Horsecross Arts, the creative organisation and charity behind Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre, is creating sensory packs to help audience members with access needs enjoy performances in its venues.

The crowds, lights and sounds, smoke and applause of live performance can be overwhelming, especially for people with autism, anxiety, downs syndrome, dementia, ADHD or other access needs. By introducing 60 free-to-borrow sensory backpacks, containing specially designed items to calm and assist audience members with access needs, Horsecross Arts intends to make coming to see a show an enjoyable and positive experience for all.

The backpacks will contain items including fidget toys, cuddly toys, bean bags, stress reliever balls, water bottles, ear plugs, lanyard straps and ‘Help’ cards. There is also a limited number of ear defenders, weighted blankets and sand and liquid hourglass timers.

Funding for the packs was secured from the Tesco Bags of Help community grant scheme, which saw thousands of Tesco customers vote for the project in their local store, and Perth and Kinross Council’s Community Investment Fund. Perth and Kinross Council’s Community Investment Fund also funded an accessibility walk-through video for Perth Concert Hall and staff training.  

Lauren Oakes, head of creative learning at Horsecross Arts said:

“With a large variety of shows, concerts and community projects on offer in our venues, we want Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall to be buildings for everyone. The introduction of the sensory backpacks allows us to continue to improve the accessibility of our venues. The backpacks are free to borrow and are on offer to anyone who may benefit from using one whilst in our buildings whether they are coming into our venues for a show, to use our cafes, or for one of our community workshops.

Over the last six years we have worked in partnership with Perth Autism Support to deliver Scotland’s only youth theatre programme for young people on the autism spectrum. PAS has been extremely helpful in providing recommendations and support for the backpack initiative. We hope that families who currently access the charity will come to try our backpacks. Over the next few weeks, members of the Horsecross Arts team will be taking part in training provided by PAS to raise awareness of autism and what we can do to provide the best experience in our venues.

We are incredibly excited about the launch of the backpacks and we hope to welcome many new people to Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall in the very near future.”

Tony McElroy, Tesco’s Head of Communications in Scotland, said:

“Bags of Help has been a fantastic success and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response from customers. It’s such a special scheme because it’s local people who decide how the money will be spent in their community. We can’t wait to see the projects come to life.”

Tesco customers get the chance to vote for three different groups each time they shop. Every other month, when votes are collected, three groups in each of Tesco’s regions are awarded funding.

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities. Anyone can nominate a project and organisations can apply online. To find out more visit

The sensory backpacks are free to borrow from Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre Box Office. For further information e-mail The accessibility walk-through video is available to view at

Anyone who feels that they, a family member or friend may benefit from the sensory backpacks is invited to an open session to try them out from 10am-4pm on Saturday 2 November in Perth Theatre.

Thursday 31 October 2019