book and describes life with Ethan as a “joy of walking through shafts of light, a dazzling kaleidoscope.”

Kaleidoscope has several relaxed performances (sensory performances), please check for times and dates for these performances. Show is at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta 13-18 January.

You can read more about this show here.


Sydney Festival 2017 - Access & Inclusion
Tipping Point – photo courtesy of Sydney Festival

This is another show that sounds like it would be perfect for our whole family.

Five performers push themselves to the limit on five metre metal poles that transform into a myriad of walkways, pillars and pendulums.

There is a relaxed performance (sensory) 21 January. I know BJ finds it hard to contain his joyous delight at acrobatics so I can imagine a relaxed performance could be good for him too.

You can read more about this performance here.


AERIALIZE is a free program of over 20 workshops for everyone from tiny tots to seniors and for all abilities. This program includes Hands-on Circus Thisability which is a session specifically for kids aged 4 and up with disability. Although free, you must register with Sydney Festival.

You can read more about this here.


This is an inclusive aerial theatre workshop which offers the chance to experience the thrill of the circus in a safe, friendly environment. The workshop is open to all people who identify as disabled or deaf.

This is free but does require you to register. 22 January 10am

I encourage anyone with a disability to chat to Festival organisers to see how your needs can be accommodated. I was blown away by the desire of organisers for everyone to be able to participate, at some level, in this workshop.

You can read more about this workshop here.


Sydney Festival 2017 - Access & Inclusion
Kaleidoscope Workshops – photo courtesy of Sydney Festival

A hands-on art and performance experience for ages 10-16 of all abilities, with a workshop on 17 January identified specifically for children on the Autism spectrum.

Read more about this workshops here 


For the many therapists and recreational providers that follow our page, I think this would be a wonderful way to get some new ideas. I hope I can get along too.

This talk focuses on exploring circus arts and access for people with disability.

It is free but does require registration. It is 19 January at 3.15pm at Raffertys Theatre, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta.

You can read more about this here.


Sydney Festival 2017 - Access & Inclusion
Ladies in Black – Photo courtesy of Sydney Festival

I’ve eyed this show off as a possible mother/daughter outing. It looks like a fun show that would give my Mum a lovely walk down memory lane, to a time when she was a young thing living in Sydney.

Ladies in Black is based on a Madeleine St John novel and with tunes by Tim Finn, Ladies in Black is a home-grown musical set in Sydney in the late 1950s.

It’s been described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “the best Aussie musical since Priscilla” and has already taken Melbourne and Brisbane by storm.

Some performances are audio described and captioning is available. Bookings are required.

You can read more about Ladies in Black here


Sydney Festival 2017- Access & Inclusion
Imagined Touch – photo courtesy of Sydney Festival

It ‘s hard to imagine a world without sight or sound, which makes me think this sensory performance would be a fascinating insight into the lives of people living without sight or hearing.

Deafblind artists provide goggles and headphones that restrict light and sound – and through intensified tactile communication – experience the artists’ stories.

You can read more about this performance here.


Sydney Festival 2017 - Access & Inclusion
Felicity Ward – Photo courtesy of Sydney Festival

We all need a good laugh. Mental health issues are usually presented in a serious manner but award winning comedian Felicity Ward has written a funny show which is described in the Festival program as follows, “In her endearingly livewire style, Ward talks about her anxiety without being earnest. Delight in the wonders of her latest invention ‘Chicken Karaoke’, laugh at the correct etiquette of swimming pools and gasp at the indignity of women’s pockets in a killer performance that will have the audience snorting with laughter.”

Sounds like a good night out for Hubby and I.

There is an Auslan interpreted show on 22 January at 7.30pm

You can read more about this show here.


I think AJ will love this one.

It’s described as “part picture book, part play and all wonderful fun. A magical tale of an adventurous girl that unfolds live in front of your eyes as cartoonist Cathy Wilcox (SMH & The Age) draws the pictures while the story is narrated by Raelee Hill.”

This is suitable for 8 years and up. One performance is Auslan interpreted on 20 January at 2pm.

You can read more about this performance here.

The festival program is extensive and there are so many exciting options available this year. I’ve just shared a little taste to show you the wonderful accessible and inclusive features that have been put in place.


Book early (preferably prior to 16 December) to avoid disappointment. Numbers are limited for workshops.

Discuss any queries you have regarding access with staff on the booking number or email them questions. The message I took away from the Sydney Festival organisers is that they hope visitors will communicate their needs when booking. This is mentioned again on the website, “To discuss your access requirements and to book all other access services or performances, please call Sydney Festival’s reception on 1300 856 876 or email

Take a look at the access and inclusion program here.

Access & Inclusion information can be found here.

I really hope to hear that lots of you take up the opportunity to participate in the Sydney Festival this year.




Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.