Tag Archives: London

Media, marketing and mint tea

1 Jan

It was a Grand Day Out for Off the Fence as Gary, Verity and I took a train to spend the whole day with Out of Joint. I had met Max briefly a year or so ago but not the whole team so was a tad apprehensive. However, my overriding emotion was excitement.

My role within Off the Fence is essentially to write the stuff to get us publicity – including online content, programmes, press releases – and get our message out there. This is made easier in Leicester as it is the city I live in and know well. My aim today though is to explore how to go about promoting a show when you know very little of an area, have no contacts and limited time to find out.

After an initial group chat, Verity and Panda went off to talk producing and Gary disappeared into Max’s room. Step forward Jon Bradfield, Marketing Manager at oJo who patiently took me through points to bear in mind when promoting a touring production.

Key to any marketing is to understand your product – what is the play about, what are its benefits and how can we talk about it? This information will then help discussions with venues when booking as well as forming the basis for our own publicity.

Next, the venues.  Best advice here is be a nuisance but in a good way; this is, after all, a two way relationship. It is important to build up good relations with receiving houses as they will assist in promotions but also have their own media contacts and followers and an audience base you want to convert to ticket sales. To make their life easier, provide as much information as you can – whether through images, video clips or interviews with cast to give the venue some meat for their social media bones. Provide copy for their e-flyers, find out what they would like and keep talking.

Mention must be made of Moroccan restaurant Le Rif, our destination for lunch and the place to go for superlative cous cous and mint tea. And a good chat.

To add to Verity’s comments (see previous post), whilst a lot of this advice may seem common sense (and it is), I found it so helpful talking to Jon who does this on a daily basis.  The whole point of mentoring is not for the mentor to dictate what you should be doing but to talk things through, make suggestions based on what they have learnt and listen to ideas. Verity and Gary hadn’t been idle either – after discussing a couple of our other projects with Graham and Panda, a new idea emerged which we are now progressing (more info later!). Ultimately, we as mentees must do what is right for us.

As we left oJo and ventured out into the cold, dark December night my overriding feeling was akin to a warm blanket of reassurance.

Sally Jack

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Before, During and After

21 Dec

In a similar fashion to those who have welcomed a new baby into the world, we will look back in years to come and recall events as Before Out of Joint (oJo) or After oJo.

We’ve already done a lot in a short period of time as Off the Fence with twenty nine productions to our credit together with the creation of Upstairs at the Western, Leicester’s first pub theatre and our official residence.  But we want to extend and share our work further – we must pack our theatrical sponge bag and go on tour.

Before oJo we had always been admirers of the company founded and led by Max Stafford-Clark, and believe in their ethos and their work. Formed in the early 70s which, like now, was a time of challenging economic circumstances, oJo are still producing theatre that ‘broadens horizons and investigates our times’.

Finsbury_ParkMeeting your idols is never easy. How did it go? Artistic Director Gary Phillpott describes the initial meetings: “I love the vibe of going to London so it was an enjoyable train journey. However, and hopefully not prophetically, we took a wrong turn out of Finsbury Park station and had to re-trace our steps. For our next visit on a bitterly cold March day, the boiler at oJo had broken so we sat huddled around a paraffin heater in our coats drinking soup.  We laugh about it now.”

During this initial and important process of getting to know each other, what are the expectations of developing a play to tour and working with oJo? Producer Verity Bartesch said: “It’s about the things we wouldn’t know until we do it, and by doing it alongside oJo it makes the whole experience much more worthwhile and valuable. To be around people who are so enthusiastic about the same things as us is going to be great. They get what we’re about and whilst we are unique in Leicester with what we do, it’s nice to share ideas and talk really specifically about our kind of work.”

Gary adds: “Society has moved on since oJo began and we hope to learn from their experiences, test their working practices  with a view to adapting and developing our own template. Leicester is very different to London but it is important we forge relationships there. Having a link in London is fundamentally important for us going forward.”

So, we’re now in the During oJo period. Verity said: “So far, it was useful to understand there isn’t a magic way of doing things that makes everything easy. They still have to rethink strategies and constantly change what they are doing in order to be successful. It’s so helpful to talk to people who have been through the situation we are about to go through and I know even more than before that we made a great choice in asking Out of Joint to mentor us – and delighted they and the Arts Council agreed.”

Off the Fence Theatre Company will be developing Stranger in the Kitchen by Azma Dar for a national tour in early 2015.

Sally Jack