Sex In Real Life Evaluation
Below is the written and video evidence and evaluation for the development and performance of Sex In Real Life.
Quantitative - tickets sold, tour-dates secured, participants engaged, audience reached
We sold 87 tickets, at first this felt disappointing but we attribute much of this in part to Barnsley’s location and the length of the evening - it finished after the last public transport to Leeds - a base for much of our audience - had terminated. Many people fed back that these factors prevented them from attending. Also we felt that the Civic had not been very proactive in promoting the show or - as became apparent - forging connections with local press, whom we found very difficult to engage.
Only 100 seats of the possible 300 were planned (from the beginning) to be made available for New Work Night, and in selling 87 tickets we broke their sales record, which indicates the historical difficulty of selling tickets for that event, and for dance, which Ian Morley had personally attested to in our first conversations, so this makes us more confident that the work we put in to market the show was effective.
We were also disappointed to find that so few venues managed to attend the show, despite us inviting many, in good time, with well-thought out invitations, often exactly as they specified preference in the Venues North “Routes In” document, created for the purpose of better communication between artists and venues. Some of these were last-minute cancellations over which we had no control. We secured 1 tour date with York Theatre Royal in their main house which was a huge achievement for us, and we are in ongoing talks with various other venues with a view to being booked to tour around the York Theatre Royal date in Autumn 2018.
Going forward we will continue to utilise our current contacts, especially with people who did see the show, and expand our networks and forge as many relationships with venue staff in person as possible, to strengthen the impact of contact made later.
We reached our target for participants with our outreach activities which was fantastic, with a diversity of race, gender and age among the groups, which was our intention.
We received huge boosts to our projected audience reach numbers by partnering with Barnsley’s POP Pride Over Prejudice festival featuring us in their brochure and on their social media feed, as well as our own social media activity and paid “boosts” for our posts and trailer, and two appearances to discuss the show and its themes on BBC Radio Sheffield which has 178,000 total listeners per week. Paulette Edwards, whose show I was featured on, tweeted about the show to her 2627 Twitter Followers providing further exposure.
The Sheffield Telegraph, with a circulation of 8092 ran an interview piece about me as an artist and Sex In Real Life ahead of the show.
We were featured in various local entertainment listings including Voice Magazine, Welcome to Yorkshire and UK Theatre Web.
Qualitative logistics - how smoothly the activities happened, what challenges, what opportunities , and
Qualitative artistic - Audience feedback, participant feedback, performer and management team feedback. Press, personal reflection on process, product and learning/artistic development.All measured against original proposed activity and achievement aims
Audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive and achieved my ambitions for how the show would be received. (See Evidence Feedback and Data attachment)
Participant feedback was very positive, and feedback they gave in person was crucial for the improvement and development of the outreach pack.
While it was not possible in the end to glean feedback from performers without interfering with rehearsals and breaks which - as the period was so intense - felt unethical, their spontaneous responses to the process and the work were very positive and one of the performers fed back:
“This has been the most fun I’ve ever had on a project”
They were committed and worked exceptionally hard with fantastic results and have all requested to be included in the future life of the project.
We aimed to expand the profile of the work going forward, and anticipated that this would be in part achieved by attracting positive reviews. However, as mentioned, while we received exposure on the radio and from the Sheffield Telegraph we struggled to attract any press to the event itself. This is something about which we are particularly concerned as it is a major drawback for future tour booking and advertisement, and denies us some insight into how the piece is critically received. We are confident that we had excellent press materials as we developed them in collaboration with our mentors and the venue, and we did everything possible in order to engage the press initially; writing, calling, social media contacting and pursuing contacts both independently and via the Civic marketing team, offering comps and interviews and using not only the Civic’s press contact lists, but also lists from Sheffield and Leeds, and were disappointed in the lack of availability for writers to attend. Having witnessed this process at other venues and receiving insight from other companies who have tried to engage press at the Civic, we feel that this is in large part a problem specific to the location, and would not be the case in a larger, more accessible city with more interaction between press and the venue. We also see that Friday nights are more difficult to attract people to work during, and new work, especially in the context of an evening of new work, requires additional attention to investing in good press relations.
However as this reluctance was so unexpected, we did not have a contingency plan in place. Going forward we will invest more time in building relations with the press at venues with lower press engagement and local bloggers, will avoid having one-night runs on Friday nights, and will set aside money to reimburse travel expenses for reviewers to encourage them to make the journey.
My personal reflection on the product is that I am very happy with the performance itself, my artistic vision was achieved and I was thrilled to converse with audience members afterwards and hear their interpretations of the ideas and their impressions of the show’s elements (See video weblink for audience feedback, film of the show and interview). The ideas evidently all came across clearly, and were energising and inspiring as I’d hoped.
On the process, it did feel very brief, but this was more out of necessity than design and the team and I rose to the challenge.
Frustratingly, the evaluation for me has been the most difficult part, and while the practical project finished on time, the evaluation has been extremely delayed. This was despite my best efforts; gathering a range of data and materials throughout the project, I had planned a fairly informal evaluation process, having had positive experiences with this model previously, but because of considerable disruptions in my personal life the process was delayed, and then as the producer’s contracted time had expired, she took work elsewhere and this delayed the evaluation process further, and it was then difficult to find availability to complete the evaluation. In future I will plan a much more formalised evaluation process and include a contingency plan should a similarly unexpected disruption happen.
I must add that this delay was greatly exacerbated by the stress induced by the user-unfriendly Grantium system; repeatedly I returned to my application to find that my data had been wiped from the income and expenditure tables, despite my saving them. Sometimes this happened within the same session. This set me back a lot and made the task feel completely impossible and overwhelming. The process and requirements are not clear and many of the supplementary guidelines are difficult to find and navigate, and missing important information, meaning that sessions spent working on the form required unnecessarily prolonged periods of research. As a freelancer who has to spend a lot of time travelling, working away from home and doing erratic hours, and as someone going through emotional difficulty, I found this system very poor and in fact actively obstructive to my trying to complete what should be a simple task - while it absolutely did not need to, I feel it presents an access issue.
My challenges for the future are the difficulty I experienced with the videographer, which is a hiring and team management issue. I have previously had such positive experiences with specialist collaborators that I was trusting, and have learned that this is a mistake if I have not worked with the person previously, despite him coming highly recommended and having an impressive portfolio.
Other challenges are the difficulties with attracting press and venues as detailed above.
These factors had the effect of changing the requirements of the tour booking role which was a frustrating development, but ultimately has allowed us more time to develop the idea of becoming a company - FlightRisk - and plan brand identity and strategy for the future, and create high quality supplementary documents for venues which will increase our likelihood of success with tourbooking (See show-pack attachment - not full quality for size reasons).
Budget review - safe and appropriate spending
While we were disappointed to fall short of our income targets, we were able to manage our expenditure carefully. We saved money in some places and our contingency covered reasonable unforeseen eventualities as intended.