First hybrid event is a roaring success for Wiltshire Creative

by | Oct 27, 2021

Article #3 in TicketCo’s ongoing series on hybrid events

Arts organisation Wiltshire Creative received worldwide praise after successfully delivering its first ever hybrid event by broadcasting performances of September in the Rain.

The critically acclaimed show, directed by Gareth Machin and starring Ian Kelsey and Nicola Sloane, attracted hundreds of in-person audience members to Salisbury Playhouse while audiences on a domestic and international scale were able to tune in digitally.

In 2018 Salisbury Arts Centre, Salisbury International Arts Festival and Salisbury Playhouse merged to become Wiltshire Creative with backing from Arts Council England. September in the Rain marked the first time they had taken a full-scale production to digital audiences, on a global scale.

This first hybrid event was delivered in partnership with production company The Umbrella Rooms. But how did they do it? What would they change? And why hybrid?

We spoke to Sales and Systems Manager Rosie Townsend to learn more.

International appeal

Wiltshire Creative has the local community at its heart, working with people of all ages via its performances, creative learning plus school and youth activities.

The creation of new work has attracted engagement from audiences across the UK and internationally. COVID-19 acted as a blocker to these worldwide audiences, until ‘Wiltshire Creative Connects’ was established to retain audience engagement during lockdown.

“Wiltshire Creative Connects was a digital body of work of over 60 films that we created during the height of lockdown to keep connected to our audiences,” explained Rosie. “The regular content featured interviews, short films, virtual exhibitions and more.

“The engagement Wiltshire Creative Connects received inspired us to explore developing our digital strand in a way we hadn’t done before. Live streaming was a great financial investment for us as we want people outside of Wiltshire to have the opportunity to enjoy our work.”

Hybrid theatre

John Godber’s touchingly nostalgic play September in the Rain marked Wiltshire Creative’s first production for live, in-person audiences since the beginning of the pandemic. It was also the first show which could be attended at full capacity since March 2020.

Salisbury Playhouse can host up to 500 people for each performance, but there was an unlimited audience beyond the auditorium waiting to be tapped into.

By filming shows and broadcasting via TicketCo Media Services, September in the Rain attracted a global audience with viewers tuning in from Germany, the Netherlands and USA.

Rosie added: “This was a big moment for us returning after a difficult year, so we wanted performances to be available to everyone. We live streamed eight performances so viewers on a global scale had the opportunity to access the show. The feedback we received was great and we were delighted with the results.”

Quality filming

Wiltshire Creative have a talented production and technical team who work on their live performances.

But for the live broadcasts, they partnered with London-based The Umbrella Rooms who provided online audiences with a high-quality digital experience via live streaming.

TicketCo were also on-call to handle any immediate concerns the team had in relation to the performance of the live stream.

Rosie said: “We learnt a lot of lessons in terms of broadcasting a performance which was streamed and also attended by people physically.

“The feedback from our domestic and international digital viewers was very positive so streaming was worth our time and investment.”

Audience feedback and income

Viewers across Europe and North America were among those who appreciated Wiltshire Creative’s investment in live streaming.

Not only could they tune in from the comfort of their homes, but they also had the option to support Wiltshire Creative’s work by adding a donation when purchasing their ticket for the stream.

As a registered charity, every little really does help. It’s why Wiltshire Creative added the option for digital viewers to give a voluntary £5 donation on top of their live stream charge.

They were delighted that 30% of digital viewers decided to give a £5 donation when booking to watch the stream of September in the Rain.

“I love Wiltshire Creative performances and whenever I visit Salisbury I enjoy their productions,” said one viewer who tuned in from Germany. “I really appreciate the option to watch performances online when I can’t be in Salisbury physically.”

Hybrid and its future

So, what does the future look like for hybrid and how is it best delivered?

Rosie believes having every department involved in a digital production helps organisations to align expectations concerning digital events.

She added: “We are looking forward to streaming our Christmas production of Snow White and the Happy Ever Beauty Salon this December.

“We’re very pleased with our first hybrid production results. Delivering this stream has taught us a lot and we will continue to make sure our productions are accessible to all.”

Photo: September in the Rain at Salisbury Playhouse.

Photographer: The Other Richard. Lighting design: Johanna Town. Set design: Toots Butcher

Written by Shaun Reynolds

Communications advisor and expert storyteller with Fortitude Communications. A former news reporter and sports editor of five years across several UK regional titles. Experienced in photography and social media management with a passion for the outdoors.

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