Barriers to Entry

For three years, I would wander past the Castlefield Art Gallery, never building up the courage to go in.  It looked too private, like it wasn’t for me.  Exhibitions passed me by – exhibitions I would have liked to have seen – and still I didn’t go in.  Twice last summer I met friends for coffee at the Royal Exchange and twice they waited outside, hesitating by the main door as if to say ‘can I really go into this building?’  I laughed, then remembered my art gallery experience.

I conducted a poll on Twitter in December 2016:

Bearing in mind that a significant proportion of my Twitter followers are already regular visitors to theatre or galleries, I was surprised just how many people had the same reaction as I have had.

What about people that never attend theatre?  Perhaps they are interested in seeing a specific show, but never get there because they don’t feel they belong in the building.  At the recent ‘You the Audience’ event at the Royal Exchange, Alan Lane from Slung Low said that you should be able to tell the values of a theatre as soon as you walk in the door.  I think this is absolutely right.  More than that, you should be able to tell the values of the theatre as you stand by the door wondering whether this is the right place for you.

But how many theatres are genuinely welcoming to somebody that decides on their own initiative to go to the theatre for the first time?  How much theatre marketing is aimed at that person?  Not a demographic, not a segmentation of a population, not a postcode, but a single living person whose main reason not to go is that they don’t feel part of the world of theatre?

Like so many things in life we forget how we felt the first time we did something new.  For many people, going to the theatre is an equally daunting experience.  We should be making it easy.


Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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