Lighthouse Newsletter Edition23

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In the arts sector change is a constant factor with new and challenging pressures being put on areas such as programming, budgets, fundraising and audience engagement. We are having to adapt to the decisions, and changes in government, both local and national, that impact the investment received to support the work that we present. These changes also impact the creatives who make and present their work on our stages as well as the local community performers who rely on access to our venues to develop and hone their musical, theatrical or dance talents. Much as we wish for a situation where money was no object; there is no magic wand. Instead the solution lies in hard work, creative thinking and not losing sight of what our audiences rightly expect of us – magical, life changing experiences. We are nothing if not resilient and by taking positive action and looking ahead we can do our best to make sure that change, when it comes, is for the better. To support the development of our most visible strand of work, our public arts programme, we are delighted that we have appointed Tim Colegate as the first Head of Programming for Lighthouse. Tim has a breadth of programming experience gained at other regional venues that will enhance and develop our received work. He joins Lighthouse in September. How we work is under constant review and by embracing the concept of efficiency to drive change we are involving and engaging the people that work at Lighthouse in valuable new ways. The recently launched Bright Ideas initiative is an invitation to all to suggest ideas that save money, save time, or do something differently that means we can focus on something else that benefits Lighthouse. It’s all about doing more with the same resources and by this time next year I expect suitable suggestions to have been embedded in Lighthouse culture. Providing our home community with a broad range of artists and artistic experiences is at the core of what we do, and last year’s Lighthouse 40 campaign did much to remind the people of Poole, Dorset and the wider region of the many great things that happen here. If evidence were needed of the campaign’s continuing impact it’s worth noting that ticket sales are already up on this time last year Building on that work, later this year we will launch a new membership scheme to foster closer relations with our audiences and enhance their sense of ownership that we value so highly. We have reviewed and redefined our education and learning work and created a Creative Engagement Strategy to refine how we engage with artists and, just as importantly, how we involve the community in cultural activities; particularly those of school age. Change need not be something that only happens to us, that we must react to, we can make change a positive force for good. As ever, I’m excited to see what happens next.

Elspeth McBain, Chief Executive, Lighthouse


Cover image: ‘Zenith’ by Ross Ashton and Karen Monid for Light Up Poole festival of digital light art in partnership with Lighthouse and others. CREDIT Eliott Franks.

LET’S GO ROUND AGAIN Roundabout, the world’s first portable, pop-up, plug-in and play theatre returns to Bournemouth from Wednesday 26 to Sunday 29 September with an exciting programme of theatre, music and comedy for all the family. Once again Lighthouse is partnering with Arts By the Sea festival to bring this inspiring creative hub to Bournemouth Gardens where audiences will be able to enjoy four days of unforgettable theatre, live music and comedy in a unique and intimate setting with the audience seated in-the-round and close to the action. Roundabout combines comfortable seating with cutting edge sound and lighting technology to create an unmissable theatrical experience. This year Roundabout will showcase three world premieres from Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd – On the Other Hand, We’re Happy by Daf James, Dexter and Winter’s Detective Agency by Nathan Bryon (probably best known from TV sitcom Benidorm) and Daughterhood by Charley Miles. As she did last year, all three plays will be directed by Stef O’Driscoll, Artistic Director of Nabokov theatre company and previously the Associate Director at Paines Plough and Lyric Hammersmith. Roundabout will also feature stand-up comedy programmed by Coastal Comedy, the monthly comedy club at Lighthouse; an improv show by Black Cherry, the Bournemouth-based company that is part of the Working Lights creative development programme at Lighthouse; and Live & Unheard Unplugged, an acoustic edition of our monthly showcase for new music.





UNDERSTANDING MORE ABOUT WHAT WE DO Understanding who comes to Lighthouse, how often, and what they do when they visit is key to securing the future of the business and the part it plays in delivering the arts to the people of Poole and the wider region. Over the last ten years, despite seeing its funding cut by almost 50 per cent Lighthouse has generally operated with a small surplus, but with long-term future funding uncertain in order to meet the challenge of protecting the business going forward it must increase its audience base and drive footfall. Baker Richards, a leading international consultancy for arts organisations, has recently completed a thorough investigation of Lighthouse and how it connects with its audiences, the people that use the building and the wider community. By analysing the last five years of data the company has produced a report about who comes to Lighthouse, what they see, how often, what they spend when they are in the building and how they relate to Lighthouse as a whole. “The report has given us an incredibly detailed picture of ways in which we can grow the business by generating additional income and at the same time improving access and how we engage with community,” says Deputy CEO Sara St George. “This is cutting edge work in the arts sector, providing us with a scientific analysis of audiences and how they spend their money with us.” An unexpected conclusion of such behavioural economics is that revenue from ticket sales can be increased more effectively by actually lowering some ticket prices. “The report compares us with other theatres and it shows ticket prices at Lighthouse compare very favourably with other venues, but the basic tickets are roughly mid-priced tickets elsewhere, so by introducing a new, lower-priced, entry level ticket we will be able to make our shows more accessible to more people.”

Wherever possible Lighthouse is now developing three-tier ticket pricing, increasing some prices for the best seats but, crucially, making more tickets available at a lower price. By analysing data by art form and by venue the report shows that audiences are far more fluid than previously thought. Received wisdom held that audience tended to identify Lighthouse by the space they visited most frequently and yet audiences are shown to move between Concert Hall, Theatre, The Sherling Studio and Cinema far more readily. “The hot seat software produced some really fascinating charts,” says Sara. “For each venue we can see the seats that sell the quickest and the most frequently, backing up anecdotal evidence about the ‘sweet spot’ in the Theatre for instance and the popularity of aisle seats with our audiences.” By some considerable margin, ticket sales account for the greatest single source of income at Lighthouse, but typically only 10 to 20 per cent of that income is retained – most of it goes straight back to the promoter – which is why secondary spend on food and drink for instance is such a vital part of the business.


“If Lighthouse was only a producing house it would have full control over ticket prices, but as a receiving house this report will have a profound effect on the deals we make with promoters. Instead of ticket prices being dictated to us we will be able to demonstrate exactly how our audiences react to pricing for specific art forms. “Bigger audiences attract higher profile shows that help put Poole on the map, drawing more people to the town and feeding the local economy. “The one thing arts organisations cannot do is stand still and just do what we have done before, to move forward we have to change and the more profitable we can be as a venue the less we have to rely on grant funding.”



To date this year Lighthouse has:

Last year Lighthouse saw:




e-list subscribers (27% increase)

16,590 Facebook followers (17% increase)


Instagram followers (88% increase)

1,288,575 visits to our website (12.27% increase)

12,670 Twitter followers (4% increase)


film screenings


live screenings



544,714 20 people used our website (10.2% increase)

visual arts exhibitions


WHY I LOVE LIGHTHOUSE Jon Davis Black Cherry Company With so many phenomenal creative opportunities across the county Dorset has made very slow progress in nurturing local professional talent. Home grown professional based performance companies are few and far between resulting in a difficulty in accessing support as they grow and develop their identity within the area. Without support some creatives cannot continue and their product never reaches its full potential. This is not the case at Lighthouse. To start, the building itself is phenomenal, easy to access and provides artists with the space to develop and showcase their creative endeavours. The creative support is excellent and provides opportunities to network as well as advice that supports rapid development.


As a company we are excited and really look forward to being part of the artistic development programme that has already supported Black Cherry by including us in the theatre programme this year. The staff are excellent and took time to respond to our original contact, multiple members of the Lighthouse team have now come to see our work in the community and the response has been excellent, each and every one of them have shown great support in recommending that we become part of the creative programme. *Black Cherry’s improv show can be seen as part of Roundabout at Bournemouth Arts By the Sea on 29 September and at Lighthouse in The Sherling Studio on 26 October and 30 November.


Hundreds of thousands of fight fans around the world watched online as the fastest growing jiu-jitsu promotion Polaris showcased its tenth event live from Lighthouse. Polaris is Europe’s longest running large scale professional grappling event. Derived from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the combat sport that focusses on ground fighting, there’s no punching, kicking or striking so fighters must employ stealth and strategy as much as strength in order to overcome their opponents. “The best way I can describe it is that it’s like a form of human chess – it’s completely engrossing to watch,” says Lighthouse Commercial Sales and Events Manager Tom Holmes. As a sell-out live audience of more than 700 in the Concert Hall looked on, Polaris 10 was streamed live online to a global paying audience.

‘The coverage was fantastic, not only for the sport but for Lighthouse as a venue and for Poole as a host town.’ TOM HOLMES, LIGHTHOUSE COMMERCIAL SALES AND EVENTS MANAGER


can add up to significant efficiencies when added together – Bright Ideas is not aiming to reinvent the wheel.

Harnessing the expertise, enthusiasm and enormous goodwill of the people who work and volunteer at Lighthouse, the Bright Ideas initiative aims to collate ideas for making it a more efficient organisation.

“We’re not expecting to transform Lighthouse, but it was very clear from a recent all-staff meeting that the people who work at Lighthouse are very willing to be asked how we can do things better with the resources we’ve got – and if that means we make someone’s shift at work a bit more enjoyable then so much the better.”

“The response has been incredible so far,” says Pete Wilson, Head of Finance. “As well as some ideas that require an initial investment that in time will make savings, there have been some incredibly simple things that will make a big difference. “One suggestion was to re-number the seats in one of our venues so that we can get audiences in and out of faster and with less disruption. Not only does that enable us to do our job more efficiently, it also improves the experience of Lighthouse for our audiences.”

‘The opportunity to intern at Lighthouse was great, I learned loads and it really helped me build skills and confidence’ PERDIE BARGH

Inspired by the concept of marginal gains that has revolutionised some sports – that small, incremental improvements in any process


YOU SHALL PASS! Hundreds of young people will be able to take part in a range of projects at Lighthouse as Sir Ian McKellen helped raise more than £28,000 with a sold-out performance of his one-man show on. The two-time Oscar nominee who starred in Hollywood blockbuster franchises Lord of the Rings and X-Men has been celebrating his eightieth birthday with a tour of 80 regional theatres with which he has a personal connection. “I was on this stage forty years ago,” he told the audience, “and it’s wonderful to be back.” Sir Ian visited Lighthouse in July 1978 just a few weeks after it opened as Poole Arts Centre in the cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s small-scale tour of Twelfth Night, directed by Jon Amiel, and Chekhov’s Three Sisters, directed by Trevor Nunn. In the production of Twelfth Night he had to make an entrance through the theatre, but even though he was in full costume an over-zealous usherette refused him entry – because he didn’t have a ticket! “When I played here forty years ago it was only a few weeks old,” he told guests after the show. “I played Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night with my great friend Edward Petherbridge as Orsino. As we left the stage I called out above the din: ‘We’ll be back’ and he looked at me and said: ‘Liar!’ Well, it may have taken forty years, but I shall have to call Edward to tell him I made it back to Poole!”

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The money raised by Ian McKellen On Stage will go towards Bright Sparks, the £80,000 creative discovery programme at Lighthouse to nurture, empower and enable talented young people to develop their interest in all aspects of the arts, something that is particularly close to Sir Ian’s heart. So much so that he took a collection bucket out into the foyer to gather donations made by the departing audience. At the post-show reception he spotted Finley Hann, the 13-year-old winner of the Inter-School Poetry Slam at Lighthouse, and invited him on stage for a personal tour of his props, including Gandalf’s iconic sword Glamdring from the Lord of the Rings films. In thanking Sir Ian, Lighthouse Chief Executive Elspeth McBain said: “It has been a real pleasure to welcome Sir Ian back to Lighthouse and I want to thank you not just for what you’ve done for our theatre, but for everything you’ve done for the theatre in general. You could have given money, but to give your time and your soul as we saw on stage tonight is truly special. “The money raised means we can help young people find their way into the theatre by learning how it all works. Developing young talent is not just about giving opportunities to artists, but also to the huge range of people that work hard behind the scenes. Bright Sparks will give opportunities to countless young people and will ensure that the arts in Dorset continue to flourish.” It has recently been announced that Ian McKellen On Stage will now play eighty more shows in London in aid of theatre charities in the hopes of earning more than £3 million by the end of the run. To find out how you can help Bright Sparks email