News Story

download the house venue survey 2023

by Katy Snelling, house co-ordinator

A massive thank you to all the venues who completed our annual survey in June. The number of responses was down on the past two years but we still heard from 29% of you which has given us some invaluable information about our impact and how we can help you.

Not enough time!

The biggest thing that we observed – and one that possibly explains the reduction in responses this year – is that venues are feeling stretched. Over and over you said that there’s a ‘lack of capacity’, ‘not enough time’, ‘very small team’. Full time equivalent staff for marketing teams have fallen from 2.4 last year to 1.9 this year, and for programming staff the number has dropped from 1.8 to 1.4. So we need to find ways that what we offer is both worth your precious time, resources and energy but also delivered in the most efficient way.

More of you than ever have made use of our networking events and you’ve said that you really value these opportunities and would like more, as well as training in Staff Health and Wellbeing – a massive increase in request for this at 56%, up from 47% last year, Environmental Sustainability and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. You told us that the cost of travelling to training is a barrier so we are looking at online training wherever that is effective and combining regional networking events with training offers to save on the time and expense of travelling.

Audience Insights

More of you have an audience development plan than in either 2021 and 2022 and, over half of you who do, are seeing an increase in audiences as a result. The most asked for marketing training was in creating audience specific plans and guidance in understanding your local populations so we will prioritise either offering training or bursaries in these topics next year.

Overwhelmingly you are all concerned about audience booking patterns being later and later but encouragingly 35% of you have increased the number of days you are programming live work, with a similar number programming the same amount as previously. Just over half of respondents had an average audience of between 51 and 75% of capacity for live theatre with a further 12% attracting more than 75% capacity. This is also an increase on last year but that said many of you reported having to make more commercial decisions in order to balance books and there has been a significant reduction in funding from local authorities with just 58% of you receiving funds compared to 84% in 2021 - though we don’t know how much of that 84% included Covid recovery funds.

There were a lot of comments about your audiences being more risk adverse and the results show you are rebooking artists familiar to you more often, relying on trusted relationships. However, and again perhaps skewed by concerns over Covid, more of you are seeking out work by seeing it live than in the past 2 years so there is curiosity around new artists and work too. We’re delighted to see more respondents say that they use out tour-finder website (a free, open access platform for companies to list spare tour dates). You’re also working to shorter lead times – 2 years ago only 6% of you were booking 3 to 6 months in advance but this has jumped to 18%. In some cases this is about restrictions on spending or late funding confirmation and the majority of venues still programme 6 to 12 months in advance.

Programming with Purpose

In terms of what you programme – 98% of you still present theatre (hurrah – as that’s what we’re here to support you with) but more of you are programming dance, circus and outdoor arts too. There has been an increase in workshops and community engagement events – possibly in response to the desire to build closer connections to local communities and in response to Arts Council England’s Let’s Create strategy. Unsurprisingly, given the feedback on commercially-minded decisions and audiences wanting a good time, there has been a 6% increase in those of you who programme comedy but there has been a reduction in the number who are programming film and family work. We tour at least two family productions each year but if this is something that you need help to programme we’ll look at where we might be able to increase this offer.

Over half of you present some international work into your programmes already in order to give platform to artists from different background and diversify the programme for audiences and a further 35% of you would like to host international work in your programmes. We’ve committed to support at least one international tour a year between now and 2026 so hopefully that will help those of you with this ambition.

Support for Artists

A whopping 95% of you support artists in some way though there is a reduction of how many of you are able to offer commissions, residencies or financial support which is perhaps unsurprising given the current climate. Less of you are using Pitch Up as a way to connect with artists and we’ve also noticed a significant drop off in the number of venues attending these events so, after the Portsmouth Pitch Up in October, we will pause this initiative and review other ways of connecting venues and artists that are useful for both parties.

So there’s lots for us to be getting on with in the year ahead and our huge thanks to Indigo for once again supporting us on the management and evaluation of the survey. We’ll send details of how we implement our responses to the survey via our newsletter but please remember that house exists to support the venues in Southeast England grow audiences for contemporary theatre. If you feel like we’ve missed something vital or you didn’t get the chance to complete the survey please get in touch – We always want to hear from you and the annual survey is just one way for you to feedback to us.