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May 24, 2014
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September 10, 2014

Hull Grow Festival

How exciting – My first visit to the fine city of Hull! My knowledge stretched about as far as it being the upcoming City of Culture, having an awesome aquarium and some nice riverside restaurants. Though, neither did I splash out on a fancy meal by water, or dabble in underwater education during my visit, I had a rather lovely, fulfilling time.

But what enticed us out of the comforts of Lincoln was Grow Festival, produced by Kate Dunby. The magic of Twitter, and our tapped in friends, helped us find this week filled with learning, developing and appropriately, growing. Held at Hull Truck Theatre, the week consisted of free workshops for funding, budgeting and marketing. Alongside this, there were creative days of writing, directing and devising with some very influential people, namely Sarah Brigham, Artistic Director of Derby Theatre. Director Tom attended the latter, whilst I headed for the former.

First on my list was Budgeting. A necessary evil, that plagues the minds of creatives as they rip themselves from the fuzzy comforts of emotions, colour palettes and symbolism. This is pure maths, facts and figures. To my surprise, I thought this might actually be quite refreshing.

In the most basic terms, this is about not spending as much as you are earning/given. So beautifully simple, yet understandably a huge obstacle. The work shop was led by Janthi Mills-Ward, Executive Director of Hull Truck. The case study and examples were obviously on a much larger scale, and for a theatre venue as opposed to theatre company. However, what was left ringing in my ears was: “Once you have mastered a budget sheet for £100, you can do a budget sheet for £1 000 000”. I liked that. And that’s when I started to really grasp the appeal of the black and white approach. Armed with a calculator, you cannot stop me!

Tax redemption, ‘in kind’, management fee, ITC, expenditures, finance… It went on and I soon realised this was about as complex as defining ‘post-modernism’. We then put, what had been crammed into less than an hour, into practice. In small teams we drafted a budget sheet based on a project. A little stunned and cautious we worked through each element, the key being to work out expenditures before income etc etc.

Do I know more than I did before? Certainly. But let’s see what happens when we do it for No Added Sugar… It’s going to be a long year!

Next up was Marketing! This was held by an enthusiastic man from Force 7, who played his part in ensuring Hull became the City of Culture by some rather clever hash-tagging. It was not long before a very important message flashed up to me. Getting bums on seats is all about understanding who your audience are, and forming relationships with them, (non-romantically of course, there’s not many of us to go around).

Where do we fit in ‘the market’?

Who is our customer base?

Why are you different?

What’s your style?

Are you consistent with your tone? And across all channels?

Previous to this session, I morphed an audience into a single blob in my mind. Three Words is deeply human, made by humans, and humans are going to attend, watch and hopefully enjoy. Yet I didn’t even consider for a second that when you are marketing for a show you need to understand your audiences personality, age, likes, dislikes. Even what car they drive, or where they shop.

There’s a lot of ideas floating around now, from taster nights, to ‘win for a retweet’ etc etc. learning who our audience is will take time, they could be entirely different to what we think they are. It’s a learning curve that will get more definite and precise over time. I think it’s educated guesses and a bit of bravery at this stage…

Many thanks to Hull Truck and Hull Grow for having us! We’ll be seeing you same time next year.

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