Pre-pandemic, the Litchfield Garrick was home to over 400 performances a year, so the Covid-shaped hole has been a wide one. The venue is deeply embedded within its local community, regularly producing and co-producing work, as well as running an Artist Development programme, choirs, drama clubs and a Community Engagement programme that works with local schools and arts organisations throughout the year. This existing spirit of collaboration has proved essential to Litchfield's ability to adapt over the past year. We spoke to the team about their Covid-19 response strategies and how they have been coping in the face of a pandemic. Litchfield Garrick's five-point Community Story covers:
- Life in Lock-down
- Adapting to New Approaches
- Considering our Comeback
- Navigating the New Normal
- Data-led Decision Making
Life in Lock-down
The business model has had to change dramatically and quickly. We were able to open for one show in November but then had to close immediately afterwards. Like many organisations who have Christmas shows, our Panto Season was hugelyaffected, but thankfully we were able to move our Panto Online (ohh yes we did…) so audiences could still have a festive experience with us, albeit from their own homes.
Adapting to New Approaches
Moving our shows online was a very new process for us, we had never filmed a production before(!) and this required us to work with new partner organisations and learn new skills quickly. We used an external company to help us with the Panto production moving online and worked with local shops to move our Santa’s grotto to a shop instead of our normal grotto in our venue. It has been really useful to share ideas with other arts organisations and has been so vital to work together across the industry – this was especially supportive during and in between periods of being furloughed.
Considering our Comeback
We are approaching reopening with clear audience comms and staff training on the new ways of working. We were able to reopen briefly before Christmas and established robust safety measure which our audiences adapted to really well. Our venue has some great features such as it own sophisticated ventilation system, which, along with processes we have implemented (such as seat cleaning after each show and a one way system), means we are more than ready to welcome audiences back! We know that working with audiences’ confidence levels will be a challenge; we hope that by encouraging customers to use Book and Protect (a ticket insurance option) this will help offer reassurances.
Navigating the New Normal
It is really hard to say how things will be and what will become our “normal”. We know we will need to be flexible and work with audiences as they begin to reengage with us. Box office processes will likely be more focussed on online bookings and we want to be able to offer a digital offer in terms of our programme – we do know from audience feedback though that most audiences are eager to (and prefer to) come to shows in person. We will aim to strike a balance!
Data-led Decision Making
We have been looking at the Audience Finder resources as key tools for us in reaching audiences in their “natural habitats”. We know that the future success of the venue relies on us adapting our model; our core audiences may have changed and we would like to reach new ones as well if possible. We have chosen to work with The Audience Agency beyond the Audience Finder platform and tag our database using the Audience Spectrum Licence. This is going to be so useful for us to plan campaigns and identify where and how we can communicate with our database in the best way. The tagging will let us deepen our understanding of their needs as audiences - it will certainly be a key part of our recovery.
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