Audiences give theatre big round of applause

Change of scene: Playhouse staff Andrew Mounsey, Andy Hunt and Jack Carrigan moving some of the Alnwick Playhouse equipment into its temporary home at Lindisfarne Annex. Picture by Jane Coltman
Change of scene: Playhouse staff Andrew Mounsey, Andy Hunt and Jack Carrigan moving some of the Alnwick Playhouse equipment into its temporary home at Lindisfarne Annex. Picture by Jane Coltman

Alnwick Playhouse has performed brilliantly in a survey of audiences conducted by the county council.

The popular theatre and arts centre, which closed its doors for a year for a major redevelopment last week, has proved exactly how valued it is to the communities of north Northumberland.

The annual survey, called Valuing the Arts in Northumberland: An Audience Insight Report 2018, was commissioned by Northumberland County Council.

It forms part of the Playhouse’s Service Level Agreement with the council and the four Northumberland venues take part in the research project, the other theatres being The Maltings, Berwick; Phoenix Theatre, Blyth; and Queen’s Hall, Hexham.

The questionnaire asks a mixture of questions in order to determine how valuable the arts venues are to their local populations.

And the results have been spectacularly good for the Playhouse.

Theatre manager Jo Potts is delighted with the findings.

“Feedback for Alnwick Playhouse is, once again, extremely positive throughout the whole survey,” she revealed.

And it starts with the number of people who actually filled in the form compared to previous years and other venues.

In the previous two years, the Alnwick venue had just under 600 replies but this year, the completed surveys jumped to almost 900.

“I was amazed by the amount of responses this year. Alnwick received more responses than the other three Northumberland venues added together,” said Jo.

The response figures have been:

Alnwick Playhouse: 592 (2016); 575 (2017); 892 (2018).

The Maltings, Berwick: 545 (2016); 618 (2017); 321 (2018).

Phoenix Blyth: 293 (2016); 200 (2017); 150 (2018).

Queen’s Hall, Hexham: 233 (2016); 263 (2017); 250 (2018).

Generally speaking, the more respondents, the bigger chance of getting negative feedback, however, respondents overwhelmingly considered the Playhouse to be important to the town.

Public funding of Alnwick Playhouse receives almost universal support from respondents (99% in 2017 and 98% in 2018).

Jo said: “Over the past five years, as Playhouse manager one of my key roles and challenges has been to provide a diverse and inspiring programme.”

97% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the programme appealed to a wide range of people.

The quality of the programme was also very well regarded, with almost universal acceptance of the phrase ‘the events I see at Alnwick Playhouse are well produced and presented’.

The survey has also consistently confirmed the one thing people would change about the Playhouse in a final, open question.

673 people responded to this question (446 in 2016 and 431 in 2017). As with 2017, the over-whelming number of comments were linked to improved seating. Almost 45% of all comments mentioned this issue.

Jo added: “Since I started at the Playhouse, it has always been high on the priority list to make our patrons more comfortable by providing extra leg room.

“Finally now, with the Playhouse Development Project, we shall make this a reality during the refurbishment.”

l The Playhouse website has changed from programme details and ticket sales to allow people to donate to the fund-raising appeal for £800,000 towards the refit costs.