Black Theatre Live - Marketing In Bury St Edmunds
Firstly, I’ll introduce myself, I’m Emma and I recently started as Marketing Manager for Tara Arts. Previously to this I was Marketing Manager for the rather lovely Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, one of the 8 consortium venues for Black Theatre Live.
Being a part of Black Theatre Live has been a really fantastic journey, both as a marketer and a theatre lover. Producing and touring new productions of high quality BAME work around the country to a wide variety of venues such as the Theatre Royal Margate, Stratford Circus and ourselves in Bury St Edmunds was something really exciting be a part of and to promote to our own, individual audiences.
As one of the consortium of theatres you feel part of a larger journey, from meeting up at the beginning of each tour and hearing from the companies and artists who are creating the work to sharing marketing strategies and experiences with all of the 8 venues (supported by the Black Theatre Live team, Mobius PR and the Audience Agency), it really is a great way to work.
Working in a mid-scale regional theatre such as the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, apart from when you are producing your own work, you don’t often get the luxury of feeling so involved in a project. And it is even rarer to be supported by so many organisations and individuals on each production.
Once the productions had been chosen for the season the venues are then supported to market them, allowing for new and more in-depth ways of working. We had a number of individual aims at Bury; to take our current classical drama audiences on a journey to more diverse work, to develop engagement with our schools and community groups and to start to grow the diversity of our audience.
Our first production to promote was Tara Art’s modern Asian version of Macbeth and the campaign was carefully planned to help achieve those aims.
When developing the drama audience it was very important for us to create a strong marketing campaign which directly engaged those audiences who we knew would attend traditional Shakespeare and other classical works. The artwork from Tara was already extremely impactful so we carefully developed the copy and messaging to work alongside this. Working with the support of BTL we were able to produce a really comprehensive campaign which included billboards, media advertising, e-marketing, advocate mailing, postcode distribution and a direct postcard mailer. Helping us to achieve an average increase of 13% capacity in our audience attendance from the previous Tara Arts production, which was also a modern Asian take on a classic text.
When engaging with schools and community groups our Creative Learning team were able to utilise the BTL training and support to engage directly in projects with a variety of community groups and young people and the marketing team could then work with them to develop these engaged individuals into audience members.
To develop the diversity of the Theatre Royal audience we worked with a distribution Street Team provided by Hardish Virk for Black Theatre Live. These Street Teams are trained specifically to engage effectively with all sections of the community and something Bury had not previously been able to use. For Macbeth we decided to focus on engagement with South Asian communities in Ipswich, identifying key areas to distribute and talking to shops and local businesses within those areas. With the help of Hardish’s team we increased our average attendance to drama from those identified postcodes from 1% to 5%.
Following the work with Macbeth we then went on to work on the small scale tour She Called Me Mother which allowed us to develop some of the previous work but also took us in a new direction with our marketing. This time we were working on a piece of new writing and a subject matter that engaged us with very specific community groups. This campaign, although on a smaller level, provided us with opportunities we might not normally receive with small scale tours. We were able to work on Facebook campaigns, advertising, direct marketing and achieved a great level of media coverage with the support of Mobius PR. This allowed us to take this new work to a higher level of promotion, achieving an average increase of 6% capacity in our audience attendance compared to other new-writing.
Coming to the end of the first year of Black Theatre Live, we can see an impact on the audience engagement in Bury and the overall statistics nationally were also really encouraging; 84 performances, 11,782 tickets sold and an additional 14 regional theatres programmed the 2 Black Theatre Live commissioned tours because of the consortium venues collective support.
I very much look forward to my continued involvement with the project at Tara, next stop #HounslowGirl!