St Paul's Covent Garden portico

Why telling your audience about the venue is important

Revolution Arts is working with many artists and organisations to help them develop their work, boost their profile and increase audiences. Here’s an example from one of our Revolution Arts partners where Nicholas Keyworth has written a fascinating article on the history of their next venue which really helps to put the event into context.

St Paul's Covent Garden

St Paul’s Covent Garden

We take a closer look at the historic church of St Paul’s Covent Garden to find out what makes this venue for the next London Firebird Orchestra concert on 16 June so special.

In 1630, the Earl of Bedford was given permission to demolish buildings on an area of land he owned north of the Strand for redevelopment. The result was the Covent Garden Piazza – the first formal square in London.

Lord Bedford approached the architect Inigo Jones to create “houses and buildings fitt for the habitacons of Gentlemen and men of ability”. Lord Bedford also asked Jones to include a simple church “not much better than a barn”, to which the architect apparently replied “Then you shall have the handsomest barn in England”.

Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones introduced the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to Britain. He left his mark on London in buildings such as the Queen’s House in Greenwich and the Banqueting House, Whitehall which propelled Britain into a golden age of architecture.

St Paul’s was completed in 1633 and was the first entirely new church to be built in London since the Reformation.

Jones used as his inspiration the early forms of Roman temples such as the Etruscan temple at Potonaccio.

The church was completed in 1633 at a cost of of £4,886. However, there was a problem…

Covent Garden Piazza painted in 1737 by Balthazar Nebot

Covent Garden Piazza painted in 1737 by Balthazar Nebot

One would normally expect the entrance to be through the magnificent portico leading from the piazza. In fact Jones designed three doors along this façade and intended to have the altar at the west end. But due to pressure from the church hierarchy these doors had to be blocked up and the entrance moved to the much plainer west side through the churchyard.

West end entrance

West end entrance

The church is known affectionately as The actors’ church with its long association with the theatre community dating back to 1663 when the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane opened, the first of many theatres in London’s West End.

On 9 May 1662, Samuel Pepys noted in his diary the first “Italian puppet play” under the portico. The portico was also the setting for the first scene of Shaw’s Pygmalion, the play that was later adapted as My Fair Lady.

Many well known musicians, artists and actors have memorials in the church including Thomas Arne, Sir Charles Mackerras, Dame Edith Evans, Sir Charlie Chaplin, Sir Noël Coward, Gracie Fields, Stanley Holloway, Boris Karloff, Vivien Leigh and Ivor Novello.

Today, as well as being a living church community this fascinating building hosts many concert and other performances throughout the year in the centre of the city.

This article originally appeared on the London Firebird Orchestra website.

5 ways to grow your audience

Attracting more people to your event is high up on the wishlist for any small organisation, yet it can often feel an unobtainable goal. But, with the right tools and a great deal of commitment, organisations can turn around dwindling audience figures.

1. Good quality work

Cash-strapped audiences have for a number of years now become increasingly picky over what they are willing to spend their money on. Not everyone has the luxury of a ‘big name’ to pack out a venue, but audiences will still buy tickets if they trust you. By that I mean they want to be assured that they are not going to waste their money – they are going to enjoy the event. So, it may seem like stating the obvious, but start out with good quality work and accept nothing less.

2. Good preparation and planning

Even with the best gig you could have imagined, if you haven’t prepared well for it you are setting yourself up for a disaster. Poor planning can lead to missed opportunities, and worse, mistakes. A minimum six-week run-in to an event gives you the space you need to make the most out of every opportunity. Plan a week-by-week schedule. Plot out everything you need to do and when. Decide who will be responsible for each task.

3. A strong image

Once you’ve got your plan together and are ready to promote your great event, you’ll need a strong image that will sell the tickets. Yes, one strong image. It is one of the things to be most frequently overlooked by event organisers yet it is fundamentally one of the most important aspects of your marketing campaign. I’ve worked on so many events where the organisers have supplied a terrible image or, even worse, none at all. Banish grainy, amateur-looking images. You don’t need scores of mediocre images when one killer photo will hook the punters in.

4. Social media campaigns

Now that you’ve got a great image to promote, getting the word out is going to take more than traditional home-spun posters put up in the windows of local shops and the library (which has probably been shut down anyway). If you are serious about attracting new audiences you have to let them know you exist by reaching out to them. Social media, especially Facebook, provides no better way of reaching people in an environment where they are already relaxed and thinking socially. Building and regularly crafting a busy profile will help to raise awareness of your organisation. Investing in a little advertising, using platforms such as Facebook Ads, can help you to target people you might not have otherwise reached. If you hit the right note, the money you spend you pay for itself several times over.

5. Online ticketing

I don’t know about you but I find myself somewhat reluctant to buy a ticket for an event by phone these days. I don’t know whether it is the modern condition where nobody uses their smartphones to make calls anymore or whether it is the fear of being stuck on the line for an age, but you need an alternative to the traditional Box Office hotline. Many small organisations rely on an organiser’s home phone number. The potential audience member is expected to call this strange number and leave a message to reserve a seat. Will they actually turn up on the night though? There are no guarantees! I’ve even worked with organisations that still rely on people sending a cheque in the post to buy a ticket. I don’t even have a cheque book these days. And neither does 90% of your potential new audience. Being able to click from a Facebook ad through to your website’s online booking system might sound impossible or difficult for your organisation, but it isn’t as tricky as it sounds once you have a helping hand. And help is at hand from us at RA. Some people have bemoaned the technology, but one of our clients, relatively new to the idea, has doubled their audience for an event which has gone from quiet to buzzing in a flash. It can be done.