Czech Radio’s Firefly charity project introduces theatre for the blind

Photo: archive of Světluška

One of Czech Radio’s leading charity projects is in aid of the blind and visually impaired. Established in 2003, Světluška, or Firefly, annually collects around 15 million crowns to be distributed among people with impaired eyesight, not just to help them cope, but to enjoy life to the full. At the same time it raises public awareness of the problem giving the sighted a chance to find out what it is like to manage daily activities without this key sense.

Photo: archive of Světluška
Thousands of young volunteers dressed in black and white, sporting the characteristic “feelers” and the firefly logo hit the streets of Czech towns and cities at the start of this week to collect money for Czech Radio’s charity project Světluška. Like its namesake, the firefly, the project aims to bring “a little light” to the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

The annual series of events involving Czech Radio personalities, athletes and singers raises millions of crowns; last year it was close to 16 million. The money is distributed among individuals and centres helping people with impaired vision to cope, going to finance things like special school aids, the translation of textbooks into Braille, computers with voice output, requalification programs and protected workshops, training and education in self-reliance and orientation and audio books.

Money is not just collected by thousands of volunteers in the streets of Czech cities. People can make donations via their mobile phone, send money to the Světluška account or attend one of the annual events organized to help the cause – take part in the Světluška night race, have coffee in the Světluška mobile café –a café where you are served coffee in the dark by blind waiters, buy the Světluška calendar, attend the annual Světluška charity concert or assist the “Christmas with Světluška” project by buying Christmas decorations made by visually impaired people in protected workshops.

Světluška volunteers | Photo: Jaroslava Mannová,  Czech Radio
Every year Czech Radio tries to bring something new to the project and this year it is a series of theatre performances with detailed commentary by a Czech Radio announcer – specially tailored to meet the needs of the blind. The Verze theatre ensemble which came up with the idea, selected a play called The lie. Staged in Prague’s Mana theatre, it revolves around the lies people tell in relationships, with running commentary on what the actors are doing at any given time. Here’s what it sounds like:

Gabriela Drastichová from Czech Radio’s Endowment Fund explains how the idea to give these special performances arose.

“In addition to helping the blind to meet their basic needs, we try to give them some enjoyment as well, so for some time Czech Radio has been producing special sports commentaries for the blind from football, hockey and tennis matches. And the Verze theatre ensemble approached us with this idea, saying if it works for sports – why don’t we try it with a play.”

'The lie',  photo: archive of Světluška
They did and everyone was pleased with the result. Actor Petr Lněnička says that while the actors had to slow down or make an extra pause in places to give the commentator time to fill in the audience they quickly established a rapport and the result was as they had envisaged it.

Radio announcer Petr Herget says he’s happy to be part of the endeavour.

“I am very pleased with the way it turned out. I was very relieved to see it working. In fact as we got into the play I really connected with the actors.“

The play has been a big success and the audience is clearly appreciative of the effort.

Katerina Hegrová says it was a big improvement compared to a regular theatre performance.

“It was very well done. And what was great about it is that you knew everything that was going on – even gestures that we would otherwise have missed.”

After sixteen years, Světluška has selected a new logo – combining Braille and a formation of stars – which perfectly reflects its motto “We shine in the dark””.

Světluška mobile café,  photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
The Světluška mobile café is a bit out of reach now – it is currently in the town of Jičín –its stunt in Prague having ended in June, but there’s still plenty of time to attend the charity concert which is scheduled for October 19th and will take place at the Prague Crossroads in the deconsecrated Church of St Anne, an international spiritual centre, established by the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VISION 97.

The late Czech president was, by the way, one of the patrons of the Světluška project. The concert will feature leading Czech musicians and bands, among them Chinaski, Lenka Filipová, Miro Žbirka, David Koller, Xindl X and Jananas, Tereza Černochová and Jakub Ondra who will perform together with blind musicians. Traditionally, the concert will be broadcast live by Czech Radio and Czech Television.

If you would like to help the Světluška cause the simplest way to give a donation is with an SMS. Simply send the message DMS SVETLUSKA to 87777. For a cost of 30 CZK, Světluška receives 27 CZK. You will receive a message of confirmation. If you would like to donate regularly for the space of a year, write DMS ROK SVETLUSKA and 30 CZK will be sent to Světluška every month. You will also find details of Světluška events at (available in Czech only).