Over recent years, there has been a positive increase in venues? support for new writing for children, an increase in the number of performances booked and of venues taking risks with non-commercial work. The demand for resources has resulted in more outreach departments with an understanding of the education system and of young children, along with education-based newsletters, brochures and, even, teacher forums, writes Debbie Martin.
So why are some venues finding it hard to fill the auditorium with the 7?12 year-old market? For anyone unfamiliar with selling non-commercial theatre for this age group, it is no easy task. There are a myriad of obstacles to overcome in persuading parents and teachers to visit the theatre, one of which is the now growing concern that taking children out of school for any trip is a responsibility risk!
So, what can touring companies do to ensure a strong and successful future for children?s theatre for this age group? Quicksilver Theatre pursue entertaining yet thought-provoking themes for children reflecting day-to-day concerns of the target audience, and, having produced new plays for a period of 27 years, we understand that selling work for 7?12 year-olds is a challenging commitment. We strongly believe touring companies have a responsibility to help venues plan and promote new work, to whatever extent their resources will allow. By providing marketing suggestions, family-friendly advice, ideas on selling to schools and clear benefits to children, as well as the fundamental marketing features, we aim to arm venues with a sufficient level of knowledge and understanding to give them ownership of what they are selling. Encouraging venues to ?buy-in? to the work will ultimately help them sell out!
So, as well as providing venues with a comprehensive Marketing Pack and an Education Resource Book, we?ve also launched Marketing Forums. The Forum is a complementary optional extra for all venues on the tour that would like to gain a fuller understanding of the play and share thoughts on how to approach the marketing. It gives venues a chance to:
- see a short section of the play in rehearsal
- listen to a sample of the musical score
- hear about the Director?s ambitions
- view the design sketches and plans
- ask questions of the technical team
- discuss the marketing materials available
- discuss key links to the curriculum and the benefits for children seeing the work
- share promotional ideas
- network with other venues on the tour.
The theory of ?buy-in? to sell out works both ways. Marketing multiple shows for this age group is an ongoing challenge and issues vary from venue to venue. The Marketing Forum is a great opportunity for me to stay up to date with the latest concerns, share successes and discuss the venues? experiences of marketing this type of work. These discussions often influence our future productions.
It?s not a revolutionary idea, but venues have told us that Marketing Forums are a rare event in the industry. I believe it is essential that touring companies meet with host venues individually to regularly assess what touring companies can do to support and understand a venue?s regional needs. Along this line of research, I have recently commissioned a venue satisfaction survey with a random selection of bookers to ensure we are listening to their experiences of programming our work.
Whatever lies ahead for theatre for 7?12 year-olds, both venues and touring companies must work together to gain the maximum understanding of companies? work and venues? audiences in order to ultimately achieve sell out tours. Both parties must take responsibility to promote and secure a successful future for this very valuable form of theatre.
Debbie Martin is Marketing and Development Manager, Quicksilver Theatre.
t: 020 7241 2942; w: http://www.quicksilvertheatre.org