Mercury Theatre Funding

The Mercury Theatre has been awarded a Community Initiatives Fund grant of £6000 by Essex County Council to purchase a captioning unit, improving access provision for the arts in Essex.

Thanks to a grant of £6000 from Essex County Council’s Community Initiatives Fund, the Mercury Theatre Colchester has purchased the first captioning unit to be based solely in Essex. Captioning units enable those who are D/deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy live theatre by providing a written description of what is happening on stage. Up until now, the theatre had relied upon shared equipment provided by the the See a Voice campaign (2007-2009), and later through the purchase of a shared unit for the Mercury Theatre, Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre, and the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (2009-2017).

The Mercury’s purchase of its own captioning unit greatly improves the quality of access provision that the theatre can offer audiences and visiting companies. Previously limited to a fixed schedule based on a shared unit’s availability across three different theatres, the Mercury can now offer flexibility in its access programming, making its own unit available to visiting companies who would like to make their own productions more accessible, as well as continuing to provide audio described and captioned performances on our own Made in Colchester shows. Having supplemented the funds provided by the Community Initiatives Fund in order to upgrade the hardware and software needed to run the unit, the Mercury is safeguarding its use for many years to come.

Executive Director Steve Mannix said:

“Thanks to Essex County Council, we are now in the fantastic position of being more flexible with our access provision – we can bring the unit into action at short notice, for visiting companies or community use, for our Creative Learning & Talent projects, and more. The Mercury is committed to ensuring that audiences from Essex and beyond can access great theatre, and this is just one step in our plans to improve our facilities to guarantee access for all.”

Simon Walsh, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Community Initiatives Fund, said:

“I am pleased that once again the Community Initiatives Fund is being used to fund a project that will make a real difference to people in Essex. The installation of the new captioning unit at the Mercury Theatre will ensure that everyone can enjoy and access local theatre productions helping to bring our communities together. The latest bidding round for the Community Initiatives Fund is now open and I encourage local community groups across Essex to apply and I look forward to seeing the announcement of similar success stories in 2018.”

Throughout 2016/17, the Mercury staged 18 accessible performances and this year introduces dementia-friendly performances for the first time alongside its regular relaxed, captioned and audio described performances. The theatre has also expanded its youth theatre offer to include Aspire Share Create, a youth theatre for young people with Autism Spectrum Conditions, and Take Flight, a summer school for those with disabilities and additional needs.

For more information about our access provision, please visit