Arts Council England
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A Night Less Ordinary evaluation report published

Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last week published a report in to the A Night Less Ordinary scheme which ran from February 2009 until March 2011.

A Night Less Ordinary was a pilot scheme to test whether theatre attendance by under 26s could be increased if price was removed as a barrier by offering free theatre tickets to children and young people at more than 200 participating venues throughout England. It was the first time the theatre industry and the Arts Council had worked together on a single, nationwide audience development scheme.

The key findings of the report are:

  • the scheme gave away 396,687 free tickets from its target of around 500,000 with the average participant visiting 5 times
  • 278,000 of free tickets given away were to young people who said they would probably not have visited the theatre and paid for a ticket without ANLO
  • 72 per cent of young people surveyed said cost was the main barrier to going to the theatre - but other factors, including the productions on offer, and the distance to the venue were also important
  • 92 per cent enjoyed the experience; 81 per cent said they're likely to go again; 88 per cent said they'd pay to go again and 88 per cent said they'd recommended theatre to friends and family
  • 41 per cent of A Night Less Ordinary venues said the scheme had brought them commercial benefits. Revenue from tickets sold to people accompanying free ticket holders, and from additional merchandise, brought in between £2.82 and £4.85 million
  • 89 per cent of venues say that taking part in A Night Less Ordinary has left them in a better position to engage with young audiences

Participation in A Night Less Ordinary has led to a rapid growth in venues' young people's memberships schemes and many have developed legacy discount schemes for under 26s such as West Yorkshire Playhouse's '5 for a fiver' deal and Chichester Theatre's Play Pass.  

There have also been major developments in the use of social media for communication and marketing to young people as well as creating valuable data on under 26 year-olds theatre going habits. The scheme also demonstrated the value of knowledge sharing among venues, which helped address issues such as minimising no-shows, and the pros and cons of day specific giveaways.

The report also identifies a number of key learning points including the importance of one unified offer for young users of the scheme, centered on a single real-time online booking system. When single point online booking was implemented in year two of the scheme, there was a significant increase in the take up of A Night Less Ordinary tickets.

A Night Less Ordinary was supported by an investment of £2.39 million from DCMS through Arts Council England, who developed and managed the scheme. The pilot launched in February 2009, was curtailed by government in June 2010, and ended in March 2011.

Read the full A Night Less Ordinary report 

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