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Featured Speakers

Unseen by Design

Fri 4 Aug

5:30pm – 6:25pm

$27 – $39 + Booking Fee

Theatre Royal Studio Theatre at the Hedberg

Venue Details
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Experience: Talk

Themes: Conversation Starter | Future Tech | Mind Blowing | Unseen

Access: Auslan Interpreting | Seated Option | Wheelchair Access

If something exists in the visible realm, does it belong only to the sighted?

What does a blind architect do? What can a blind artist create? What perspective would a blind engineer bring to AI? In this discussion with blind artists, thinkers, and makers, we’ll challenge assumptions about what it means to navigate the world as a blind person, and reveal how accessible design is often better design — for everyone.

Panelists include Duncan Meerding, Zoe Partington, and Emma Bennison. The discussion will be moderated by ABC Radio National’s Natasha Mitchell, and recorded for broadcast on Big Ideas.

Immediately following this performance, the audience and speakers will be invited across the street to Beaker Street’s Festival Hub at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Featuring delicious food and drink, live music, science/art exhibitions, 150+ scientists to chat with, and more — you won’t want to miss it!


Zoe Partington

Zoe Partington is Co/Director of Disordinary Architecture, and an artist who works with viscerally powerful audio, visual and tactile representations to explore disabled people’s perceptions and experiences of space. Her practice is informed by her own experiences of sight loss that has taken her and her work on a journey as a tool for change. Zoe’s role at Disordinary Architecture is to get people to think differently about inclusion, reframing how they think about disability, and Disability art in the built environment context. Zoe is currently exhibiting ‘Seats at the Table’ at the London Festival of Architecture with Re-Fabricate. As a female disabled activist, curator and artist, she is very successful Internationally.  She has spent 30 years supporting and exploring the work of other disabled people and disabled artists, trying to change practice in the arts, heritage, cultural and architecture sectors. Her recent work, ‘Decoding Difference,’ at the London Design Bienniale has been recognised as outstanding International work to our digital cultural futures. Zoe has been awarded a Henry Moore research fellowship and is a member of the RSA (the royal society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures and commerce).

‘I think because I’ve always been a disabled person, I know that within the creative industries you don’t always have to do it the way it’s been done before.I also know it’s good to challenge misconceptions and recognise the value and difference disabled people present bring to the table.’ 

– Zoe Partington

Duncan Meerding

I am a lighting and furniture Designer/Maker based in Tasmania, and the current President of Blind Citizens Australia – Tasmania Branch. Much of my work is inspired by the natural environment. Concentration on overall form, rather than intense detailing, with an interest in how light performs through and around these forms and materials, is of interest to me. This light emanating from the periphery reflects the alternative sensory world in which I design, being legally blind with less than 5% vision.

I try to avoid quick moving trends in my work, but instead focus on designing and making things to stand the test of time, both metaphorically and physically.

Emma Bennison

Emma Bennison has over twenty years’ experience as a CEO and non-executive
Director. Passionate about finding innovative solutions to challenging problems,
Emma creates collegial organisational cultures that attract great people, achieve
great results and nurture tomorrow’s leaders.

Currently, Emma is Chief Innovation Officer with Life Without barriers, where she
provides empowering, inspiring and collaborative leadership that drives the
development and implementation of strategic change and engagement initiatives in
relation to disability advocacy and community services delivery across Life Without
Barriers and beyond-

Prior to commencing her current role, Emma completed five years as CEO of Blind
Citizens Australia, revitalising the national representative organisation of Australians
who are blind or vision impaired.

Emma also chairs the Attitude Foundation, which is shaping a new understanding of
disability through the promotion and development of media content that provides
realistic portrayals of people with disability. She also serves on Tasmania’s
Ministerial Arts and Cultural Advisory Council.

In 2020, Emma won the national Aspire Award for community development and
advocacy and was the recipient of a full MBA scholarship for outstanding not-for-
profit leaders from the Australian Scholarships Foundation and Kaplan Business

A singer and song-writer, in 2015, Emma released her first solo album, Fine Line,
which reflects on her experiences as a person with disability and as an advocate.

Panel Moderator

Natasha Mitchell

Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award-winning science journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, and audio storyteller. She is host of the ABC Radio National’s daily flagship Big Ideas program, was founding host and producer of the internationally popular radio show and podcast, All in the Mind, hosted the ABC’s daily social affairs program Life Matters, and was founding host of the culture and Science Friction. Natasha served as vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists and was recipient of an MIT Knight Fellowship. She has facilitated many public forums around Australia, including four science dialogues with the Dalai Lama and guests.

Programming partners

A Seat at the Table

Beaker Street Festival’s pay-it-forward initiative, A Seat at the Table, helps make our science and art offerings accessible to those who can’t afford to purchase a ticket. When you buy a ticket you have the option to donate towards the cost of a stranger’s ticket. You won’t know who you’ve helped, but your donation will go directly to allowing someone else to access this great event.

If you’d like to request one or two free tickets, please let us know. If we can offer you a seat, we’ll notify you by email.

A person with short blonde hair wearing a white and silver suit staring off into the distance. They are wearing reflective sunglasses. They are on a cyan and red background.

AI-generated image using prompts, 2023. Midjourney. Courtesy of Beaker Street.

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Theatre Royal Studio Theatre at The Hedberg

Take a Virtual Tour

Opening in 1837, Hobart’s Theatre Royal has been the home of contemporary theatre in Tasmania for more than 185 years and is Australia’s oldest working theatre. This national treasure occupies an important place in the hearts of Tasmanians and many visitors to Hobart.

The newly opened Studio Theatre within The Hedberg is a state of the art venue suitable for a variety of performance formats. This contemporary performance space can seat up to 300 audience members and the intimacy of the theatre supports the story tellers and artists presenting in the theatre.

Eat and drink

There are three bars to choose from for a pre-show beverage: the Theatre Bar, Circle Bar and Studio Bar. The bars offer a selection of beverages and snacks for you to enjoy during the show. Food and drinks purchased from the bars are permitted inside the venue (excluding hot items). Cash and eftpos payment accepted. The venue is a licensed premise, and alcohol purchased elsewhere may not be brought onto or consumed on the premises.


Inside the main entrance a multi-level foyer space provides lift access to all levels. The Studio Theatre has dedicated seating options for wheelchair users and their guests, and there are accessible seating options in the Stalls. The Studio Theatre is equipped with an Assistive Hearing System and welcomes guests accompanied by guide, hearing or assistance dogs. Please call the Theatre Royal Box Office if you have any queries relating to access.

Corner of Campbell & Collins Streets, nipaluna/Hobart

Box Office: 03 6146 330

Walkthrough to the Studio Theatre for the Beaker Street Talks Program

The Theatre Royal entrance is located on the corner of Campbell Street and Collins Street. There are glass automatic doors into the level 1/ground floor foyer. These doors face the intersection at a 45 degree angle. The Theatre Royal is fully wheelchair accessible and has a very helpful team who can answer any questions. 

From the automatic doors there are 15 stairs to level 2 or lift access to the left of the staircase, go to level 2 for the box office if you don’t have tickets otherwise go to level 4 for the Studio Theatre foyer, bar and Studio Theatre access. From the lifts on level 4, walk straight about 5 metres to the bar and/or turn right for accessible toilets

If taking the stairs walk up to level two and continue straight and then sharp right to the second set of stairs. Walk up these stairs then hard U-turn to the third floor foyer, continue round to the next set of stairs which will take you to the fourth floor foyer which is the Studio Theatre foyer, bar and Studio Theatre access. The bar is straight in front of you.


Once at the Bar you can order a drink. There is wine, beer and simple spirits as well as soft drinks and nibbles. Feel free to ask the bar staff for the full menu.

Once facing the bar’s service area, turn left for the theatre entrance, which is about 10 metres straight.


After leaving the lifts head straight to the bar then turn right for accessible toilets.  

If arriving via the stairs the accessible toilets are to the right of the bar.

The accessible toilets are gender neutral and we encourage that you use whichever toilet makes you feel comfortable. 

Female toilets are to the left of the bar and male toilets are to the right of the Studio Theatre Access.

Theatre Entrance:

Once past the bar, continue straight for about 10 metres. You will go through two sets of doors which are staffed by Theatre Royal Front of House staff who will show you to your allocated seat. 

Info Booth:

The Beaker Street Info Booth will be positioned 15 metres straight from the lift, or to the left of the top of the stairs. There will be volunteers behind a trestle table who can tell you about the talks, the rest of the Beaker Street program and how to navigate the Theatre Royal, as well as being all round good humans who love a chat. 

After the Talks:

We invite you to head to the Festival Hub at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) after each talk session. TMAG is located near the corner of Campbell Street and Macquarie Street. The Festival Hub @ TMAG is a free event with music, food, booze and lots of science. After each talk there will be music along Campbell Street leading you to TMAG- follow the Points of Sound! 

When in doubt please ask our wonderful volunteers, they are equipped with lots of information!