A Romanian in Nottingham – part 2
First weekend in Nottingham! I made the most of it. Good weather helped a lot! I went out to visit some of the city’s attractions…walked around from The theatre Royal to Victoria Centre, the Old Market square, the Lace Market and last, but not least, Nottingham Castle. I stopped and stared at buildings, narrow streets or wide boulevards, phone booths and double-deckers… took loads of pictures and enjoyed every single minute of a wonderful afternoon.
I have to admit I was very surprised by the castle. I expected a trip back in time and I thought that the whole place must be themed around the world-famous Robin Hood legend. Instead, I found a medieval castle which hosted bits and pieces of English history, Greek ancient pottery, Ukrainian traditional costumes and folk art, classic paintings, digital art, installations and so on. I loved that most of the exhibitions were interactive and invited the visitor to become more than just a bystander.
On Saturday evening I indulged myself on a “eat all you can” experience, after noticing some people queuing in front of a restaurant. I was curious enough to stop and try to find out why they were all waiting to get inside. And I decided to stay. It was my first experience of the kind…they had sort of a world cuisine menu and I tried almost anything I hadn’t eaten before. As I wrote to my friends afterwards, I actually ate “more than I can”, but if I were to die from it, at least I would have a large satisfied smile on my face (back home the variety of world cuisine one can try is reduced to Italian pizza and pasta, some Greek-like menus and a very expensive Lebanese treat).
Second week at the Playhouse
It started with my moving to Jim and Karen’s place…On Monday morning I was all packed and ready to move my things to Jim and Karen Broughton’s house, where I was to be accommodated for the next five days. This is how I met two of the loveliest people ever. They weren’t just renting a room; they did their best to look after me and make me feel at home! And, by God, they spoiled me!
Jim is now working on Stage Door and as a Performance Fire Warden, but his life stories could easily make a best seller! His wife Karen has worked for the Playhouse as a Chaperone and she is such a warm and kind-hearted woman! In their seventies, married for fifty years, they are the best example of an everlasting married couple, in these times where words like “ex-“ or “partner” seem to replace little by little the husband & wife terms. And I’ll quote Jim, who revealed their secret recipe to me: “All these years, we’ve never gone to bed on a bad word!” Inspirational…even for a sceptical like me!
Here is the Marketing team: Simon (Head of Marketing and Communications), Bea (Marketing and Communications Manager), Dave (Marketing and Communications Officer), Heather (Group Visits Coordinator) and Laura (Marketing and Communications Assistant). I should also mention the Development team, not only because their office is next door, but also because their work is very important to the marketing and PR activity: Derek (Memberships Manager), Nick (Fundraising and Development Manager) and Natalia (Fundraising and Development officer). These are the people who conceive and put into practice Nottingham Playhouses’ strategy to advertise and “sell” theatre to the customers, i.e. to the audience. Not only the products (performances, artistic events), but the customers as well are very diverse (probably as diverse as the city itself). Therefore, NP’s Marketing Department’s work is at the same time innovative, challenging, creative and difficult. It has to be very well organised, planned and targeted in order to get the best results. Each member of the team has a key contribution to the market success of every event.
As Simon explained, they usually know the theatre’s programme one year in advance and the marketing of each events starts very early. I won’t get into details, but from the moment they know a certain performance is going to be in the repertoire to the final presentation of it, there is an entire strategy that they put together step-by-step, to make the theatre market “aware” of it, to raise the potential audience’s interest and allow early reservations. The closer to the opening night they get, the more busy they become. Brochures, posters, flyers, press releases, advertisements, special offers, special events, they are all conceived and planned here by young and creative people who do their best in promoting live art works. They are closely working together with other related departments, such as the Box Office and the Educational departments, whose contribution is also fundamental to get the most from advertising theatre performances and events. And, most importantly, all these people are building together, brick-by-brick, the overall image of the entire theatre company, in the sense that they convey a general picture of what Nottingham Playhouse stands for, its role and contribution to the local and regional community and artistic environment.
What I’ve learned?
I come from a theatre that doesn’t even have a Marketing department… The main reason for that is, probably, that we do marketing and PR on a much smaller scale. Printing and mailing tens of thousands of brochures would be, for instance, unconceivable! Mostly because we could never find the financial means to do that! Marketing and PR is the responsibility of the same people who work as literary secretaries, translators, event organizers and so on. And those people are: three literary secretaries and two PR secretaries (including myself) – these are the formal job titles, but all five of us do bits and pieces of what I listed above. There are so many different things, but I will try to refer to the similarities, rather than what I won’t be able to put into practice once I’m back. So, both our theatre consider attracting and retaining new audiences a priority. It is fundamental to increase audiences and to meet their expectations in order to be able to count on them in the future.
How could that be done? I might dream on about very useful tools such as Tessitura or Mosaic, which are used by the Playhouse to analyse audience engagement and to create a database of their regular or potential audiences. But, then again, that would be just a dream, in our case. So, I focused on smaller scale tips that could help us have a more diverse and constant audience. Exploring new forms of art and drama might also be considered an act of courage in a Romanian theatre company, but if the costs of doing it weren’t too high, the risk is worth taking! It could open the theatre doors to welcome more people! Rewarding our regular audiences with more appealing special offers or events, might also be a solution to better promote our theatre and its activity. Creating some sort of membership scheme, organising social events for a limited number of our theatre goers, giving people a chance to take a look behind the scenes or to have a preview of what a certain production is going to be like could be very helpful hints for us.