Bingley Arts Centre in West Yorkshire is the home of Bingley Little Theatre, a thriving amateur dramatic society who stage eight plays every year. David Templeton, Box Office Manager, explains how TicketSource helps them welcome audiences to their volunteer-run theatre in the heart of the town.
Tell us about the history of Bingley Arts Centre.
Bingley Little Theatre is the parent organisation of the arts centre and was founded in 1948. It was based in a tiny theatre in the middle of terraced housing in the centre of Bingley. In the 1970s, the council cleared the old housing – including the small theatre – and offered an old ambulance hall to the amateur dramatics group instead, which backed on to the newly-built arts centre. By 2012, the council was struggling to fund the arts centre and so we took it on with a 99-year lease. We stage eight of our own plays each year, with an additional youth theatre performance, and take bookings from outside hirers, including band nights, film screenings and touring productions.
Why did you start to use TicketSource?
Before we took over the building, the council did all our ticketing for us – which meant liaising with the council’s ticket officer in Bradford. It rapidly became clear that we needed to make our own arrangements for ticketing. We’re members of the Little Theatre Guild, and I discovered that another nearby venue in the Guild were with TicketSource. I went to meet their general manager, asked him lots of questions, and sat with him as he sold tickets at the box office. The deciding factor was value for money. There are many systems on the market, but they either charge for hosting or a monthly fee for using them. TicketSource is free for as much as you want it to be free, and we’ve used it ever since.
How well does the system work for you?
The event management software's interface
is very straightforward and simple to use. I reckon I can teach anybody to sell a ticket in five minutes. I have a box office team of about twenty volunteers, who are mostly retired people and may not have much experience of working with computers. When we introduced TicketSource, none of them said, “I can’t cope with this, I’m leaving.” They’re still with us and that says a lot about the simplicity of TicketSource. Over half of our audience buy in person at the box office, and I reckon it takes about ten minutes to sell a ticket. That might seem inefficient, but really it’s not – it’s mostly older people who are coming in and they don’t just want a ticket, they’re quite happy to have a chat with whoever’s on the box office. I encourage that because we’re performing a social function as well. For a lot of these people, it may be the only person they see that day.
Which feature of TicketSource is particularly useful?
The exchange feature is a lovely function of TicketSource. We have a very loyal following of about six hundred season pass holders, who will book in for the same seat on the same day in each play’s run. Over the six nights of a show, we regularly get anywhere between twelve and fifteen hundred people in. We do get a lot of exchanges, so if somebody wants to change a ticket – swap from Monday to Thursday, for example – we simply use the system’s exchange function.
Have you had experience of contacting TicketSource for help or advice?
They’re very accessible. Whenever you call, they’re very helpful. Although there is a live chat option, I tend to call as I find it quicker and easier. The staff talk well – they don’t talk down at you or blind you with science.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about using TicketSource?
Don’t be frightened of it, and don’t panic if things go wrong! When I started, Simon Wilsher gave me this hint to open up, just for myself, a dummy account. If somebody asks you to set up an automatic discount, 10% off for 10 seats, for example, it’s difficult to know you’ve set all the parameters right without actually buying tickets. Having a dummy account is useful because you can experiment without doing any damage.
For more information about Bingley Arts Centre, visit www.bingleyartscentre.co.uk
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