Tag Archives: deptford market

Why We Aren’t Signing the Theatre Charter

Head of Communications Amber Massie-Blomfield reflects on the Albany’s decision not to sign up to the Theatre Charter. 

Last week we were invited to sign up to the Theatre Charter, a new ‘Code of Conduct’ for theatre goers (specifically ‘casual and future audience members’), which outlines expectations of behaviour during theatre performances.

We have taken the decision not to sign up to the Theatre Charter. Of course we hope those that attend performances at the Albany will behave in a fashion that respects our artists and our fellow audience members. But we believe that to formalise this expectation in this way would damage our relationship with our audiences.

The Theatre Charter singles out ‘new’ audiences. For the Albany, these audiences are perhaps more important than any other. We work hard to reach those that might not typically experience the arts. This is because we believe in the transformational impact that the arts can have in all contexts and communities, and that access should not be limited to those with an established artistic literacy.

Much of our work revolves around removing barriers to entry, whether that be staging performances at unusual times to make it easier for certain groups to attend, placing arts in libraries, or selling tickets on a market stall in Deptford Market.

We know that for many the biggest barrier to entry is feeling that theatre is ‘not for them’; they worry that they won’t know what to wear, or how to behave.

But the truth is that they do know how to behave. I’ve sat with several rambunctious groups of teenagers, and been amazed by how quickly they have become transfixed by the performance. Sometimes they interact in a far more vocal way than a ‘regular’ audience would, and it is joyous, for actors and other audience members, to experience such an immediate and real response. When a mobile phone has gone off, the group has policed itself – far more mortifying to incur the wrath of a bunch of your school mates than a uniformed theatre usher brandishing a set of rules.

The best theatre rests on an unwritten compact between the audience and the artist. It is implicit in the theatrical format that a performance can only take place if the audience buys into the conditions necessary for its creation. This means subscribing to the idea that the stage is a castle in Denmark just as much as it means switching off your mobile phone. The magic lies in the fact we are in this together, and it couldn’t happen if we weren’t. The Charter not only ignores the importance of this faith; it actively undermines it.

Much of the joy of theatre is the result of its ‘liveness’. Chris Goode talks about The Cat Test:

“The Cat Test can perhaps best be thought of as a development of the old miners’ practice of using a canary to test for the presence of carbon monoxide. (Not to be confused with the ‘pop’ test for carbon dioxide, for which you insert a lit canary into a test tube, etc.) The Cat Test discloses liveness: an ordinary domestic cat is released into the midst of a theatre event, and if the event can refer to and/or accommodate the cat without its supporting structures breaking down — the structures of the event, not of the cat — then the event is said to be ‘live’.”

For Cat, read rustling sweet paper, mobile phone ring tone, or whispered conversation. The point is that as theatre is a live event, it already preconceives the possibility of interruptions and, at its best, is prepared to embrace them. This posits a counter challenge to the theatre community, which there isn’t scope to explore here: but if the manner in which audiences are engaging with live experiences is changing so profoundly, isn’t it better for the future health of the art form to respond to and embrace that change, rather than attempting to regulate it?

This isn’t to say there isn’t a need for a conversation about how we behave in public spaces. It’s an issue that has been addressed brilliantly, for example, by Chris Thorpe and Hannah Jane Walker’s I Wish I Was Lonely, a poignant show that explores how the prevalence of mobile phones is impacting upon human interactions. It worked because it made its audience members assess their own relationship with their mobile phones, and draw their own conclusions.

But ultimately, we like our audiences. We like being close to them in the dark, in all their shuffling, wrapper crinkling, throat clearing immediacy. And we like it best in those moments when you can hear a pin drop, when what’s happening on stage is so completely and utterly transfixing that everyone holds their breath.

Amber Massie-Blomfield, Head of Communications, The Albany


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Reflecting on our £1 Ticket Scheme

We’ve made a Storify reflecting on the impact of our £1 Ticket Scheme. Click on the title above to check it out.

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January 6, 2014 · 4:09 pm


Or, why we’re selling tickets for every show in our Spring season for just a quid. On a market stall.


Today we announce our £1 Ticket Scheme, which will see an allocation of ten £1 tickets for every show* in our Spring Season go on sale this Friday 6 December at 9am from our (bright pink!) stall in Deptford market. Remaining tickets will then be released through our website at 2pm. Head of Communications, Amber Massie-Blomfield, fills us in on the background to the scheme.

Have you ever been to visit us on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday morning?

If you have, you will have made your way through what, in my opinion, must be one of the finest local markets in London:  greengrocers rub shoulders with hat shops and florists, Jamaican bakeries with Vietnamese cafes, house clearance stalls selling a random array of broken furniture, second hand toys – and once even a model solar system that was evidently someone’s school science homework.

There are not many arts venues in the country that have a (proper, old school style) market literally on their doorstep. It’s really part of the lifeblood of our venue, with our café full on market days of punters showing off their latest purchases over a coffee, and our friendly local stall holders popping in to borrow our toilets.

It’s also a wonderful source of everyday poetry: one of my favourite soundbites from one of the traders was ‘shoes, three pounds each or two for a fiver’  – eat your heart out, Hemingway.

This Autumn, we decided to take this relationship a step further, by setting up our own market stall. I joined the Albany team in September, and within my first week I was out on the stall, bright and early (in the pouring rain and inappropriate footwear), chatting to local people about what we do and what makes them tick.

It was a remarkable experience. Having come from the world of big brands, where the customers you are talking about are so often slightly nebulous entities called things like ‘terraced melting pot’, it was thrilling to engage with individuals on a one-on-one basis, having proper conversations about what motivates them.

One discussion in particular stayed with me. I got chatting to a lady with a young daughter who knew all about the Albany but had never visited. She felt that she couldn’t take the risk of spending money on a ticket when she didn’t know what to expect (worth pointing out that our average ticket price is just £6** – but we do recognise this represents a big investment for many people).

Happily that Sunday we had a free family event (the launch of our Yam Yam Festival of arts and food), which I duly employed all my persuasive powers to encourage her to come along to. And she did. And she brought her whole extended family. And she stayed. And she’s planning to come back.

Our £1 Ticket Scheme is a direct result of that conversation. Through the scheme, we’re selling an allocation of tickets for £1 each, for every show* in our Spring season.

We want to empower our audiences to take a risk on something they wouldn’t normally see, and by offering them tickets for £1 – less than the price of a cup of coffee, or half a pint, or one and a half Kit Kat Chunkys – we hope that many of them will be able to take that risk for the first time.

The tickets are being sold on a first come first served basis through our market stall from 9am on Friday, before any remaining tickets are released through our website at 2pm, because we want to ensure they reach (in a very literal way) the people of Deptford High Street first.

This makes great business sense, of course. The people who have the tickets will bring their friends and family, they’ll share their experiences on social media, and hopefully, they’ll come back. But the most important thing for me is the fact this is a symbol of what I believe the Albany does best: and that’s truly engaging with its local community, on its own terms, in a fashion that is fun, creative and meaningful.

So come Friday at 9am, the Albany team will be out on the market on our (bright Albany pink) stall, selling tickets for next season at a pound a pop. Do come down and see us. I’ll try and wear sensible shoes this time.

Amber Massie-Blomfield, Head of Communications, The Albany

*£1 Tickets are subject to availability

**£6 average ticket price based on all 2013 sales to date

Booking Details

We’ll be putting ten £1 tickets for every show* in our Spring Season. They will be released to the public at Deptford Market from 9am – look out for our bright pink market stall! We’ll then be releasing any remaining tickets through our website from 2pm.

Tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis. Ticket buyers will be able to buy two tickets per performance for up to three shows in the season.

Allocations of £1 tickets will also be made available for shows going on sale after Friday 6 December. Subscribe to the Albany mailing list as well as Albany Facebook and Twitter profiles to be kept up to date with the latest releases of tickets.

Visit our blog to find out more about the scheme.

*£1 tickets are subject to availability

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