With the popularity of shows like In The Night Garden Live, Frozen on Ice and a whole host of live CBBC events, the family show has become a major part of the arts industry over the last few years.
Events aimed at families bring in income and help develop a relationship with the audiences of the future early on. They diversify audiences, giving people of all ages the opportunity to enjoy live performances.
Buxton Opera House are signed up the the Family Arts Standards. As part of this they promise to offer, where possible, things like easy access, suitable facilities for families and useful information about events. They also promise to ‘Ask families about their experiences and views’ and implement changes where possible.
The marketing team sent out a short questionnaire to family bookers, asking them what they liked, what they didn’t like and what they’d like to know before visiting Buxton Opera House as a family. It’s always a little scary asking your audiences for feedback for fear of a long list of requests that are impossible to achieve, but the team at Buxton were pleasantly surprised by the responses.
Family audiences are different to your normal audiences, but it’s not difficult to provide them with the info and service they need. The work Buxton Opera House has done gives an insight into what audiences want to know. Their use of a questionnaire is a speedy, cheap and efficient strategy that is easy to implement and gave the team some immediate answers.
Here’s some feedback they received.
Key Learnings from the Buxton Opera House Family Events Survey
People make a place
One of the most popular answers from customers was that they enjoy how friendly the staff are at the theatre, with 23% of respondents citing this as a positive experience. With an experienced Box Office team and a team of loyal volunteers, the staff at Buxton Opera House clearly make visitors feel welcome.
You can’t please everyone
While 20% said the programme was an incentive to visit the theatre, 10% said the programme had something missing, such as the type of event or the suitability for very young or teenage audiences. Like a lot of venues, Buxton Opera House programme more than just family events, so there will always be a compromise on the number and type of events available.
Need to know
When they asked their customers what they would like to know before they book a family event, there were three main answers: show timings (35%), what will the audience experience (19%) and what are the available facilities (18%).
These are all very practical and come down to bookers wanting to know what the experience will be like, from the point of booking to when they leave the theatre, and how they can prepare for a great day out with the family. Where people might take more of a risk when booking an event for adults, the cost and logistics of bringing a family to the theatre means bookers need to be well prepared.
Atmosphere is important, but so are toilets!
30% of respondents said they enjoy the atmosphere of the building. Buxton Opera House is a stunning Matcham theatre, which first opened its doors in 1903, with a stunning auditorium that a number of respondents said felt grand and very special.
Because of the age of the building, restructuring is difficult and could ruin that wonderful atmosphere that customers love. However 52% of respondents cited issues like the limited number of toilets, inability to reserve a booster seat, lack of storage facilities for buggies, heavy and awkward doors and stairs as negative aspects of visiting family events at the theatre – things most old buildings suffer from!
So, what can Buxton Opera House do to make visiting with a family easier?
Firstly, the team have divided the feedback into two categories – what they can easily change, and what they can’t. They aren’t in a position to build new toilets or install a lift, but they can provide more information to bookers and manage visitors’ expectations.
Family events have been publicised much like other events at Buxton Opera House. However, the feedback the team have received shows bookers want to know more than just the start time, price and an introduction to the event. Bookers also want to know what time the interval is, how long it will be and what time the show will finish. They’d like to know what their children will experience – will it be scary, is it suitable for 4 year olds, will there be any audience participation, will children sat in the circle enjoy it as much as those sat at the front?
Buxton Opera House are in the process of building a new website. The new site will include a dedicated page with family information and extra information relating to specific events. Additional information will help families plan their trip and know what to expect.
Giving the option to pre-book booster seats
The theatre offers booster seats on a first come first serve basis once families arrive at the theatre. Although it’s rare to run out, parents would like to reserve booster seats in advance, taking the worry out of their visit. Buxton Opera House are looking into offering these as a supplementary option when booking, so bookers can reserve them at the time of booking.
A new family leaflet and pre-show e-mail
The team have designed a new leaflet which will be sent to all first time family event bookers. This will detail information such as the best place to park, other attractions in the town to help families make a day of their visit and information on child friendly cafes and restaurants.
In addition to the leaflet, all bookers will receive a pre-show email with information relevant to the time of day the event is taking place and timings for the show, and any additional information bookers need in advance, providing a great service to families before they’ve even walked through the doors.
The team at the theatre can’t build more toilets or change the number of stairs, but they can provide more front of house staff. Although it’s not always possible, they will be aiming to provide two extra front of house volunteers for family shows who can help audience members open doors, move buggies around, keep an eye on queues for the bar or toilets and direct people to other facilities in the building.
Follow up campaign
The team at Buxton Opera house have shared the feedback they received with family bookers, highlighting changes they’ve made. This keeps the conversation opens and reassure family bookers that Buxton Opera House are responsive to feedback and suggestions.
The biggest lesson here is that attending an event as a family is very different to attending with just adults. This doesn’t mean your family audiences aren’t the same people who book a theatre or comedy show and attend without children. It just means that when booking a family show, the information required to make a quick decision and book tickets is different.
Following on from the feedback Buxton Opera House received they’re implementing changes that are cheap, automated (thanks to some great tools in Spektrix) and quick to put in place. The aim is to increase reattendance of family bookers by making their experience more enjoyable, something the team will be closely monitoring over the next year.