When the circus came to town…
The realm of street arts and circus is a new direction for Coasters partner, Worthing Theatres. Traditionally a venue based organisation, 2016 saw them host their first ‘Summer of Circus’ with a dynamic mix of indoor and outdoor circus and street arts shows.
Summer of Circus combined free participatory events alongside ticketed productions, including two Coasters shows; Gorilla Circus’ Altitude (along with trapeze workshops for the public), and Acrojou’s Frantic.
Aiming to provide a vibrant, fun and unusual offer which challenged their more traditional audiences, Worthing Theatres also wanted to tap into as yet unrealised ones through a new exciting programming offer.
“Our aim was to open people up to this wonderful art form, through free, participatory and international contemporary circus shows, making them as accessible as possible to all ages,” said Stephen Sheldrake, Worthing Theatres’ Press & Media Officer, “in the process, we opened Worthing up to new beautiful genre of entertainment like never before.”
The programming of Coasters shows were tactically deployed. Gorilla Circus with their eye-catching outdoor rig were located in Lancing Beach Green, a popular spot with families and highly visible location.
Acrojou’s Frantic was part of the launch and a standalone show in the programme, offering an opportunity for audiences to whet their appetite for circus with no-risk, free shows. Worthing’s box office capabilities enabled them to monitor this in some detail, noting distinct spikes in bookings for other shows following both Acrojou performances.
Summer of Circus translated into some positive statistics, with 33% of audiences being new to the organisation. 97% cited 4-star and 5-star ratings for the performances. It also enabled the theatres to build audiences amongst one of their target groups (younger professionals), who accounted for 44% of bookings over the Summer of Circus.
The development of ‘audience knowledge’ was high on Worthing’s priorities too. One of their aims had been to help audiences understand how circus has developed from their preconceived notions.
“I didn’t realise I liked circus before today,” noted one audience member, “I still though there was a ring-master! This was great!”
The value of Summer of Circus to the local economy was carefully monitored too. They identified secondary spend over the course of the festival as almost £1.5million. The two Coasters shows accounting for over £27,000.
Reputation building was high on Worthing’s ambition list. In part, this was about supporting their local cultural strategy and building the image of Worthing as a town, but also about diversifying the organisations programming to be more contemporary and experimental, thereby enhancing their reputation with more progressive audiences and within the sector.
“We surpassed our expectations around reputation,” explained Stephen, “building relationships with a number of circus companies wishing to help establish the Pavilion Theatre as a focal point for circus; developing strategic partnerships; and exciting new funding approaches. We look forward to continuing our circus season in 2017 with more new and exciting companies, establishing ourselves as the home of circus on the south coast in the process.”
You can check out a little more about Worthing’s involvement in Coasters on the Worthing Theatre’s blog here