Downloading drama How theatres are inviting audiences from all around the world to see their work without even asking them to leave their homes
Plus: training, advice, opinion
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Issue 66 | January 2013
04 | News 09 | Going places Prompt speaks to Andrew Hill about his new role as Chief Executive of Belfast’s Grand Opera House.
Welcome …to the January issue of Prompt magazine. The first edition of 2013 kicks off with a digital theme, exploring some of the initiatives, new and old, TMA Members are using to engage with audiences and attract new theatregoers through their theatre’s doors. From watching theatre online at The Space to the National Theatre screening its productions to cinemas around the world, this issue looks at how these projects are faring and whether it’s possible to make a link between digital success and ticket sales. Inside we’ve also highlighted the benefit of Twitter as a way of creating a vital ongoing conversation with your audience and investigated the importance of websites as a way of communicating with existing theatregoers and newcomers alike. We’re also pleased to introduce you to our new regular columnist The Stage’s Alistair Smith and Alastair Tallon who reveals more about the progress the Family Friendly Arts campaign is taking ahead of April’s family themed issue. There’s also exciting news about TMA’s latest project to launch its own insurance scheme for Members. Happy New Year to all TMA Members and best wishes for 2013. Rachel Tackley TMA President
Downloading drama 11 | Smith on stage Our new regular columnist Alistair Smith tells us what he thinks is the most exciting digital development to break into theatre. 12 | Downloading drama Catherine Love talks to Digital Theatre’s co-founders Robert Delamere and Tom Shaw about the art of filming theatre. 16 | The importance of being online Mark Fisher explores how the importance of having a good website is becoming increasing vital for theatres. 21 | Space to grow Digital initiative The Space has allowed arts organisations room to experiment, together, finds Caroline Bishop. 25 | 140 character play Alistair Smith explores the value of Twitter in this article and Prompt explains the basics of using the social networking platform.
TMA events & training 29 | Forward Thinking David Brownlee reveals the thinking behind the TMA Insurance project. 30 | Event Prompt celebrates 2012’s Theatre Awards UK and hears from the management winners. 32 | Meet & Greet Kate Stanbury interviews Alastair Tallon, Campaign Manager of the Family Friendly Arts Projects. 34 | Sounding Board Theatre Awards UK nominees tell Prompt how they balance traditional marketing with new digital initiatives. 36 | Research David Brownlee analyses the cost of fundraising. 38 | Calendar Your at-a-glance guide to forthcoming events and training courses.
Editor: Charlotte Marshall | Design: SOLT digital team | Cover photo by Ludovic des Cognets | Contributors: John Baker, Caroline Bishop, David Brownlee, Ben Davis, Mark Fisher, Andrew Hill, Catherine Love, Alistair Smith, Kate Stanbury, Alastair Tallon, Abbigail Wright Prompt is brought to you by the Theatrical Management Association, 32 Rose Street, London WC2E 9ET. Tel: 020 7557 6700. President: Rachel Tackley. Chief Executive: Julian Bird. General Manager: David Brownlee. Prompt is printed by John Good, Progress Way, Binley, Coventry CV3 2NT. To advertise in Prompt please contact Viv Plumpton on 01993 777726. All views expressed in Prompt are not necessarily those of the TMA or its members. The inclusion of advertising material in Prompt does not imply any form of endorsement by the TMA.
Congratulations to all the winners from 2012â€™s Theatre Awards UK
Photography: Alistair Muir
Hear from the management award winners and see more photos on page 30.
Samuel West with Theatre Awards UK winners Prunella Scales and Timothy West
Presenter Lance Corporal Maurillia Simpson with Aidan McArdle (Best Supporting Actor)
Gwen Taylor, Garry Hynes (Best Director), Don Warrington
Laurence Boswell (Best New Play) with presenter Laura Michelle Kelly
TMA NEWS TMA releases business plan
he TMA has released its business plan for 2013-2017 and is considering opening up membership of the TMA from 2014 to anyone working professionally in theatre management, regardless of whether they are employed by a TMA theatre. Citing four years of negligible economic growth and increasingly challenging times for theatres across the country as a result of funding cuts, TMA said its new business plan “builds on the firm foundations of decades of success to allow the TMA to support change in the sector and evolve itself to take more of a leadership role, becoming more focused, offering better value and delivering more impact for a larger and more diverse Membership.” Speaking to The Stage about the proposed change in membership, TMA’s David Brownlee said: “This change in introducing a professional membership will mean people who work for those organisations have an opportunity to engage with the TMA without being large, wellestablished arts organisations or commercial producers. We want to be able to be far more inclusive and culturally diverse in our membership, and open to anyone serious about developing a career in theatre management and being a leader, either now or in the future.” The business plan also includes plans to undergo a brand review in 2013. An edited version of the document can be read on the TMA website.
Relaxed Performance Project launches
new national Relaxed Performance Project led by the TMA, Society of London Theatre and The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts will be piloted in 10 theatres across the UK to help make theatre more accessible for children with special needs, including Autism Spectrum Conditions and/or learning disabilities, and their families.
The RSC’s The Mouse And His Child will launch the project | Photo: Keith Pattison
Companies including the RSC, Theatre Royal Newcastle, National Theatre, Ambassador Theatre Group and Nottingham Playhouse will offer relaxed performances with a research team commissioned to assess the resulting experiences from both the audience and staff ’s perspectives in order to share findings and results with the rest of the theatre sector and families in autumn 2013. Jeremy Newton, CEO of The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts, explained why they were involved in the project, saying: “Children & the Arts believes that every child should have the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by the arts, but unfortunately many children with autism have faced an unfair barrier to access. This project is about making the theatre welcoming and inclusive for these children and young adults.”
TMA to launch insurance
his year will see the launch of TMA Insurance, a TMA branded service with an accredited broker to offer Members better policies at a reduced rate. Following proposals from a number of recommended brokers, the TMA has chosen to partner with W&P Longreach (WPL) to develop the new brand, with cost, coverage and customer service at the forefront of the plans. By taking a leadership role and working with WPL, the TMA will be able to significantly cut costs for Members, while TMA will receive a share of profits to invest in other projects and help reduce membership costs. To read more about the project, turn to the Forward Thinking section in this issue where you can find out more about the forthcoming launch and the process of building the new brand.
Opening the Door for East Asian actors
he TMA and Society of London Theatre are co-hosting an Open Space event with Arts Council England, the Casting Directors’ Guild and Equity on 11 February to addresses the lack of employment opportunities for East Asian actors in UK theatre. Taking place at the Young Vic Theatre, Opening the Door will bring theatre industry members, theatremakers and East Asian actors together to discuss barriers to employment and increase understanding of the problems, as well as identify actions which can increase the participation, contribution and employment of East Asian artists in the industry. The Young Vic Theatre | Photo: Philip Vile
Please visit the TMA website for more information.
Invitation to What Next?
embers of the TMA are invited to attend the What Next? event on 5 February. Described as a “growing collective of arts and cultural organisations”, the group meets to help promote engagement with and support the vast amount of exceptional cultural work that happens every day across the country. What Next? believes that a collaborative national campaign is needed to communicate to everyone in Britain the power of arts and culture and the effect they have in their lives, and that by acting together the creative industries can maximise the effectiveness of resources and contacts, arguments and ideas. What Next? will take place at a London venue, which at the time of going to print was to be confirmed, between 11:00 and 15:30. For more information and for the link to sign up to the event, visit the TMA website.
Theatre calls for creativity in EBacc
ulian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and the TMA, last month wrote an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP, proclaiming support from leaders of the UK’s theatre industry to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s recommendation that a creative or technical subject be included in the new EBacc qualification. Following a survey of TMA and SOLT Members it was found that 88% agreed with CBI’s proposal. Bird made clear in his letter that should plans for the EBacc go ahead without provision for a creative or technical subject, it would likely have a devastating effect on an industry responsible for employing more than 80,000 people. You can read more on the TMA website.
Book now for 2013’s Touring Symposium
013’s Touring Symposium will take place on 6 March and if you book before 29 January you can take advantage of an early bird discounted rate. Held at the Congress Centre in London, the annual event provides a forum for debate on the development of UK touring theatre and brings together venue managers, producers and directors involved in all scales of UK touring to discuss all areas of the industry.
2012’s Touring Symposium
Key speakers at this year’s event include Chichester Festival Theatre’s Jonathan Church, who will talk about how commercial and subsidised producers can work successfully together, and Arts Council England Directors Amanda Rigali and Barbara Matthews who will discuss what has been learnt from the £45 million Strategic touring programme since 2011. Visit the TMA website to book your place.
Your chance to learn more about the Creative Employment Programme
o coincide with January’s Creative Apprenticeship Week, Creative & Cultural Skills are holding a free event to explore the advantages of taking on an apprentice and offer delegates the chance to learn more about Arts Council England’s £1.5 million Creative Employment Programme. The initiative will create up to 6,500 new apprenticeships and paid internships across the arts and cultural sector. The event, held on 22 January, aims to help organisations understand the importance of such schemes and discover how they can access wage subsidies to help take on young people at the start of their careers. To register for a place visit creativeapprenticeshipsweek.eventbrite.co.uk
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Andrew Hill At the end of 2012, Andrew Hill became the youngest ever Chief Executive of Belfast’s Grand Opera House at the age of 31. Taking over at the helm of the venue from Michael Ockwell, he tells us what advice his predecessor passed on as well as the challenges he’s looking forward to tackling. What was your first big break?
What does it mean to you to be joining the Grand Opera House?
Working as a touring Stage Manager. I took a vocational route in the business and I believe this was a fantastic way of appreciating all perspectives of the industry.
It’s a great honour to be given such a fantastic opportunity. To lead a Frank Matcham house is a great responsibility to ensure we conserve the theatre for future generations.
What has been your best career move so far?
What are your immediate plans in your new post? To work at ensuring we are a theatre for everyone and we are as efficient and exciting as we can be!
Moving to Belfast; not only is this an iconic theatre, the team here are fantastic.
Has former Chief Executive Michael Ockwell passed on any advice?
Best learning experience to date?
Enjoy yourself! And I have, because I believe this reflects its self back in what you achieve.
Working at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, where we closed overnight following an asbestos discovery and subsequently carried out a complete refurbishment, which lasted a year. This taught me on a daily basis the value of partnerships and the potential of individuals within the organisation at challenging times. It also resulted in me opening a virtually new facility teaching me numerous lessons, from consistent audience development to sustaining audiences once the honeymoon of re-opening had passed.
Biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome? The Irish Sea! More seriously though, perhaps now more than ever moving from a privately owned enterprise into a charitable trust. I would say this hurdle requires the development of different skills and strategies to ensure my vision is achieved. A challenge, but an immensely enjoyable one.
What attracted you to the position? The opportunity to work for an independant organisation. It is through independent structures, I believe, venues can truly thrive for the benefit of the organisation and its audiences.
What will be your biggest challenge? Continuing the great work Michael has begun.
What are you most looking forward to? Furthering the reach of the Grand Opera House into all sections of the community, something Michael had made significant inroad into and that I will be continuing.
Andrew Hill’s Prime Picks:
Who has influenced you most?
Most useful website
Michael Bewick, a former Chief Executive I worked for, an inspirational character who brought a real energy and precision to presenting a venue.
www.testdrivetheartsni.org – I really believe in the power of such initiatives in growing audiences.
What are you most proud of from your time at HQ Theatres?
Twitter and the local press.
Being part of a rapidly moving company whose focus was regional theatre, which had a great understanding of local audiences.
What piece of advice do you live by?
Must-read publication Always listen to/watch: Front Row on Radio 4.
Can’t be without: My iPhone.
Downloading drama Over the next 18 pages Prompt looks at how TMA theatres are embracing new ways of engaging audiences online, working with new digital initiatives and inviting audiences from all over the world to see their work without them ever having to leave their homes.
SMITH ON STAGE
Live-streaming live theatre Our new regular columnist Alistair Smith explores the importance of live-streaming and tells us what he sees as the most exciting digital development to break into theatre.
The onset of the digital age and, especially, the spread of the internet from the mid-90s have had an indelible and far-reaching effect on most aspects of our everyday lives. For a while, though, it appeared that theatre might be immune to the abundant charms of digital technology. Or, to put it another way, we have been a little bit slow to catch on. There seemed to be an in-built contradiction between the live-ness of the theatre experience and the recorded nature of much of what was on offer via our computer screens and TVs. Pre-digital attempts to film and broadcast theatre productions had proved stilted and flat – with stage acting techniques translating badly on screen – and there seemed little reason to suppose things would improve. But, as technology has moved on apace in the last few years, theatre has begun to warm to the various opportunities that digital distribution can offer. These have taken many forms – from cinema and DVD versions of shows to online platforms like the excellent Digital Theatre (discussed further on page 12) and The Space (discussed further on page 21). But, for me, the most exciting development where theatre is concerned is the advent of live-streaming. Live-streaming is the form of broadcast that most closely replicates theatre because it mirrors the sense of event created by the live-ness, the one-time-ness of the viewing experience. It’s notable that when the National Theatre launched its cinema programme, it decided to follow in the footsteps of New York Metropolitan Opera, stressing the live element, with full NT productions streamed live (or as live) into cinemas around the world. But the technology behind this needn’t be that expensive – and is getting less so all the time – so it’s perhaps not surprising that live streaming is now spreading beyond large, well-funded organisations like the National Theatre and into theatre companies across the country.
Indeed, pantomimes embraced live streaming in a big way this Christmas. While it might be tempting to regard panto as one of this country’s most traditional (and therefore backward) forms of entertainment, it has actually been an early adopter of all kinds of innovations ranging from new stage effects to product placement. What is particularly fascinating about the two cases in which pantomimes have been live streamed this Christmas, is that they have done it for similar, but distinct reasons to the National Theatre and its NT Live programme. The stated aim of the National’s cinema output is to reach a wider audience, especially in areas of the UK and abroad where visiting the National’s South Bank home is impractical. Launching the scheme back in 2009, the NT’s Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner explained: “I keep thinking that if Olivier’s National Theatre had been available in a cinema in Manchester when I was a teenager I’d have gone every time.” The aim of the pantomime projects has also been to reach audiences who aren’t able to make it to the theatre, but for very different reasons. Qdos, the UK’s largest pantomime producer, has live-streamed its production of Peter Pan from Llandudno’s Venue Cymru into Great Ormond Street Hospital using Skype, the internet telephone technology which is also Qdos’ season sponsor. Meanwhile, in Bracknell, at the South Hill Park Arts Centre, the venue has used an Arts Council grant of £140,000 to develop a live-streaming project to transmit its production of Jack And The Beanstalk into children’s hospices, hospital wards and respite homes across the region. As Martin Franklin, Manager of South Hill Park’s digital media centre, told The Stage (echoing Hytner): “The mission for streaming the pantomime is to reach audiences who couldn’t go to the theatre.” Pantomime has always had community engagement at its heart and I think it’s no
coincidence that one of the other most impressive theatre projects to successfully marry live-streaming and theatre has featured another traditional form of theatre with community at its heart: York’s Mystery Plays. Pilot Theatre, which has been one of UK theatre’s early-adopters when it comes to digital technology, streamed a performance of the Mystery Plays through The Space. Viewers could personalise what they were watching by choosing camera angles and could discuss what they were watching with other viewers via twitter. The project resulted in more than 400 tweets, reaching 237,000 Twitter accounts. Elsewhere, as far back as 2008, there was a Twitter-only pantomime called #twitpanto, which starred, among others, Labour MP Tom Watson (I promise I’m not making this up). It all shows how these new technologies can open up theatre, especially when it comes to widening access and democratising the experience. It also reveals some intriguing possibilities, especially when it comes to a form of entertainment that encourages audience interaction such as pantomime. One could, for example, imagine in the not too distant future viewers tweeting ‘He’s behind you’ while watching an online stream of Cinderella, with performers re-acting live to their tweets. Whether one wants to imagine that, of course, is another matter all together. And one word of caution in all this. The cost of live streaming theatre into living rooms, cinemas, hospitals and schools across the country is only going to get cheaper. Meanwhile, the cost of physically lugging a theatre set and casts around the country, with increasing fuel costs, is probably only going to go the other way. It might be tempting for some companies to see live streaming as a replacement for touring. It isn’t and never should be.
Alistair Smith is Deputy Editor of The Stage. You can follow him on Twitter @smithalistair.
Downloading drama Catherine Love talks to Digital Theatre’s co-founders Robert Delamere and Tom Shaw about the art of filming theatre and attracting new audience by offering stage on screen. “In the spirit of trying to capture something, you’re trying not to affect or change it.” These words from Digital Theatre’s co-founder Robert Delamere are something of a manifesto for the company, which has been attempting to faithfully capture the theatrical experience on film since 2009. Through its online library of downloadable recordings, Digital Theatre offers audiences the opportunity to engage with productions without needing to be in the same room – or even the same country – as the performers on stage. The initial aim, as Delamere and founding partner Tom Shaw tell me, was to capture live performance in the best way possible. “It had been done before, but usually very poorly,” Delamere says, his frustration palpable. Shaw agrees, observing that video recordings of theatre often insert a damaging distance between viewer and performance, with all the action taking place “over there” and being filmed by just one or two cameras. The solution that Delamere and Shaw applied to this problem was to bring film language into the theatre, using multiple cameras and shots to create a recording that they claim is “a very true representation of the performance”. These questions of proximity, quality and fidelity to the live experience are ones that have dogged recent developments of videoing techniques in British theatre. Inspired by the success of the Metropolitan Opera’s use of live-streaming, which it first launched in 2006, over the last few years the recording of performances has become more than just a matter of archival documentation. Increasingly, theatres and companies are viewing video as a vehicle for reaching and expanding audiences. How to grow these audiences without compromising the quality of the content,
however, has proved to be a persistent issue. “You’re trying to capture the connection between audience and performer,” Delamere explains, identifying the central difficulty that video recording faces. “There is something very tangible and alive about that.” Alongside Digital Theatre’s application of film language, a process of discussion and collaboration with the creative teams involved in the productions they are filming has been key to the way they have approached this difficulty. “I think if you address something by working with the intentions of the performers and the whole creative team, you can’t exactly replicate it, but you can get quite close to the spirit of it,” Shaw suggests. I receive a similar response from George Bruell, Head of Commercial Development at Glyndebourne. The Festival has been among the most forward looking performing arts organisations in this area, having first streamed its operas live to cinema audiences back in 2007. In 2013 it will be streaming the entire Festival for the first time, making this content available both in cinemas and online through the Guardian website. For Glyndebourne, quality is everything. “It’s very easy, even if you’ve got the best quality material on stage, to not do justice to it unless you’ve got the best people filming it and it’s done in a collaborative way with the creative team,” says Bruell, placing a heavy emphasis on artistic collaboration. Decisions about which operas to film will be made months in advance, he tells me, and the teams filming the performances will be involved throughout the rehearsal process. While Bruell identifies audience growth as a major impetus behind Glyndebourne’s decision to stream its operas, he asserts that
Productions can be downloaded from Digital Theatre’s website in various formats
“You’re trying to capture the connection between audience and performer. There’s something very tangible and alive about that.”
this is “secondary to the quality of the experience”. Assessing whether the audience growth that is at the heart of these projects has actually been achieved forms a large part of their ongoing development. While the audience research currently available is limited, the numbers seem to suggest that an audience is there and that it is expanding. Digital Theatre, for instance, records between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors to its website each month, while productions from Glyndebourne’s 2012 season were viewed online by more than 100,000 people through the Guardian website. Another significant player in this field is National Theatre Live, which at the beginning of its fourth season of live cinema streamings boasted a global audience of one million who had seen its broadcasts. Other than total viewing figures, the audience insight that these companies have managed to gain is largely anecdotal, but the early signs are encouraging. Delamere and Shaw are insistent that there is an “amazing appetite” for the content that Digital Theatre is providing, speaking of the many emails they have received from users of the
site. Glyndebourne, meanwhile, has found that audiences are just as keen as the Festival organisers to authentically replicate the live experience. Bruell recalls one particularly memorable photograph sent in by an audience member showing a table set for two with champagne and candles in front of a laptop playing the live opera broadcast. “Whoever sent in that picture had, in their own little way, been trying to recapture some of the magic they’d be getting at Glyndebourne.” Part of the “magic” that Bruell talks about also comes down to the choice of material to live stream or make available to download. As he explains, “a lot of thought goes into the make-up of the Festival; our artistic colleagues are thinking about the balance and mix, so that people coming to Glyndebourne can have a choice between different periods of history or different styles of production”. This process of selection is no different for online or cinema audiences, and for the 2013 Festival a large part of the artistic consideration has involved selecting the range of operas with these audiences in mind as much as those physically attending at Glyndebourne. Similarly, the choice
An audience watching a live streaming from the Glyndebourne Festival at the Science Museum | Photo: Tim Hawigins
A Doll’s House at the Young Vic Theatre is one of the productions available to download from Digital Theatre | Photo: Johan Persson
“One of the things we asked was ‘what is this? Is it film or theatre?’ The majority of people said it’s neither, it’s something in between.” of productions to film and make available formed a major part of the early decision making behind Digital Theatre. “We were very keen to ensure that what we were doing was a mirror of the living theatre,” says Delamere, “that it wasn’t just the most commercial piece of work out there or what was coming from the biggest producing houses.” In line with this aim, their selection of recordings range from the acclaimed West End production of All My Sons to Clare Bayley’s The Container, a claustrophobic performance for an audience of just 28 inside a shipping container. “We’ve talked to a lot of producing houses all across the UK trying to find the right kind of content,” Delamere continues, describing it as “a very egalitarian principle”. Throughout this decision making process, Digital Theatre’s relationships with theatres and companies have been key to its strategy. Shaw emphasises that “from the very beginning it was going to be built in conjunction with theatres and in conjunction with the industry”. This is reflected in the company’s initial range of partners, which included the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court and the English Touring Theatre. “It’s about trust really,” Shaw continues, “it’s about them letting us into their space. It’s very much a collaboration.” Digital Theatre is now working to extend these relationships, as it provides a platform for quality content from theatres such as Shakespeare’s Globe through its new Collections catalogue and begins to seek out more collaborative working models. “We have started to go into co-producing partnerships where there is some sort of investment from the producing house,” Delamere explains, suggesting that such an approach creates “a potentially more interesting deal and a more engaged experience” for theatres.
and Aviva. Where the potential to make a profit from these ventures might lie, however, is in the growth of live as well as online audiences. Far from the cannibalisation of live theatre that was feared might come as a consequence of digital video streaming, both Digital Theatre and Glyndebourne point to evidence that the availability of this material online and in cinemas is in fact attracting new audiences to experience the productions first-hand. Digital Theatre has come to realise that, rather than thinking of video recording as a substitution for or threat to theatre and live performance, it might occupy a different category entirely. “One of the things we asked was ‘what is this?’” says Shaw, speaking about the audience research they have conducted at recent screenings of their recordings. “Is it film or is it theatre? The majority of people said it’s neither, it’s something in between.” Although this new category may widen access and attract new audiences, none of the emerging players in this field are suggesting that the opportunities afforded by digital are about to supplant traditional theatregoing. As Bruell is keen to emphasise, whatever the developments enabled in this area by advances in technology, it is never going to be a true substitute for the live experience. “It will always play second string to the experience of the auditorium.” Catherine Love is a freelance arts journalist and theatre critic based in London.
For now, these developments primarily offer theatres an opportunity in terms of audience reach rather than in terms of profitability. National Theatre Live, for example, is just beginning to turn a profit on some of its broadcasts after substantial internal investment alongside funding and sponsorship from sources such as the Arts Council, NESTA
Sonia Friedman Productions’ Much Ado About Nothing is another production available to download from Digital Theatre
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The importance of being online Mark Fisher explores how the importance of having a good website is becoming increasing vital for theatres in an age where technological change is always around the corner. It seems no time at all since a website was an optional extra. Today, it’s an essential marketing tool. Glasgow’s Citizens is typical in generating 38% of box office sales online and that figure doesn’t include the people who check out the website before making telephone and personal bookings. Even without ticket sales, the internet is an increasingly important way to keep audiences interested and informed. Far from being an add-on, a website has become the main way a theatre communicates with the world. With a medium still in its infancy, this creates an immediate challenge. Any marketing manager schooled in flyers, mailshots, posters and brochures suddenly has a whole new set of questions to ask. What makes a good website? What is your audience looking for? What does a poorly designed website say about you? If a design is good for one theatre, will it also be good for another? To make matters more complicated, the technology is in flux. Think of how much has changed in less than a decade. Before 2004, there was no Facebook or Flickr; before 2006, no Twitter; before 2007, no iPhone; before 2010, no iPad; and before 2012, no 4G in the UK. Audiences quickly take these technologies for granted and change their behaviour accordingly. That means a theatre can find itself lagging behind in a matter of months. “Two or three years ago, browsing on a phone wasn’t even on the radar,” says Julian Sykes, Brands Director at Cardiff design agency Hoffi (www.hoffi.com). “Now we’ve got two distinct sizes for mobile and two or three distinct sizes for tablets, then you’ve got desktops as well.” Keeping on top of it comes at a price. The myth persists that the internet is free, but in reality, it requires time, resources and money. In this respect, National Theatre Wales (www. nationaltheatrewales.org) makes a fascinating case study. At
Hoffi’s Brands Director Julian Sykes
the time of A Good Night Out In The Valleys, the company’s inaugural production in March 2010, NTW had already existed in the form of an online community for almost a year. That community of interested theatremakers is now 4,000 strong and, thanks to Ning software, has a dedicated section on the website alongside the more audience-focused pages. For NTW, the website is not an optional extra, but the core of the company. This is partly because it is a theatre born in the internet age and partly because the website is its primary public face. As a theatre without walls, modelled on the collaborative lines of the National Theatre of Scotland, NTW has no building to create a public image. Effectively, the website plays the role of foyer, box office and bar. To make this work requires a company-wide commitment. “What’s really important is that all of our staff, from the Artistic Director to Finance Officer, is on there,” says Jen Thornton, NTW’s Communications Assistant. “We invite
“Two or three years ago, browsing on a phone wasn’t even on the radar. Now we’ve got two distinct sizes for mobile and two or three distinct sizes for tablets, then you’ve got desktops as well.”
the actors, directors and creative team to share their process. We skill people up and help them understand why we’re doing it, so it becomes something they want to do rather than being sat down and forced to do it.” The rewards of such a company-wide effort are not easy to quantify. NTW values community engagement for its own sake and does not seek an immediate box office return from that part of the website. “A lot of what happens on there is professional networking, so that’s a kind of success,” says Thornton. “It’s not a direct thing where we write a blog post and want someone to click on a booking button. We measure it by how many people have shared things today or how deep a debate has got.”
Tellingly, despite being so young, NTW is already relaunching its site. Come the end of January, it will have reached its third incarnation, with content refashioned in response to changing audience habits. “We’re focusing on making the site as user-friendly as possible,” says Thornton. “We’re making it fit in with the rise of tablets and the huge number of people accessing the site from mobiles.” Like any theatre that caters to many different audiences, the challenge for NTW is to make the site be all things to all people. Depending on the show, it has to be arty but not
elitist, mainstream but not bland, and make everyone feel at home. To date, Julian Sykes and the team at Hoffi have pulled off the feat of presenting information in a clear and logical way, without compromising the distinctiveness of the design. That is something they want to push further. “Although the pieces are very different, the information the user wants is very similar: where is it, what are the dates and who’s acting in it?” says Sykes. “It’s about standardising that information, then using the best visuals from those pieces. We’re now trying to make the pieces more bespoke, so the ‘What’s on’ pages feel even more like the show will. It’ll be like the first bit of buzz before you buy a ticket.”
In this, it is a logical development of the site as it first appeared: “We wanted it to feel like it was curated. We’ve got the community area where anyone can say anything, but this is definitely the space where National Theatre Wales sell their pieces, not just in terms of money and booking, but in terms of the concepts behind them.” The new NTW site will follow the trend for making websites more dynamic by drawing in material from elsewhere on the internet. London’s Royal Opera House (www.roh.org.uk), for example, is making use of linked data from the “semantic web”, combining content from a variety of sources in a single
the user. “Sometimes the two things get muddied. What you are as a company is important, but it’s kind of irrelevant to the experience of the user. You need to allow them a really clear journey into the sections they need and when they get there the information needs to be as relevant as possible. You need to do the up-front work to understand the users’ priorities.” This was the experience of Alison Martin, Head of Marketing and Communications at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre (www. citz.co.uk), when she chose to work with Cardiff ’s Mark Boulton Design (www.markboultondesign.com). She was
A visual showing the various sources that feed into the Royal Opera House’s website
Alison Martin, Citizens Theatre
place. When users land on a page about the Royal Ballet’s production of Swan Lake, for example, they are unlikely to realise that the video clip comes from YouTube, the adjacent photographs come from Flickr, the show description comes from Tessitura, the list of news and features comes from WordPress and the related links come from Delicious. That’s before you get on to the box office with an Amazon-style single-click ordering system. NTW plans something similar. “We’re pulling in different feeds from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to try and fill that feeling of community and busy-ness around a show,” says Sykes. “So you’ve got this balance of professional reviews and what the layman thinks.” So much for the successes, what about the websites that perform less well? Sykes says too often a site reflects the company it’s been designed for, instead of functioning for
impressed that the designers did not start by asking about content and menus, but about audience groups and internet usage. “They made us pick a primary persona, which forced us to think about somebody whose needs must be met by this website,” she says. “We built up a whole profile in our heads before we went into the detail of menus, pages and design.” Boulton capitalised on the Citizens’ reputation for elemental design to create a website that is airy, functional and consistent with the established house-style. Since the early 1970s, the company’s print has been characterised by bold lettering, clean white backgrounds and uncluttered layouts. It’s an aesthetic that adapts perfectly to the web. Redesigned in 2010, the Citizens’ site is clear and simple, getting you quickly to the information you need, yet it is also unmistakably of this company.
“We skill people up and help them understand why we’re doing it, so it becomes something they want to do rather than being sat down and forced to do it.”
M M Citizens’ King Lear website N A brochure for King Lear
O A poster for King Lear
“We were looking to balance the need to show the breadth of the work and the need to make the journey very easy for a potential audience member or participant,” says Martin. “A lot of it is about design and look, but a lot is about functionality and the nitty-gritty of how much you can make automated.” The more automation, the less cost to the company. It is good to know, for example, that when you upload a video to YouTube, it will appear seamlessly on your website. That frees your marketing team to get on with other jobs. In the
end, however, Martin believes investment pays off: “Websites are time consuming and there’s always a debate about how much time we should spend on it, but the only time you feel it is rewarding is when there is somebody constantly looking at it and reacting to it. When we put out a season release, we want to have a conversation with people about it. The buzz it generates is so useful to your ultimate selling process.” Mark Fisher is a freelance feature writer and the Guardian’s theatre critic in Scotland. He is the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide.
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Space to grow Digital initiative The Space has allowed arts organisations room to experiment, together, finds Caroline Bishop. “On 11 August, while Mo Farah was winning his 5,000m Olympic gold, Pilot Theatre’s production of The York Mysteries in York Museum Gardens, featuring a cast of hundreds, was being filmed using six different camera angles, with the audience creating their own edit as they watched online. A week later, seven hours of Northern Stage’s debut season at the Edinburgh Fringe were streamed live for those who couldn’t join the physical audience. During the autumn, people voted to choose which of Eclipse Theatre’s 10 commissioned short films, viewable online, should be made into a touring theatre production. All these digital projects are part of The Space (www. thespace.org), an experimental collaboration between Arts Council England [ACE], the BBC and arts organisations from across the sector which piloted for six months between May and October 2012. The £5.5 million pilot project, derived from £3.5 million Lottery money for commissions and a £2 million investment by the BBC, aimed to create a digital service for the arts, using emerging technology to find new ways of creating work and presenting it to audiences. Demand to participate was high. Some 700 arts companies
(which were not required to be National Portfolio Organisations) from theatre, music, dance, film, literature and visual arts expressed an interest in being a part of The Space. Of those, 100 were invited to formally apply, leading to a final selection of 53. Work was commissioned on the basis of three aims: to reach larger audiences through live streaming, to open up archive material, and to create new work using digital as the art form. Each company received mentoring and training in digital skills from the BBC to help them deliver their project. A detailed evaluation, due in early 2013, is unpublished as Prompt goes to press. But, quoting 635,000 unique visitors to www.thespace.org in the first six months and good feedback both from audiences and the participating organisations – with theatre the third most popular sector on the site – ACE’s initial assessment of The Space is positive. As the first six months came to an end, ACE made the decision to extend the project until March 2013, with a further £8 million investment from its digital innovation fund. The BBC continues to contribute its mentoring, training and technical expertise.
“One of the things we are doing is [looking at] how we can find at some point along the DNA chain of our work a free point of access to people who for socio-economic or geographical or pragmatic reasons can’t be there physically.”
Many arts organisations have readily
The cast of Pilot Theatre’s York Mystery Plays | Photo: Kippa Matthews
embraced the digital revolution that is now such a firm part of our everyday lives. But given many companies have had their ACE funding slashed or removed altogether in recent years, is it a good use of money to give £13.5 million over to a “deliberately experimental” (says the press release) project like The Space? “Of course,” says Marcus Romer, Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, which has been making digital headway for several years. He cites the fact that theatremakers have always used subsidy to experiment and learn, and digital has just made the toy box that much bigger. “As we live in a world with increasingly diminishing public resources and subsidy it’s
“The Space was willing to take a punt on capturing work that was really experimental which say maybe a broadcaster thinking of prime time might not have taken a punt on.” 22
our duty to be entrepreneurial,” he adds. “Theatremakers by their very nature, are entrepreneurial. No one makes work that they don’t want people to see.” Pilot’s project for The Space involved filming The York Mysteries through six different camera angles. Both during the live performance and afterwards, online viewers could create a bespoke user experience by interchanging the six camera streams to their heart’s delight, like “running six iPlayers simultaneously,” says Romer. He describes it as the next iteration of NT Live – the theatre-in-cinema initiative by the National Theatre – where, rather than being presented with a fait accompli, the audience can choose what they want to focus on during the show, just as you would when sitting in a theatre. The idea evolved out of several years of research into emerging technologies by Pilot, which presents the annual Shift Happens digital conference and had already been working with digital company Kinura to develop live streaming capabilities. “One of the things we are doing is [looking at] how we can increase and engage in dialogue with our audiences,” says Romer. “...how we can find at some point along the DNA chain of our work a free point of access to people who for socio-economic or geographical or pragmatic reasons actually can’t be there physically.” Collaborating with The Space gave them the funds to explore this further. “The Space allowed us to take that research and develop [it] further into a more engaged, participatory way with our audiences, so they had an active input in terms of
what they would do and how they would interact with the work when it was live and when it was archived as live.” Funding was essential for Space participant Shakespeare’s Globe, too, in order to film the 37 shows in its multilingual Globe to Globe festival, and that opportunity was only going to come from an initiative like The Space, feels Festival Director Tom Bird. “The Space was willing to take a punt on capturing work that was really experimental which say maybe a broadcaster thinking of prime time might not have taken a punt on.” The aim for Bird in filming all 37 productions was twofold: to keep a record of this unprecedented initiative for posterity, and to enable audiences who couldn’t physically attend the Bankside venue to see the shows – an important part of what was a truly international project. “Some of the shows were hugely popular. I think Antony And Cleopatra, the Turkish one that we did, has been phenomenally popular. There have been more viewers in Istanbul than there have been in London. And the same for Lahore in Pakistan, one of the cities from which The Space has been most accessed. So that’s very, very exciting for us. We love to tour our work but as yet we haven’t made it to Lahore, so it’s really great to see that people can watch a Globe show there.”
When you watch the live stream there are people who are sharing that experience across the world, they are chatting about it on Twitter at the same time, or in chatrooms. The idea of it being an isolating experience is nonsense, and it’s also still live.” Indeed, social media is an important aspect of the conversation that digital can bring to theatre. During the nine days before, during and after Pilot’s live stream of The York Mysteries, the company reached nearly 238,000 Twitter accounts with the hashtag #mysteryplays. That’s arguably much more ‘conversation’ than a conventional audience for one night’s performance could generate. There’s no shushing these audience members during a performance, and for Romer, that’s ok. “This is the way we live now. I would not want to dictate as to how people would interact with a piece of art. If that’s what people want to do that’s fine, I’m really cool about it. I don’t want that idea of captive passivity.” While companies like Pilot already had digital experience, for others The Space was their first foray into digital. For all involved it has been a learning process, says Rigali: for the BBC, which has worked with companies it wouldn’t normally collaborate with; and for the arts organisations, which can take the risk of experimentation together and learn from each other’s work – a key benefit of The Space.
“At the moment [digital] is still like cave painting. We’re not at a renaissance yet in this technology.”
In fact, ACE says 43% of visitors to The Space were international, from around 200 countries. This accessibility is what makes digital so important, feels Romer. “It allows people to engage with it in their own time and space, and it’s accessible because they live in the Orkneys or the Outer Hebrides and they can’t suddenly go to the Royal Court opening.” Nevertheless, watching a show on your own on a laptop surely cannot compare to the live experience of being in the same room as the performers and the audience? “It’s about complementarity,” says Amanda Rigali, ACE Business Manager for The Space. “Audiences don’t just want one or the other, they want both and they understand the differences in both...This is just a rich addition to the way in which you can enjoy arts and culture. I don’t think it’s ever about replacing, I think it’s about complementing and one driving audiences to the other. If we get that offer right we are really deepening the richness of the arts and culture within this country, and also its profile internationally.” Romer agrees. “Let’s not try and compare it. It’s different.
“It’s one time and one place and lots of people participate and everybody learns from it,” says Rigali. “[It’s] a very important thing to be able to do in this kind of area because it moves so quickly.” Even those whose pitches were not successful can learn from this mutual digital leap, she feels. “You are going to be able to look at all this work and see, on the basis of that, what might work for you and your organisation.” Bird agrees: “Arts institutions and the Arts Council and broadcasters are facing up to the idea that we are all stronger together and so that collaborative side of it was really encouraging.” Having multiple artforms available on one digital platform also promotes audience cross-over, says Rigali. According to initial figures, 28% of people who visited The Space tried something else on the site. But isn’t that figure rather low, given how easy it is to flit from one webpage to another? “From an arts point of view that sense of audience crossover can be one of the most difficult things to get,” argues
Rigali. “Audiences going to the Southbank Centre to see music will see music, and won’t often see a circus performance next time. The whole point of digital is that there is much less risk for someone to experiment, you can try it for five minutes and see what you think. So the fact we have already got that figure at this early stage means that there is huge potential for that to increase.” In any case, are viewer figures really the important factor here? The marketing of The Space is “actually not my major concern,” says Romer, citing the experimental nature of the project. “It’s an R&D project, I don’t think we should be trumpeting it as BBC5.” The main outcome, he adds, is that the sector has learnt from it. “We’ve learnt loads as an organisation; it’s given us ideas about how to integrate work into future projects. And for the 600 people involved in the Mysteries, they’ve had a ball. Their relatives have been able to see it all over the world.” The next stage for The Space is to “explore the potential of a permanent digital service for the arts,” according to ACE. So is The Space the future? “No, because something
else will come along that will be better than it. It will evolve,” says Romer simply. But that’s ok. The Space’s imminent evaluation will no doubt reveal both positives and negatives; but, as Bill Thompson, head of partnership development at BBC Archives, told www.wired.co.uk in October, it’s important to view it as a work in progress. “The real danger is we now act as if we know the answers instead of having a much clearer idea of the next set of questions we need to ask,” he said. Romer agrees: “At the moment [digital] is still like cave painting. We’re not at a renaissance yet in this technology.” What it has shown is that the path to enlightenment is one strewn with possibilities for the theatre sector in terms of audience engagement and the dissemination of work. “I don’t think it’s an option in terms of policy, whether we engage more digitally or not,” says Bird. “The arts has to engage digitally or it won’t have a proper future.”
Caroline Bishop is a freelance arts journalist and former Editor at SOLT/TMA. www.carolinehbishop.co.uk
All 37 shows from the Globe to Globe festival are available to watch on The Space | Photo: John Haynes
140 character play Twitter. The Pope, the Dalai Lama and Andrew Lloyd Webber are all doing it. Here Alistair Smith explains why you should be too and reveals it’s not all about who has had what for breakfast. “Twitter, one of the newer social media platforms, actually launched in 2006. Since then, it has expanded at an exponential rate and today even the Pope (@Pontifex), the Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) have official Twitter accounts. If you’re wondering, the Dalai Lama is by far the most popular of the three. In very basic terms, Twitter is a bit like texting via the internet. You post 140-character messages that other people can read. These can feature text, but also links to other web pages or images and videos. You, in turn, can read the messages that other users post. You choose which messages you see by ‘following’ other accounts, creating a personalised news feed of the things and people you are interested in. A common misconception about Twitter is that it’s only full of celebrities telling you what they had for breakfast. And it can be full of this, but only if you choose to make it that way. Twitter is a conversation, or hundreds of thousands of conversations. And, like any conversation, it is not just about talking, listening is just as important.
Unfortunately, its usefulness as a way of channelling word of mouth reaction has often meant that theatres have simply classified Twitter as a new marketing channel, only of use for retweeting comments from audiences who have seen your latest show. But, as Romer observes, “Yes, you can use it to sell tickets, raise awareness, run games and competitions. Of course you can. Of course it can be that, but that is only one element of its many possibilities.” For Romer, Twitter is at its best when it has a personal face. “A top tip,” he says, “people tweet, buildings don’t. I follow Kevin Spacey, but I don’t follow the Old Vic.” Indeed, some of its most useful features have absolutely nothing to do with promotion, but are more closely linked to the idea of professional networking.
“It gives you an ability to plug into networks, to plug into the arts landscape.”
“It gives you an ability to plug into networks, to plug into the arts landscape,” Romer explains. It also – especially via hashtags (a way of categorising your tweets) such as #artsfunding – helps bring people together under a common concern or purpose.
It can even save you money. Being based in York, it can cost Romer £140 for a train ticket to London, but Twitter reactions will allow him to stay in touch with what is happening from a distance. “It allows you to be in the room even when you’re not in the room, or can’t be in the room, or can’t afford to be in the room.
In basic terms for theatres, this means telling people what you are doing but also listening (and responding) to what those people think of what you are doing. Marcus Romer (@MarcusRomer), Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, was one of theatre’s early adopters of social media, joining Twitter in 2008. He describes it as “word of mouth on steroids”.
“Twitter is not an extension of marketing and it shouldn’t be in the sole control of the communications department. You want to hear
“We wanted to find a better of way of proving that we were listening to our audience.”
@StratfordEast from people across the business. Not from anonymous buildings or bureaucracy. If you do tweet from a building, attribute it.” This is how Theatre Royal Stratford East (@StratfordEast) has approached its twitter account. Kerry Michael, the theatre’s Artistic Director, will sometimes post via the theatre’s account, adding KM to the end of his tweets. For Michael, TRSE’s embracing of Twitter is principally about engaging audiences. “We wanted to find a better of way of proving that we were listening to our audience,” he explains. “Other mediums – like TV – have been better at encouraging people to respond to what they’re watching and we’ve tried to replicate that with out Tweetzone.” The Tweetzone at Stratford East is a good example of how the theatre has made Twitter central to what it does, offering users a specific part of the theatre in which they are allowed to post comments during performances.
As Michael observes: “Stratford East has always been about our audiences and audience engagement, so of course Twitter is something we would be doing. It’s a tangible and technological reflection of our identity as the People’s Theatre. These are new tools to expand the principle of what we’ve always been about.” If you’re a theatre just looking to get started in a more basic way, it might make sense to look at the approach taken by someone like West Yorkshire Playhouse (@WYPlayhouse). Its twitter account has been running since 2010 and is managed by its communications team. It retweets comments from audience members (although selectively and with an attempt at balance) and channels tweets from staff members across the theatre, who have their own accounts (for example @SheenaWrigley). It also offers news announcements, competitions and behind the scenes photos. “I think there’s a real balance you have to have when it comes to retweets,” says Amanda Trickett, WYP’s Press Officer who manages the account. “Obviously you want to support the artists whose work you’re putting on, but at the same time you don’t want to just to push out good reactions. It needs to be a conversation.
“You don’t want to just to push out good reactions. It needs to be a conversation.” @a_trickett This also highlights another important point: there are hundreds of different ways of using Twitter and they aren’t all right for everybody. Take, for example, the way betting brand @betfairpoker has used the medium. The majority of the company’s feed is surreal – and amusing – witterings and stories about nothing in particular, but every now and again (say one in every 20 tweets) a commercial offer is thrown in to its tens of thousands of followers. A few theatres have experimented with similarly offbeat ‘secondary accounts’, such as the Young Vic with @yvteabitch and the Lyric Hammersmith with @TheLyricFork. However – and this is crucial to remember - both these theatres and Stratford East have a large section of their audience which is young and technology-savvy and likely to be willing to engage with these kinds of experiments. It’s unlikely to prove as popular with a more traditional, older, noncosmopolitan theatre audience.
“Sometimes having a hashtag can be a fantastic thing. When we launched Transform we used a hashtag and that helped strike up a conversation. It’s also good for having a bit of fun.” Not everything works, though. “We did a flash sale on tickets once and that didn’t really work,” she explains. “I think Twitter has to be about engagement. The thing I’ve really found is that you have to be as genuine as possible and people respond to that.” But no matter what approach you choose to take, there is one thing you must remember above all others according to Romer. “Twitter is a text to the world, so don’t write anything on there that you wouldn’t want to fly across the sky of London.”
Prompt’s guide to tweeting Twitter may be used by millions of people, but if you’re not a digital whizz, it can seem a daunting process. While many of you will already be Twitter veterans, we’ve put together a list of top tips to help beginners become Twitter savvy. 1
Choosing a username
Personalising your Twitter page
Start following people
Getting people to follow you
When you sign up you’ll need to choose a name. You’re limited to 15 characters so you may need to shorten it, in which case you can use capital letters to make it stand out.
In the settings section you can add a personalised profile picture, such as a photo of your theatre or logo, and change the background to reflect your theatre’s branding.
On your home page will be a stream of real-time tweets from the people you follow. To find a person or company, search their name in the search box and click ‘Follow’ on their profile.
On your home page is a box in which to write your 140 character tweets. This article is full of advice on what sort of content to tweet, but Twitter is all about interaction and engaging your audience so it’s important to talk to other users by including their username in your tweet. Every time you use someone’s username, they’ll receive an alert so they can see you’ve mentioned them.
If someone tweets something you’d like to reply to or includes your username in a tweet in order to interact with you, you can respond by clicking the reply option under the tweet. This is invaluable as a customer service tool and way of interacting with your audience.
On every tweet there will be a symbol to ‘retweet’ which means your followers can also see that tweet, therefore increasing the reach. You can ask people to retweet your tweets by adding ‘PLS RT’.
As well as text you can include links and photos in your tweets. To add a photo, use the camera symbol. To include a link just copy and paste it into the text box along with your message. You can make long links shorter on websites such as www.tinyurl.com
At the end of people’s tweets you’ll often see a # with copy following. Hashtags are good for starting a collective conversation; if you click on a hashtag you can see everyone else’s tweets that have used it and, if enough people use it, it will show up on the trends bar, so you should use it to promote events and shows.
The key to getting more followers is to use Twitter regularly, engage and interact with people and your followers, and make sure your content is interesting, fun and useful.
Remember, everything you tweet you must be happy for the whole world to see! If you need to use Twitter for anything less public, you can direct message someone you follow via the settings tab as long as they follow you as well. But let’s face it, this is where the good old fashioned phone comes into its own.
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Fully insured The TMA’s David Brownlee explains the journey that will lead to the launch of TMA Insurance in 2013 and why he has now been convinced that insurance can be more than a deeply dull necessity.
When I joined the TMA in October 2011 I was delighted to receive a number of calls and emails from well-wishing theatre managers. I was also pleased, if slightly perplexed, to receive a substantial volume of calls from insurance companies and brokers. Intrigued, I tried to find out more. It seems that the last few years have seen big changes in the insurance market for live entertainment, with a huge increase in competition and development of new products and policies. Insurance companies and brokers are now taking theatre very seriously, and want to get their name recognised by our Members. The TMA and its Members has been benefiting from this for the last two years. Sponsorship from Travelers has allowed us to keep the prices down on our training and events and offer some discounted bursaries at residential courses. Other insurance companies and brokers have helped make events like the Touring Symposium and Theatre Awards UK sustainable. While this sponsorship is extremely beneficial, I discussed with Martin Scott (the TMA’s Chief Operating Officer) the potential of the TMA playing a more strategic role in insurance procurement for our Members. By the TMA taking a leadership role and bringing together the collective buying power of our Members, could we significantly reduce costs for our Members? And could we improve the policies they were being offered? We contacted a number of recommended brokers and asked them to share their proposals on how we could forge an innovative and fruitful partnership. With colleagues invited from the Federation of Scottish Theatres and Independent Theatre Council, we spent a surprisingly fascinating day looking at different options. After much discussion and debate, we chose W&P Longreach (WPL) as a preferred partner to work with on developing a new ‘TMA Insurance’ brand. One of the things we liked most about WPL’s proposed approach was a commitment to developing a service through a dialogue with our Members. In early summer, together we met over 50 theatre managers in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh to hear what were their hopes and fears about our plans. As well as issues of cost and coverage, customer service was of huge importance to most managers. This was partly about the basics (clear named contact, time to respond etc) but also to do with really understanding the nature of the business we’re in. Fortunately with WPL we are dealing with the broker with the greatest experience and depth of understanding within the sector, but clearly speaking the same language is currently a challenge for some theatres and
their brokers. WPL took the feedback from the three sessions and began David Brownlee approaching different insurance companies using the profile of the TMA and the potential buying power as a negotiating tool. After months of detailed international discussions, we believe we now have an exclusive, unbeatable product at a price that represents excellent value. In these challenging times, I believe that collaboration could be an increasingly important tool in reducing costs and keeping theatre financially sustainable. The TMA is perfectly placed to broker deals of this kind and to ensure that quality and value is maintained. A share of profits will come back to the TMA allowing us to invest in other priorities and keeping membership prices down.
TMA Insurance could be the first of several new initiatives that can save money and deliver better value for our Members. Of course, they will only have a major impact if enough Members take part. We know that the value many Members place on existing relationships is high. We hope this will be outweighed by the quality of cover, cost and standard of service TMA Insurance will be able to offer and we want to ensure an on-going dialogue with participating Members to ensure it surpasses all expectations. Members who use TMA Insurance simply to get a more competitive quote that their existing broker then matches will be reminded how important it is to play as a team! I confess I have always considered insurance to be a deeply dull necessity, but I think TMA Insurance is an extremely exciting model of how the TMA can work with and support its Members. TMA Insurance will be launched early in 2013. To ensure you’re first to hear of how your organisation can benefit, email tmainsurance@ solttma.co.uk
The winners speak For the first time ever, 2012’s Theatre Awards UK gave equal billing to the all-important management awards. We were there to congratulate the winners as they came off stage.
Achievement in Marketing
Mark Everett and John Baker (Achievement in Marketing)
This year’s Achievement in Marketing Award, awarded to a theatre who has led an ‘original and successful marketing initiative, PR or marketing campaign’, was collected by The Marlowe Theatre for the rebranding of the venue following its closure in 2009 for a complete rebuild. Mark Everett, Marlowe’s Theatre Director, collected the award alongside the venue’s Head of Marketing John Baker and told Prompt winning the award meant “a great deal, because the competition’s very fierce. A huge amount of work has gone in to reinventing the brand and our imagery to make it seem like a new theatre and obviously that’s worked really well.” Everett also paid tribute to the importance of celebrating theatrical management, saying: “To get people on the stage successfully you do need all the support, the funding, administration, the technical side of things and above all the marketing and the sales. If you can’t sell tickets, what’s the point?”
Promotion of Diversity The Promotion of Diversity Award was awarded to East Londonbased theatre company Graeae. Artistic Director Jenny Sealey, who collected the award alongside Executive Director Judith Kilvington, described herself as “absolutely thrilled” to have won, telling Prompt: “We really do promote diversity hugely, possibly in ways that other companies might not consider.” The award came in a hugely successful year for the company following Sealey’s role as Artistic Director of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, something Kilvington pointed out made the win particularly special: “I think in this year when Jenny and Bradley [Hemmings] have achieved such a phenomenal moment with the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, for the showcase of deaf and disabled artists at their most adventurous, brilliant and absolute unique, it is a fitting tribute that the TMA have awarded us the Promotion of Diversity Award this year. 2012 has been a year like no other in front of a worldwide audience and we are so proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Most Welcoming Theatre
Judith Kilvington and Jenny Sealey (Promotion of Diversity)
The New Wolsey Theatre took home this year’s Most Welcoming Theatre Award, a prize that recognises ‘an exceptional level of customer service which sets a standard for the industry’. Accepting the award on behalf of the venue’s staff were New Wolsey colleagues Michael Cox and Michael Glasper who described the win as “a really big team effort”. Speaking about the importance of celebrating regional success at the annual ceremony, the pair told
EVENT AWARDS Prompt: “It’s so important to be recognised because of all the hard work people put in, but also because it’s nice for all the theatrical world to get together. It’s amazing to have this recognition from a prestigious company like the TMA. For a theatre out of London to be recognised as ‘the most welcoming theatre’ – the New Wolsey Theatre, a little 400-seater – [we’re] really proud.”
Renee Stepham Award for the Presentation of Touring Theatre Named in honour of Renee Stepham, the legendary agent and tour booker, the Presentation of Touring Theatre Award was collected by Music & Lyrics. Still in its infancy, Music & Lyrics was set up by John Stalker in 2011 and is a consortium of the UK’s largest independent presenting venues dedicated to the presentation of musical theatre in all its forms, with the aim of bringing large scale productions to theatres across the country. The company’s first production was the Curve’s hugely successful The King And I, which was also nominated for the Best Touring Production Award. Stuart Griffths and Stalker were at the ceremony to accept the award.
Michael Cox and Michael Glasper (Most Welcoming Theatre)
Theatre Manager/ Employee of the Year This year the Theatre Manager/Employee of the Year was awarded to two individuals the TMA recognised for their exceptional work. Northern Stage’s Erica Whyman received her award following seven years at the helm of the company and the announcement she would step down to become Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, while Graham Sutherland was recognised for his work as Head of Production at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre. Speaking to Prompt after she had collected her award, Whyman said: “I’m completely delighted because it’s properly an award for my team. [Northern Stage is] a very collaborative place to work and I’ve asked them to do huge things over the last seven years so it feels really lovely to be recognised for it and I know they’ll be really proud.
Stuart Griffiths and John Stalker (Renee Stepham Award for the Presentation of Touring Theatre)
Photography: Alistair Muir
“I think it can feel, particularly in difficult times, as though outside London people forget how much hard work is going on, how much good work is going on and what an amazing high standard of theatre is being made,” Whyman commented. “When you’re not able to move between lots of different job opportunities, you’ve really got your one regional theatre, [so] the commitment you make to making it work is often much greater and it’s really important to recognise that.” Sutherland described himself as “over the moon” to collect the award, telling Prompt: “I didn’t expect to get it at all. I’ve only been doing this job for a year but we’ve had an amazing year since Dominic [Hill] turned up and took over as Artistic Director and this is just the icing on the cake. Sometimes in Scotland it’s easy to feel that you’re stuck miles away from everything that’s going on in London and I think it’s brilliant to get recognition from something like this.”
Graham Sutherland and Erica Whyman (Theatre Employee Manager of the Year)
MEET & GREET
Alastair Tallon Seven months into his role as Campaign Manager for the Family Friendly Arts campaign, a project led by six of the UK’s performing and visual arts trade bodies including the TMA, Alastair Tallon talks to Prompt about the importance of welcoming families into theatres around the country. are based on two adults and two children and we wanted to see to what extent families match that perception. Interestingly, in our survey, only 30% of families were identified as having two adults and two children. As a way of illustrating the diversity of families now, I recently read an article which came up with 35 different categories of families and I think one of the key issues that we want to work through with the arts organisations is how ticketing offers and marketing in general needs to be more adaptable to the reality of the family unit today. Intergenerational families, extended families, step children, children of different ages, families with adopted children, gay and bisexual families, single parent families; we need to tailor our messaging to encompass that much broader sense of family.
What have you achieved with the Family Friendly Arts campaign so far? Since I started at the beginning of May, we have done a lot of research and consultation, out of which has grown the campaign itself. Instead of going in with pre-decided outputs, we wanted to find out, from both families and arts organisations, where they feel they need support and where the issues are so that we are able to create a campaign based on actual needs. I think what is significant about the approach that we are taking is that we’re talking to both groups; looking at what families are telling us and what arts organisations are telling us and then bridging the gaps. That’s the key piece of work that has led to the development of our campaign plan and we’re now starting to put that into action.
You had more than 2,500 responses to your online survey. What were the most important things to come out of the survey and how are you going to take these ideas forward? Firstly, we wanted to understand family group sizes. There are a still a lot of ticketing models within arts organisations that
Encouragingly, 82% of arts organisations said that they already run family friendly activities so that clearly is a focus in their minds, which gives us a lot to build on. Less than 50% of families said they relied on leaflets to find out what was going on and yet nearly 75% of the arts organisations said that was their main method of communication. So there is a clear gap. Looking at the other ways that families want to find out about events and adjusting how we market and where we market using those other channels is an important part of what we’ll do for the campaign.
At this point, what can you confirm about the campaign? The two keys things that we can say is that the Family Arts Festival will be held over the October half-term and our first conference will be held on 15 April in Birmingham.
What do you hope to achieve with the campaign? Overall, the campaign needs to structurally alter how the arts sector relates to families so that we can better understand their needs. That is both in terms of what they’re going to see or do but also in terms of the venues that they’re visiting and how family friendly they are, whether that means providing baby changing facilities that are accessible to both men and women and space to park buggies or training staff on how to deal with family audiences.
How would you like TMA members to get involved? Do lots of events! Essentially, that’s what it is. It’s to think about your own organisation and your products and activities, and see how that can be adapted to a family audience. You need to think creatively about different approaches that will engage families. Encouraging new families to access the arts and debunking some of the myths that some families have about the arts is very important.
Do you think the recent arts funding cuts have had a specific impact on family theatre? Inevitably, it must have. One of the things we need to look at is how we can offset the impact of these cuts by creating different ways of engaging with families. In the financial world we’re living in at the moment, I think it’s important not to ignore our family audiences. In the long term, it’s important to develop that consistency in families wanting to access the arts because as the young people get older they will become independent theatregoers or concert-goers. If they’re not getting that at an early age, it is unlikely that that will be interested in it in the future.
How important do you think it is to get young people involved in theatre? It’s vital for all sorts of reasons. From a purely economic issue, the young people now are the audiences of the future. Enjoying live performance and art, what it does to our cultural life and our understanding of our country, is so important. The arts cover a huge range of activities and the truth is, within that range, there is something for everybody. It’s about employment and seeing opportunities of employment for young people as well. To work in an arts organisation, you don’t have to be an actor or a musician, but if you talk to children about working in the arts that’s what they’ll think you’re talking about. You need people who can operate computer systems, run the box office, people who understand finance and marketing; you don’t have to be a Shakespeare buff.
You’ve worked extensively in the performing arts and education sectors. How do you think this experience will help you in your role? What I’ve learned from a very early stage is that you can’t go to people and say ‘this is what we’re going to do, do you want to join us?’ If you have a service you want to offer, you have to work out what people need and construct what you’re offering around this need. The campaign is addressing a direct need as expressed by the sector.
What have you seen at the theatre recently? The last thing I saw was at the Royal & Derngate. It was a co-production with Shakespeare’s Globe. It was a family and young kids’ version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which used a mixture of puppetry and actors. I thought it was a really clever way of introducing Shakespeare to a younger audience, almost to the point where you didn’t know it was Shakespeare.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of? I’m really proud of the work I started at Shakespeare’s Globe when I joined in 1991. It’s still going on now and hasn’t diminished in importance. My role was very specifically to look at our local schools and community, and that programme has grown dramatically. When I was there, it was just me. When I went to visit a few weeks ago there were four or five people working in just that department. In terms of my projects, I’m extremely proud of a dance programme I did at the Royal Albert Hall, where we linked 10 schools in the UK with 10 schools in China and Hong Kong around a project based on Swan Lake. It ended with a performance of a completely new version of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall, in which the Chinese students performed, and then we flew some of the British students to China to perform at World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 as part of British National Day.
Why did you choose the Family Friendly Arts campaign as the next step in your career? I thought it was a really interesting idea and campaign, but it was also a real challenge and I like a challenge. I think almost every job I’ve gone for has had some element of challenge. When I started at the Globe, there was no community education programme. When I started at the Royal Albert Hall, there was a very small education programme but it wasn’t comprehensive. That’s what I really enjoy, building on the experience I’ve done before but taking it from a localised perspective up to a national perspective.
The April issue of Prompt will include more details about the Family Friendly Arts campaign. You can also contact Alastair to find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ﬁrst Family Friendly Arts Campaign Conference 15 April Town Hall, Birmingham For more information & to book visit www.familyarts.co.uk
Sounding Board Following the Marlowe Theatre’s success at the 2012 Theatre Awards UK, Prompt asked the Achievement in Marketing Award winners and their fellow category nominees how they think the balance between traditional and digital forms of marketing is changing. John Baker, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Marlowe Theatre At the moment, I think it’s important to make the full marketing mix work. Investing solely on one side of the argument would be wrong. It’s about making all the different elements work, particularly when you have varied demographics within your audience. The Marlowe Theatre has a very broad audience base John Baker and, interestingly, every time we launch a season, we get more and more from our brochure. Last season we took over half a million pounds in two weeks on the back of a brochure arriving on people’s doormats. We often think this is perhaps because audiences like to see shows in the context of a whole season, similar to catalogue shopping perhaps! One traditional form of marketing that is becoming less effective is the press advert. I can remember the time when you could put an advert in a certain publication on a certain day and you’d be guaranteed a certain amount of sales but, actually, that’s not the case anymore, while brochures and direct mail, particularly if they are specifically targeted to the right database segment, most definitely still reap dividends. That aside, we are planning for the time when these traditional approaches, particularly press advertising, don’t work at all, so we are investing more time and budget in getting our social networking, website and e-marketing right. When we reopened in October last year after being closed for two years, we restructured our marketing department and created the post of Multi-Media Designer whose responsibility is to look at the way we communicate via Twitter, Facebook and email. While at the moment there seems to be a balance between the two, we’ve started to change our staff structure and I think we will soon see an even greater shift away from more traditional forms of marketing. It’s all about getting the mix of communications right for your specific audience.
Abbigail Wright, Head of Communications at York Theatre Royal
It had been 12 years since the York Mystery Plays [for which the York Theatre Royal earned its Theatre Awards UK nominations] had been produced on such a large scale and although they’ve got a huge reputation in York, they’ve never really been documented digitally. The world has changed so much in 12 years so we felt that we had a real opportunity to take the plays into the 21st century using digital marketing.
We took on two digital volunteers who ran a campaign to get #York2012 trending on Twitter and curated a series of videos about the making of the Mystery Plays. We also created a proper cinematic trailer and worked with partners and members of the community to get it screened on TVs in hospital waiting rooms and at the local cinema. The people who’d seen the trailer in different places around York shared it and were really excited by it. It was an interesting marriage of something very historical with the relevance of the 21st century. The script was still medieval but all the things we could do around it, in terms of marketing, really enhanced people’s understanding of what it was, why we were doing it and the decisions we’d made. We worked with Pilot Theatre to live stream The Mystery Plays for the first time in their history to a global audience. On site we had QR codes, which took you straight to the video trailer and our Flickr site, so we were trying to encourage people when they were here to look at the digital platforms as well. It’s important to cross-promote. We also highlighted the things we had happening digitally in an off-line capacity with direct mails, leaflets and posters. Digital platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, are a new way for us to receive audience feedback and have a conversation with people after an event. We now have a bank of audience comments from that year’s productions so we have more of a legacy to pass on next time the Mystery Plays are done.
Ben Davis, Senior Marketing Officer at Shakespeare’s Globe In our organisation, digital is now forming its own strand. We have a marketing team but we also have a digital team, which isn’t to say the two are completely isolated; however, there are probably more bespoke resources and knowledge being put into digital. A large proportion of our ticket sales are handled through our Ben Davis online booking system rather than on the phone and we have responded to that by changing the focus to digital, making sure our online site works well and remains up to date and interesting. I think the website is everyone’s first port of call. You can still run a print ad or direct mail but they are usually driving people towards your website rather than towards immediate calls to the box office.
We also put a lot of work into our social media platforms. We have a large number of very engaged followers and fans, and we work hard at making sure it’s about engagement and creating a conversation, rather than straight marketing. In marketing, one’s always slightly obsessed with return on investment and how much each individual piece of marketing could be worth. It’s very hard to put a cash value on a tweet. But you have to accept the principle of it; if you have 40,000 engaged followers, they will at some point come to the Globe and buy tickets. We’re an organisation with a big international reach and digital is a brilliant platform for getting our messages out into countries where we can’t, for example, buy tube adverts. Digital is a massively expanding set of opportunities and while one doesn’t necessarily want to explore every single one of those, you have to know what’s going to work and what’s going to work for our audiences. That’s why we have a bespoke digital team. It would be foolish to think that it could all be called marketing.
In the next issue: The April issue of Prompt will look at family-friendly theatre and engaging this vital audience. The issue will also explore the Family Friendly Arts Campaign in more details and 66 offer more details about how TMA Members can get involved. ISSUE NO.
Get in touch! Comments, questions, suggestions? We would love to hear your views on any of the subjects in this issue of Prompt. To contact us, email email@example.com. If you would like your letter to be considered for publication in a future issue, please mark ‘for publication’.
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How theatres are inviting audiences from all around the world to see their work without even asking them to leave their homes
Plus: training, advice, opinion
The cost of fundraising The TMA’s David Brownlee finds in 2011/12, Arts Council England’s revenue funded organisations collectively spent more on raising funds than on education or marketing.
very year Arts Council England (ACE) requires all its revenue funded grant recipients to complete a long submission with facts and figures about their performance for the previous year. For decades arts managers wondered what became of their hours of hard work, but in recent years ACE has been publishing an increasingly long, colourful and fascinating summary of the data they receive. The 2011/12 submission return has just been released and contains 86 pages packed with graphs, charts, maps and tables. It would be impossible to do it justice in this short article, so instead I’ll focus on just two areas it covers: income and expenditure. The report contains some very good news: across a constant sample of 780 arts organisations, total aggregate income has risen over both the last two years, despite falls in all areas of public subsidy. The biggest area for growth is Earned Income: largely ticket sales. Between 2009/10 and 2011/12 this grew an impressive £73.1 million or 14%. Also impressive was the
increase in Contributed Income (Sponsorship, Trusts and Donations), which rose by £27.5 million (25%) in the same time period. This growth was greater than the cuts in Arts Council funding during the same period (£26.1 million). But before anyone claims that increased giving has replaced cuts in public funding, an examination of changes in expenditure is also required. These have been tough years for education expenditure, with a £4 million (5%) reduction across the 780 organisations, but spending on artistic programme has risen by £46.9 million (7%). Overheads have been squeezed by £7.2 million, but ‘other costs’ have increased by £17.6 million. The other big area for growth in expenditure is Generating Funds, defined as ‘primarily the costs associated with fundraising and generating voluntary income’. Over the period, this grew by £17.5 million or 38%. In 2011/12, this increase along with cuts in other areas meant that more was being spent by these organisations on fundraising than marketing or education.
£1,300,000,000 £1,200,000,000 £1,100,000,000 £1,000,000,000 £900,000,000
£800,000,000 £700,000,000 £600,000,000 £500,000,000 £400,000,000 £300,000,000 £200,000,000 £100,000,000 £0 Earned income
Arts Council subsidy
Local authority subsidy
Other public subsidy
RESEARCH £1,300,000,000 £1,200,000,000 £1,100,000,000
£900,000,000 £800,000,000 £700,000,000 £600,000,000 £500,000,000 £400,000,000 £300,000,000 £200,000,000 £100,000,000 £0 Artistic programme
This £17.5 million of increased investment generated £27.5 million in increased income; a £10 million net contribution to the bottom line. Put another way, it cost 64p to raise every additional £1. Given these high marginal costs, at the moment it could be argued that £1 of public funding is
bringing the industry together Established in 1894, the TMA is the leading membership body representing the interests of and providing professional support for the performing arts in the UK. Our Members include theatres, multi-purpose venues, arts centres, concert halls, commercial producers, touring theatre, opera and ballet companies, sole traders and suppliers to the performing arts. The TMA provides a collective voice for the management of the UK performing arts. We support our members with the very latest in current thinking and best practice, and our services include specialist legal, financial and employment relations expertise, practical support and guidance. The TMA’s agreements with the trade unions are the benchmark for the employment and engagement of those working in the middle and large scale UK performing arts. We represent the interests of arts organisations from across the UK to central, local and European government, funding and other bodies concerned with the performing arts.
worth three times as much as a £1 of Contributed Income. Do have a read of the snappily titled ‘Regularly funded organisations: key data from the 2011/12 annual submission’, available for free on Arts Council England’s website.
Member beneﬁts A wide range of local and national professional networking opportunities Advice, guidance and support on legal matters, industrial relations, business management and corporate governance Reduced costs through the TMA’s Group Purchasing Scheme Reduced rates and advance booking for our high quality training and events programme To find out how to become a member or how you can get more value from your existing membership, call Gemma Nelson on 020 7557 6706 or visit www.tmauk.org
TMA diary dates Prompt looks at whatâ€™s coming up in the next six months in training and events. All courses are in London unless stated otherwise. For further details on all TMA training courses and for location information, visit www.tmauk.org/events or email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a full brochure.
Experience Design, Creating a great customer experience
Family Friendly Arts Campaign Conference, Birmingham
Managing Third Parties in the Work Place
IOSH Managing Safely
Delivering an excellent Customer Service & Up-selling
Olivier Awards with MasterCard
Networking for Success
May Wed 8
Time and Stress Management
Introduction to Finance
Practical People Management Skills & Creating a Vision for your Team
Personal Effectiveness & Emotional Intelligence Skills
Managing Conflict with Customers
TMA AGM and Annual Lunch
Reducing cost and improving cover for our Members
Peace of Mind
Working Effectively with Creative People
Specialist support and the highest quality of service from industry experts
Recruitment and Selection Skills Training
Finance for Non-Finance Professionals
H&S Essentials Plus
For the latest news, visit www.tmauk.org/insurance/
Essentials of Fundraising in the Arts
TMA Insurance is a brand name of W&P Longreach, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA)
for venues and producers
Play your part In buying together to reduce the costs for everyone
Introduction to Marketing
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ENTERTAINMENT ARTISTES FPB5 30/6/12 - 30/11/12 REF 249082_Layout 1 29/06/2012 12:21 Page 1
ART FUND FPB5 1/11/12 - 31/12/12 _Layout 1 24/10/2012 08:00 Page 1
Prompt Magazine Issue 66 January 2013