The Federation of Scottish Theatre (FST) hosted their touring forum at the Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline in June, to a mix of producers, artists and organisations involved in theatre and dance touring within Scotland and further afield. Following on from the discussion at the April forum, the topic of this one was:
Improving how we reach, build and retain audiences for touring
As with the topic of April’s touring forum, the discussion threw up more questions than it did answers. Audience development is such a huge topic, and with attendance higher than normal, the chair had a tough job on her hands to keep things focussed. There were three key strands to the topic: Audience Intelligence; Building Meaningful Relationships with Audiences; and Mitigating Audience Risk.
Through all the interesting provocations, ideas, and anecdotes that were shared, one thing was clear: it was agreed that it is both the responsibility of the Performer and of the Promoter/Venue to find an audience. That being said though, it was also agreed that there needs to be a more open dialogue with Performers and Promoters from the outset, to make sure that expectations and responsibilities are clearly understood, and so that everyone can work together effectively to reach new audiences.
As well as the group discussion, Julie Tait from Culture Republic gave a case-study presentation on audience intelligence and using data to deliver results. As a Network of rural promoters, the notion of audience intelligence is very different to those who are based in urban venues. Our Promoters often say that they know who their audiences are. You may be on first name terms with everyone in your village but when did you last ask them what kind of events they want to see in their village hall? Have you considered those who live within 30 miles of your venue? If people don’t come to your events, have you asked them why?
Since Touring Network Promoters are predominantly volunteers, do you have the capacity conduct in depth audience research? Or is this something The Touring Network should do on your behalf?
Rhiannon McIntyre, Services Manager, The Touring Network