Friday, 20 November 2009

Why the Octagon Theatre, Bolton?

It was fascinating to hear about David Thacker’s journey taking him to his present position as Artistic Director of the Octagon, the challenges of programming for this bastion of regional theatre and his hopes for the venue.

He expressed his impatience to increase his audiences and was keen to take on board any comments and suggestions from members as to perceptions of the Octagon and how the venue could attract higher attendance rates. All manner of issues were raised, such as transport links and also whether capacity should be measured by seats or whether this may sometimes create unrealistic expectations and pressures.

David also talked about his programme Bolt On, which links into the performance offer, providing workshop and practical learning opportunities for new directors and writers. His belief that regional artists can and do produce work of the highest quality and his passion for producing ‘great work’ for local audiences came across loud and clear and it was warming to hear him speak on this.

It would be interesting to hear your views as to whether we are unrealistic in forever seeking to increase our audiences – might there be a finite number of people who will come to the theatre? Why don’t more people engage with the theatre? Is all this effort, energy and funding put towards marketing to reach new audiences actually effective? How could regional theatres like the Octagon develop and retain their audiences? Are regional audiences any different to London audiences in their taste, willingness to engage with their theatre venues? What do you think?

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