As the fringe was beginning, I wasn’t in my usual position of eagerly awaiting a bizarre time slot to tech a show while trying to get ahead of the flying game. I was in the beautiful Dundee Rep working with their community company as we opened, Not Worth a Jot. The community ensemble is tied into the heart of the company. The production team worked tirelessly for the show – it was fantastic to see a building linked so strongly into its community.
It got me thinking, as a touring company how do we really meaningfully engage with our audiences. We have to rely partly on venues having already established a relationship with the audiences vouching for us and ensuring that we are a good match, like a reliable mate setting us up for a blind date. I mean, don’t get me wrong we do our share of the leg work too. We tick the boxes that we can to reach audiences, social media, and traditional print beforehand. Hopefully an engaging and exciting show during, set tours, Q and A’s and feedback forms after. As well as a host of other bits and pieces like running workshops throughout the year.
But is there more we can do to really continue to grow our audience? During this time of the year there is a loyal and eager audience looking for work, some companies even enjoy an almost cultish following. But what happens when you’re only popping into a town for one evening and one show?
We are currently working with Fuel who are currently running a project, New Theatre in Your Neighbourhood that looks to answer that question. By engaging with a number of artists, venues and communities they are looking to create a dialogue between the three generating new audiences for venues and shows and allowing communities to get best use out of artists.
We will be engaging in the project actively this autumn and will post more then. But it has kept us thinking. The recent experience in Dundee and the bustle of the fringe has given us a small revelation. Audiences aren’t a problem to solve for either venue or artist. Often they are seen as a distant hard to reach entity that we need to lure into the doors. But at the world’s largest arts festival there is a plentiful audience looking for good work. These audiences don’t disappear after August, they just go home. And touring theatre companies can still reach them, travelling to the local venue. Venues can often be at the centre of these communities through inviting them in, reaching out and ultimately presenting great interesting and exciting work.