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6th November 2018 Bea Udeh

Let’s revisit them #ADA

Emilie Wiseman, ADA 3.0 Fellow is reflecting on how her organisation, Fuel Theatre, can make a difference by re-visiting previous locations to build on the relationships previously made with audiences.

GIF realised by Lee Goater, Image artwork by Carolyn Hill, Chillcreate

At Fuel, we’re very committed to engaging a diverse audience with the shows we produce and we’ve had successes over the last few years. More particularly with Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams at The National Theatre and Leeds Playhouse in 2017. We know from audience reports that the show attracted the most diverse audience ever for both venues. A lot of work and investment went into audience development and community outreach at the time.  

But the question is, how can we scale the work up as we embark on a massive UK tour in spring 2019 or scale it down when we have smaller shows on the road doing one or two dates in places as opposed to long runs.  

As a touring organisation, this is something that we are faced with all the time. How do we keep in touch with audiences and how do we reach out to a diverse audience sustainably? 

We spent a lot of time thinking about this in a strategic manner with everyone at Fuel. We knew that the only way we could actually nurture relationships with audiences would be to consciously return to places twice a year if possible This greatly influenced our programming attitude and tour booking and partnerships strategy. Having a body of work exploring similar issues and returning to the same locations was the first thing to sort out. 

Then came along the Audience Diversity Academy opportunity and it felt like a very timely opportunity to go into delivery mode and actually experiment with scaling our audience engagement work according to the resources we have and parameters of a tour. 

As we set out on the journey, we collectively asked ourselves, what do we mean by engaging a diverse audience and nurturing relationships with them over the next two years? Looking at our programme of work, we had several shows made by artists from African heritage, exploring themes of migration, human rights, finding a home. We also knew that this body of work was likely to tour the same venues in cities of sanctuary. 

So the answer was obvious, we had an amazing opportunity to meaningfully engage two key audience groups:  

  • people of black heritage  
  • migrants and refugees 

Although we have done some work to try and engage these two audience groups before, the Academy has provided us with an opportunity to take a step back and think more deeply about reaching out to them. 

With the team, we’ve decided to carry out a series of experiments on our show The Dark by Nick Makoha, a poet who fled Uganda at the age of 4 in 1978. We’re planning our experiments at the moment. We’re using a mix of free tickets, creative activities on offer and most importantly, key ambassadors on the ground, using their contacts and a very targeted approach to reach out to the people we’re so eager to engage. I’ll let you know how we got on in the next blog post…

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