Spotlight on... Chris Wellings (Audience Development Officer)

Spotlight on... Chris Wellings (Audience Development Officer)

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

by Rebecca Parkinson

Chris Wellings is the Audience Development and Participation Officer at the Darlington Civic Theatre. Running workshops and organising events are just some of the ways he uses to attract an audience. But what else is involved?

Chris Wellings is in charge of attracting audiences to the theatre beyond just attending performances.

“Creating an audience development plan depends on the type of group we are trying to attract. If we are trying to attract a school group, the plan can take effect immediately.

“We contact the school and tell them about a new production and see if they are interested in seeing it. If they say yes, when they arrive we make them feel welcome and tell them about the resources we have. After this, we make sure we keep in contact with them and inform them about future performances, which might make them attend more regularly.”

“When school students have watched A View from the Bridge, they have been shocked at the level of poverty that the characters live in.”
Chris Wellings, Audience Development and Participation Officer 

One of the reasons Chris creates plans to attract new audiences is so the theatre can continue operating. However, he also creates these plans to allow the audience to get involved with other people’s lives and connect with each other.  

“When school students have watched A View from the Bridge, they have been shocked at the level of poverty that the characters live in.”

Chris also has to alter his development plan depending on what type of show it is. For shows aimed at families, there is a feedback board in the foyer where families can leave their opinion on the shows they have seen. These opinions are then collected so the theatre can see how successful they are at providing entertainment for families.

“For shows from touring theatre companies like the Touring Consortium Theatre Company, we have feedback forms where people can write down what attracted them to the show.”

“To promote A View from the Bridge, we have asked members of the audience to write their feedback on small whiteboards with the hashtag ‘Viewbridge’ which we share on social media. We also encourage the audience to share the pictures themselves, which not only shows what people think of the show but it also helps us develop the audience.”

As a way to make sure that people keep coming to the theatre and watch similar productions, there are several incentives set in place. One of these is having a special ticket rate, which is where people who have watched a performance from a certain production company receive a special ticket next time they watch a production from them.

“If someone has previously watched a performance by the Touring Consortium Theatre for example Regeneration or To Sir with Love, they would get a special ticket rate if they come to see A View from the Bridge.”

A View from the Bridge opened at Theatre Royal, Nottingham, where it ran from 4 to 7 March 2015. It then toured to Cheltenham, Darlington, Wolverhampton, Bradford, Coventry and Edinburgh, where it concluded on 2 May.