Audience Development & Street Teams for Macbeth
One of the objectives of Black Theatre Live (BTL) is to develop new audiences for a range of venues across the UK.
They are different in terms of profile, location, demographics, audience development experience and priorities. For the tour of Macbeth, the South Asian community was identified as the main focus of the new audience development work (as it is still an under-represented theatre audience and Macbeth was the perfect vehicle for this work). There were a whole host of marketing and PR activities delivered to promote Macbeth to a non-theatre and traditional theatre audience but as the South Asian community was a priority it meant going into the heart of this community was integral to the audience development strategy. This was the only way of personalising the play whilst promoting the key elements alongside learning from the community, brokering potential partnerships and strengthening our audience development practice.
A strong image with clear cultural references supported by a South Asian setting were key selling points during the outreach distribution campaign. Many South Asians we spoke with were familiar with Shakespeare and in some cases, Macbeth but it was the South Asian context that drew interest to the play. Some South Asians explained that they had seen Macbeth at school when they studied it (this was the case in East London and Peterborough) and many had seen the Bollywood adaptation (Maqbool) which allowed us to make a direct connection to the narrative. However, more often than not, there was interest in this play which challenged the notion that South Asians are only interested in popular theatre. South Asians like the rest of the world are a diverse range of individuals and communities with varying tastes and interests and this version of Macbeth appealed to a significant number of South Asians we spoke with.
The BTL venues were also interesting in terms of their geographical relationship with South Asian communities. Stratford Circus, Derby Theatre and the Key Theatre literally have South Asian communities on their door steps. There are significant population of South Asian communities living less than 30 minute drive time from Queens Hall (in Newcastle) and The Lighthouse (in Bournemouth). Ipswich with nearly 45 minute drive time is the nearest town with a South Asian population to Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds. Theatre Royal Margate was the only venue that does not have a significant South Asian demographic but it does have South Asian residents reflected in the number of South Asian businesses in the town centre.
In all these cases my street teams and I went into the heart of the community to learn as much as promote. No amount of desk research can replace frontline community engagement which allows you to experience the changes on the ground and get an immediate sense of the public’s perceptions, experiences and challenges. The findings of this work are invaluable in terms of sustaining the BTL audience development work. Has the outreach distribution work translated into ticket sales? We can only truly know this by analysing box office sales and their database profiles, speaking to the audiences - going back to conversations again.
BTL blog by Hardish Virk