The Point, Eastleigh - one of our Pathfinder organisations - has been telling us about their experiences adjusting to these unprecedented circumstances, what their COVID-19 response strategies are, and how they're playing out. The Point's five-point Community Story covers:
- Life in Lock-down
- Adapting to New Approaches
- Considering our Comeback
- Data-led Decision Making
- Navigating the New Normal
Life in Lock-down
We closed our doors to the public at the end of March and at that point we never anticipated that we’d still be working at home in August with no clear dates for staff to return to the venue. The Point, Eastleigh and sister venue The Berry Theatre are owned and managed by Eastleigh Borough Council. We are incredibly lucky to have the continued support of the Council and that The Point is an Arts Council England NPO organisation. That said, we are all too aware of the fragility of the sector and know that we must continue to adapt creatively and focus on how we achieve resilience moving forwards.
All members of our team are now working at home. As a forward-thinking Council, Eastleigh already had the technology to allow us to remote work. This, along with Spektrix - a Cloud-based box office system - and a recent roll out of Microsoft Office Teams has made working remotely a much easier process.
Our immediate work was to communicate the closure and start the lengthy process of cancelling 534 events and 23 hiring company bookings and working with artists to minimise the impact. Our audience response has been incredible, with messages of support, donations and holding tickets.
With budget freezes to allow the Council to focus on supporting those most at need within the Borough, we have refocused our work to:
- adapt and respond to the situation;
- do our best to support the health and wellbeing needs of our community;
- and support the wider ecology of the sector in our region.
Adapting to New Approaches
We quickly turned to taking our work online and have:
- Run 169 online creative activities, from dance to theatre and health & wellbeing, with 5,450 attendances from children, young people and adults across our community.
- Produced The Nightingale Walks – curating a carefully planned route for Soprano singer Lucy Mellors through the streets of Eastleigh each week during Lockdown, to sing a mix of well-known songs and opera arias in response to the cancellation of our annual outdoor festival Eastleigh Unwrapped.
- Continued to financially support all artists programmed for Eastleigh Unwrapped, with generous support from Arts Council England.
- Developed free meditation resources shared through our online platforms.
- Enabled 151 young people to continue weekly creative classes in a new virtual format.
- Run a drama performance project to support Year 6 and 7 children from seven schools in our Borough supporting children with the transition to secondary school.
- Supported Year 10 students to continue their work experience and Bronze Arts Award accreditations virtually.
- Empowered two young people to work on a Gold Arts Award accreditation and create events that capture the experiences of young people in lockdown.
- Assisted 575 older people facing isolation to receive stories to brighten their day.
- Given 30 community artists a platform to share their work for positive mental health.
- Continued work with 22 training professional dancers in Hampshire Youth Dance Company who have worked with professional artists to create video performances, one of which has been nominated for a national screening.
- And much more…
Simply moving content online doesn’t mean that people will engage with it! We were so flat out that really measuring campaigns and work fell to the bottom of the list. It’s essential to take a step back and really look at who is engaging, what’s working and what isn’t.
The Internet was flooded with free content – we had to think not just about how we could be heard, but rather what our community needed and wanted to see. This allowed us to focus our energy on relevant and useful content. As with our usual campaign activity, ensuring that it’s sent to targeted, segmented audiences drives engagement.
We have been overwhelmed to be part of a sector that is always so incredibly generous at sharing resources and information with one another, from Zoom guides to hints and tips through the AMA Facebook group, LinkedIn and more. We’ve been proud to see the cultural sector respond swiftly and innovatively, with industry support from the Arts Council, cultural agencies, the ever so welcome emails and support from The Audience Agency and a rapid digital response from Spektrix to support the complex process of cancelling, refunding and crediting accounts and processing donations.
Considering our Comeback
Using the notion of a ‘culture café’, we plan to shift the way we use spaces in The Point, creating a socially distanced bookable facility, to enable our audiences and communities to have a safe space to meet that complies with all government guidance.
We aim to support growth in community confidence in social spaces and become a safe space for social interaction and a trusted community hub. We will continue to build on the positive reputation of Eastleigh Borough Council and The Point with a focus on encouraging engagement, skill sharing through community cohesion initiatives and generating income for our future through our café bar and wider offer.
Our safety modifications will be thorough and in line with evolving government guidance. We will only open to the public with strict modifications in place to ensure that staff and visitors feel safe and secure.
We are in the process of developing new systems of working and will include the following headline principles:
- Using Spektrix to allow audiences to book tables, enabling data capture for track and trace.
- Limited numbers in the building at any one time, with staggered entry and exit times.
- Delineating spaces to allow for social distancing.
- One-way flow around the building.
- Increased hand sanitising or hand wash points.
- Additional sanitising of touch points and toilets.
- Safety signage explaining what additional measures are in place.
- An FAQ section on our websites, linked from social media and e-tickets to detail all the measures that we will take.
- Photos and videos on our website to show audiences the spaces prior to booking.
We are also exploring drive-in film screenings and increasing our partnership and collaborative work with the Council’s Sports & Health team and our Country Parks, taking cultural and creative experiences out into our local open spaces.
Data-led Decision Making
We are using a range of data, including Audience Finder figures, which give us a good indication of how we may set up seating groups for future ticketed events. Our Audience Finder-provided headline party size and advance booking information has been critical in influencing decisions when looking at campaign lead in times and supporting our thoughts around space configuration.
We have joined the National Audience Research, After the Interval & Act 2, overseen by Indigo, which has given us real insight into our own audiences’ confidence, motivation and booking behaviours alongside the national picture. We are also using The Audience Agency Digital Audience Survey to understand customer motivations, concerns and confidence levels and to address this within our planning.
We are new to using Activity Stream, which is providing us with further segmented data using Audience Spectrum. This has been particularly useful for exploring lifetime customer spends for donation campaign planning.
Navigating the New Normal
As a key cultural and community hub in Eastleigh town centre, and as a multi-space, multi-use building, The Point can play a significant part in Eastleigh’s recovery and regeneration. The building and its capacity to manage social distancing presents a positive opportunity for our residents to reconnect. We are adept at being creative in our approach and now seek to work in new ways, inviting our participants and audiences to share ideas and to listen and learn from them. What do they want, what can we do to support this, how will they feel safe?
Our processes will be underpinned by even more robust health and safety procedures as we explore how can we keep our staff team safe and maintain our friendly and personal approach. We are not just a theatre, but a community hub for many who come to us for more than just seeing a show; for company, a shared moment or coffee and a place to meet others and be inspired.
We are still adapting activities to respond to the easing of lock-down with planning underway for scaled down outdoor classes, health and well-being walks and drive in movies. As Eastleigh Town Centre and other council buildings reopen, it is crucial that we become a resource for social interaction, developing community confidence and creating opportunities for training and skills transfer to ensure that Eastleigh is a resilient, creative and optimistic Borough for the future.
If you have any questions or are ready to send over a story, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org