Archive | July, 2009

Where do they keep African Fiction? On the SA Non Fiction shelf of course.

28 Jul

As one of my postgraduate courses this semester I am doing African Literature. I am still confused as to what this means, and my lecturer has not managed to shed any light on the subject. Is it Literature about Africa? By Africans? By those born in Africa but living elsewhere? Of African origin? Why does it exclude South African Literature?

But these questions aside, what has been more disturbing is the battle to find the books. I have spent my hours, days, weekends scouring bookshops and libraries. I am closer, but not yet there. And in my scouring of the bookshops, a very disturbing question has raised its head, time after time.

Why do we, here in South Africa, keep African Fiction on its own private shelf? And South African Fiction on another? Are we deliberately trying to make readers think of them as other. Even, dare I say it, lesser? And this phenomenon is sadly not limited to bookshops, our music stores also keep South African music apart from the rest.

The title above is taken from the response Wordsworth in Longbeach Mall gave me when I asked about African Fiction. It defies logic. Oh, and they keep JM Coetzee under “Classics”.

I don’t like it. I want to do something about it. Who’s with me?

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The survey that just kept on growing

20 Jul
In January of this year, out of a personal desire to know more about who was going to the theatre, who wasn’t going to the theatre, and how people felt about the theatre, I launched an “audience survey”. I sent out a questionnaire to friends, family and colleagues. The response was overwhelming – between January and May a total of 5413 people responded. Because of this monumental response the feedback has taken a little longer than expected – but I give it to you now, at long last! Although my survey was small and not very scientific, I believe there are many lessons to be learned from it, and I hope to conduct more and deeper surveys in the future.
So who responded?
The majority of respondents (34.2%) were in the 25 to 35 age category, and another 30% in the 35 to 45 age category. This is a heartening figure for those doom mongers who think theatre audiences are dying out! The vast majority were urban– but it’s important to note that those living outside of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg expressed their deep desire to go to the theatre more – if only there was something for them to see. A number of people commented that they timed trips to Cape Town or Johannesburg to coincide with specific productions they wanted to see.
Because of the network of people I sent the initial survey out to, and because I work in the industry myself, it’s not surprising that 26% of respondents work in the performing arts industry. 20% described themselves as huge fans, and a staggering 40% said they wanted to know more about the industry and see more. I am happy to say that only 2 respondents said they had no interest in the industry. (I’m only surprised they took the time to complete the survey!)
How’s our marketing doing?
I now have statistics to back up what I have long suspected: 80% of people surveyed said that they go to productions because of good word of mouth. The best marketing tool available to us is the audience themselves. Reviews influenced 45% of people, and email, newspaper adverts and street posters all came in at around 30%. I was quite surprised to find street posters still having that much influence on people. Facebook, online advertising and radio all came in at around 20%.
So, what else are our audiences doing with their spare time – how else can we reach them? 83% of them are reading books, which made me wonder to what extent theatre is being advertised in bookshops and how we could better develop those relationships. Small parties with friends, television and movies scored highly (around 60%), as well as live music performances, Facebook and the gym (around 50%). The gym, everybody – how much theatre advertising are we doing at the gym?
And of course, theatre audiences go to the theatre. Sounds obvious I know, but with 32% of people saying they go to the theatre more than once a month and 30% going 4 – 6 times a year, it’s pretty obvious that theatre is a habit people get into. We need to be sure we are maximising the marketing of other theatre productions at these events.
And…what else can we do better?
I can tell you that those comments made for a lot of interesting reading! I can tell you that about the same number of people hate Shakespeare as love him. About 1000 people wanted more comedy, about 1000 people wanted less. It’s encouraging to see the diversity of taste amongst respondents.
A large number of people – about 1600 comments – wanted to see shows starting earlier, at around 7pm, as well as more matinees on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Cost was a factor that came up often. “I would go more if it was less expensive”, “as a student I can’t afford theatre as often as I’d like”, “there’s so much amazing work but because of the cost I have to choose one show a month”. The comments acknowledged that the costs involved in producing theatre forced ticket prices up, but this did provide a huge stumbling block to people’s attendance.
Another comment that came up over and over again…3421 times in fact…was that people would come more often if they knew what was on – especially fringe and independent productions. There seems to be a lack of overall, concerted marketing – people are marketing on an individual level, but not in a unified manner. This goes back to my point above that” theatre audiences go to the theatre”.
And what does theatre mean to our audiences?
The ten words that came out most often: life, entertainment, passion, live, fun, chance, world, art, escape, magic.
If you want to ask me questions about the results, or discuss doing further, more detailed audience research, or just shoot the breeze about theatre, please contact me: karenjeynes@gmail.com, @karenjeynes on twitter

In January of this year, out of a personal desire to know more about who was going to the theatre, who wasn’t going to the theatre, and how people felt about the theatre, I launched an “audience survey”. I sent out a questionnaire to friends, family and colleagues. The response was overwhelming – between January and May a total of 5413 people responded. Because of this monumental response the feedback has taken a little longer than expected – but I give it to you now, at long last! Although my survey was small and not very scientific, I believe there are many lessons to be learned from it, and I hope to conduct more and deeper surveys in the future.

So who responded?

The majority of respondents (34.2%) were in the 25 to 35 age category, and another 30% in the 35 to 45 age category. This is a heartening figure for those doom mongers who think theatre audiences are dying out! The vast majority were urban– but it’s important to note that those living outside of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg expressed their deep desire to go to the theatre more – if only there was something for them to see. A number of people commented that they timed trips to Cape Town or Johannesburg to coincide with specific productions they wanted to see.

Because of the network of people I sent the initial survey out to, and because I work in the industry myself, it’s not surprising that 26% of respondents work in the performing arts industry. 20% described themselves as huge fans, and a staggering 40% said they wanted to know more about the industry and see more. I am happy to say that only 2 respondents said they had no interest in the industry. (I’m only surprised they took the time to complete the survey!)

How’s our marketing doing?

I now have statistics to back up what I have long suspected: 80% of people surveyed said that they go to productions because of good word of mouth. The best marketing tool available to us is the audience themselves. Reviews influenced 45% of people, and email, newspaper adverts and street posters all came in at around 30%. I was quite surprised to find street posters still having that much influence on people. Facebook, online advertising and radio all came in at around 20%.

So, what else are our audiences doing with their spare time – how else can we reach them? 83% of them are reading books, which made me wonder to what extent theatre is being advertised in bookshops and how we could better develop those relationships. Small parties with friends, television and movies scored highly (around 60%), as well as live music performances, Facebook and the gym (around 50%). The gym, everybody – how much theatre advertising are we doing at the gym?

And of course, theatre audiences go to the theatre. Sounds obvious I know, but with 32% of people saying they go to the theatre more than once a month and 30% going 4 – 6 times a year, it’s pretty obvious that theatre is a habit people get into. We need to be sure we are maximising the marketing of other theatre productions at these events.

What else can we do better?

I can tell you that those comments made for a lot of interesting reading! I can tell you that about the same number of people hate Shakespeare as love him. About 1000 people wanted more comedy, about 1000 people wanted less. It’s encouraging to see the diversity of taste amongst respondents.

A large number of people – about 1600 comments – wanted to see shows starting earlier, at around 7pm, as well as more matinees on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Cost was a factor that came up often. “I would go more if it was less expensive”, “as a student I can’t afford theatre as often as I’d like”, “there’s so much amazing work but because of the cost I have to choose one show a month”. The comments acknowledged that the costs involved in producing theatre forced ticket prices up, but this did provide a huge stumbling block to people’s attendance.

Another comment that came up over and over again…3421 times in fact…was that people would come more often if they knew what was on – especially fringe and independent productions. There seems to be a lack of overall, concerted marketing – people are marketing on an individual level, but not in a unified manner. This goes back to my point above that” theatre audiences go to the theatre”.

And what does theatre mean to our audiences?

The ten words that came out most often: life, entertainment, passion, live, fun, chance, world, art, escape, magic.

If you want to ask me questions about the results, or discuss doing further, more detailed audience research, or just shoot the breeze about theatre, please contact me: karenjeynes@gmail.com, @karenjeynes on twitter

Theatre. In High Definition.

17 Jul

I went to the NTlive production of Phedre last night. Well, NT almost live. In fact the show was broadcast live on the 26 June. We just caught up to it on African time.

And oh. I was completely blown away. I have fallen deeply and madly in love with Bob Crowley’s set. Helen Mirren is masterful in an unrelenting role that sees her in depths of passion for two hours. She manages it with an intensity and urgency which few could. Dominic Cooper of Mamma Mia fame returns to his theatrical roots to deliver a Hippolytus who, whilst proud, is still endearing. John Shrapnel doesn’t put a foot wrong as Theramene, Margaret Tyzack is compelling as Oenone, and Ruth Negga is absolutely captivating as Aricia.

But above all theatre is the star here. The fact that the audience wanted to applaud. The fact that for two hours we were watching not special effects, as in Transformers 2, not exotic locations, no action sequences. Just some superb actors, delivering Ted Hughes’ starkly poetic adaptation of Racine.

I can’t wait for the other NTlive broadcasts.

Phedre_main