Convener(s): James Stenhouse

Participants: Pete Phillips, Jodie Hawkes, Emma Stenning, Gillian Russell, Gemma Paintin, Bill Buffery someone whose name I can’t read and lots of others who I didn’t get their names feel free to add them…..

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The group wavered from one random stream of thought to another for a while with dramatic interventions from a chap without the sparkly sponge before settling on some themes.

Theatre as an EXPERIENCE




These were all recurring themes.

We sort of agreed that we were more concerned with getting more people to see theatre rather than worrying too much about who they were. We decided that it was dangerous for artists to worry too much about what audiences want because the inevitable conclusion might be Joseph and his Coat. It was more interesting for us to explore what we thought trends were with audiences and how we could nuture/encourage new audiences in partnership with venues etc. for the work that we already make.

It was noticed however that certain kinds of work are more successful at doing this than others.

Work that allows audiences to participate, engage and co-create. It was noted that audiences for experimental work are going up whilst audiences for more conventional work are going down. Work in different spaces outside of theatres, work directly involved with the community, work that is promoted inventively and creatively.

It was acknowledged however that there are different audiences for different work and needs are different. The above criteria attracts young people but the older generations are perhaps more happy in a more conventional environment?

Question: What do artistic directors think audiences want?

They do extensive market research? But is what people write down necessarily what they want. Do they possibly have a limited pool of theatre experiences to draw from to make their decision (particularly new audiences)?

It was suggested that audiences possibly negatively educate themselves to think ‘hey this is good’ when its not.

As artists and/or managers/promoters what is our responsibility to these audiences? Do we give them more of what they say they want or do we try and broaden their horizons?

It was mentioned that community ambassadors are a good way of expanding new audiences.

It is primarily the artists responsibility to nurture these audiences and attract them rather than the venues?

We briefly forayed into education:

  • Going into schools in a committed way rather than an ad hoc one off way
  • School theatre experiences broadened to include all students not just drama students because this encourages the belief that theatre is just for those already involved.
  • At the moment students in schools only make devised work, is this why audiences figures are going up for devised work?
  • There is currently a difference in vocabulary between schools and the theatre industry.

Then we talked about festivals big and small and there ability to draw bigger audiences because there is less risk involved in going to a festival than making the effort for a one off performance. Also more inventiveness in how work is put on generally to lessen the risk factor. Music festivals are seeing a rise in attendance – can we learn/benefit from this?