Theatres across England and stars of stage and screen are backing Arts Council England’s A Night Less Ordinary scheme as it celebrates its first anniversary.
The pilot scheme was launched on 10 February 2009 with the aim of giving away just over 600,000 free tickets to under 26 year olds at more than 200 venues across the country by the end of March 2011.
Dame Judi Dench is currently appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Rose Theatre Kingston, where under 26s are enjoying the show free of charge with A Night Less Ordinary. She said: “This scheme is an important step forward in encouraging young people all over England to experience the unique experience of live theatre. They are the audience of the future and I wish A Night Less Ordinary every success.”
Sienna Miller has just completed a starring role on Broadway in After Miss Julie and was recently spotted watching her friend Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope at London’s Comedy Theatre, to which free tickets were also available. Sienna said: “With live theatre, every night is different, and it can be unbelievably exciting. What I love, having performed on stage, is the audience’s ability to affect the actors. It’s a totally interactive medium, and A Night Less Ordinary is free no less, which makes it a truly wonderful initiative!”
Full year results will be available in April but only 9 months in, more than 122,000 tickets have been taken up – 70 per cent of the projected target at this point in the scheme – and the Arts Council is confident that the two year target will be achieved.
Chief Executive Alan Davey said: “This is a pilot scheme designed to reach young adults who are making their own choices about entertainment, and to influence them to choose theatre. Make no mistake, it’s challenging. It’s never been done on this scale before and the budgets are tight, but we’re getting there.
“Results for the first nine months are encouraging but this is about more than the numbers. We want to learn the best way to reach new young audiences and to encourage a long-term theatre-going habit. The scheme is being independently evaluated and we’ll publish the results next summer.
“Meanwhile it’s exciting to hear the real impact A Night Less Ordinary is having in helping theatres to reach new young audiences.”
Sheena Wrigley, General Director and joint Chief Executive of West Yorkshire Play house said: “Being part of A Night Less Ordinary has been tremendously important to West Yorkshire Playhouse. For us the power of the scheme goes beyond the 5,565 free tickets we’ve given to young people throughout Yorkshire. ANLO now underpins our partnerships with the city’s two universities, and adds a valuable dimension to our Arts Development and educational programmes by enabling young participants, and their friends, to see live theatre for free.
“We have also been able to use this scheme to reach out to families and communities who may not ordinarily access the theatre. ANLO provided us with an opportunity to regalvanise our work with young people, creating a valuable launch pad for future projects: it is this legacy we are now working towards.”
Giles Croft, Artistic Director, Nottingham Playhouse says: “The scheme has been extraordinarily successful for us: we moved all 3,000 tickets for year 1 within 9 months and have a very high return visit rate. It has allowed us to make new contacts, broadened our audience and also encouraged us to be creative with our marketing.”
Chris Hill, Director of Sales and Marketing at the RSC says: “Since the scheme launched we have welcomed 3500 young people to enjoy our work. By removing the barrier of ticket price for young people, we have attracted audiences who might not have seen productions previously. The scheme provides an important stepping stone into theatre, from which we are able to develop our audiences of the future.”
A Night Less Ordinary is supported by £2.5 million extra funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Secretary of State for Culture Ben Bradshaw said: “A Night Less Ordinary has got off to a great start with 122,000 tickets being snapped up by young people, giving them the chance to enjoy the best of our theatre, many for the first time.
“This is a great example of Government investment increasing access to top quality culture for the many, not the few. We are building a new generation of theatre-lovers who feel the same sense of excitement and thrill of live action that so many of us are lucky enough to have already.”
A Night Less Ordinary venues around the country are celebrating the anniversary week (February 15 – 20) by hosting a whole range of Less Ordinary activities designed to attract even more young people to take advantage of the scheme. These include backstage tours, after-show talks with the cast, workshops in stage combat, make-up and acting, and close encounters with actors volunteering for box office, ticket collection and programme selling.
For more information: www.anightlessordinary.org.uk