Pupils benefit from MACtile Tours

MAC Learning and Participation Officer Clare Lawlor with teacher Mary McLachlan and a pupil from Parkview Special School, Lisburn
MAC Learning and Participation Officer Clare Lawlor with teacher Mary McLachlan and a pupil from Parkview Special School, Lisburn

The MAC, Belfast’s multi award-winning arts venue, allowed children from two local schools Parkview Special School, Lisburn and Beechlawn School, Hilsborough to benefit from MACtile Tours, the charity’s all sensory introduction to theatre for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Introduced in 2015 to resounding commendation, MACtile tours is the MAC’s pioneering outreach project designed to support families and children with ASD prior to their visit to the venue for this year’s Christmas production of Pinocchio.

Ensuring all visitors experience a memorable and magical Christmas at the MAC, MACtile Tours involve specially-trained MAC staff travelling to participating schools across Northern Ireland with its aptly named ‘Theatre in the Box’ – a miniature, tactile replica of the theatre – to help children gain a greater understanding of what to expect when they visit the MAC for the first time.

Containing a replica model of the MAC theatre, costume samples, what lighting will look like inside the theatre and other visual aids, ‘Theatre in the Box’ alleviates the fear which children with ASD can often experience when in unfamiliar surroundings by allowing them to familiarise themselves with the venue in a first-hand, proactive and sensory manner.

This Christmas, seven local schools are participating in MACtile Tours.

Teacher at Parkview, Mary McLachlan says: “This is a fantastic project and we are delighted to be involved. MACtile tours are extremely powerful and valuable; as the sense of enjoyment and freedom from anxiety it will deliver is something we continue to seek for our pupils and parents. The children have thoroughly enjoyed the workshops.”

Speaking on the return of MACtile Tours, Clare Lawlor, Learning and Participation Officer at the MAC, said:

“Last year almost 400 school children benefited from our MACtile Tours. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive; that by dedicating time and resources to addressing the barriers many people face when accessing the arts, we helped unlock an entire new world of possibilities and memorable experiences for a customer base that otherwise feel closed off.”

The programme is also supported by Enkalon Foundation.

For more information on MACtile Tours contact clare@themaclive.com.