Friday, 29 July 2011

An avalanche of interest

With the opening of La Wally tonight, the question occupying everybody it seems is "how will they do the avalanche?" I have never been asked a question more often. However, whilst I am not giving anything away, I am happy to report that this is one hell of a score; inventive, never standing still, never stagnating, rich, sumptuous and oh so Wagnerian at times but at others gorgeously Italian. Anybody coming to see it should pay very close attention to the orchestra. That isn't to say that the cast don't sing up a storm, because they do, but it is a total experience that goes way, way beyond the famous aria. There are some very beautiful visuals too..

It is always exciting opening one of our rarities because there is such a great sense of discovery among the audience. Invariably, there is a period of contemplative unfamiliarity but as is so often the case, the brew begins to bubble and the music works it's magic. Can't wait.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Oh dear ACE

Interesting news from the Arts Coucil that 66 applications for funding in the March round were the victims of computer error when documents that formed part of the applications were not uploaded to the assessors. Some of you may recall that back then I mentioned that I believed we had suffered such an error although I don't know if we are included in the 66.
My suspicion is that 66 is a hell of a lot more than that.

To recap, we had applied for funding of our growing and brilliant Inspire Project. The ACE have five core criteria of which applicants should meet at least two. At worst, we met four of the five and at best, all of them. Because of the success of the project and because of plenty of match funding from donors, we felt it had a strong chance. When the assessor's report refusing the application arrived I was pretty flabbergasted to find that a great many of the reasons given for refusing the funding were attached to what were called "failures to provide information". This missing information included things like feedback, evidence of participation, of service user profiles etc.

Stunned, I called the assessor and expressed my surprise that she had obviously missed the very substantial annual report for the project that I had included with our application and which featured the data she required and much more besides. After a moment of perplexed silence (I swear I could hear her gulp) at the other end of the phone, she said she would call me back. Some time passed and she telephoned to insist that the document had not been uploaded. She added that in any case, it wouldn't have made a difference. I commented that having said the missing information was the reason for refusal, I found it surprising that HAD it been provided, we would still have been refused!

And that was that.

The news this morning will no doubt stir up much protest and the general approach from the ACE appears to be that none of this missing data would make any difference. A truly breathtaking statement in the circumstances.

One good thing comes out of it - my colleagues who probably thought I had mucked up the application can think again!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Inspire tickets

With the last period of booking for our Inspire tickets having passed I thought it would be a good moment to recap how we got to this point and why the system we have was introduced. First, though, a comment about the costs of calls to our 0300 number. The 0300 numbers are designed for  charities, not for profit and public sector organisations who wish to have recognisable, memorable numbers. Calls to 030 numbers are included in any bundled and mobile tariffs. Any additional minutes costs 1.5p per minute. There has been some concern that those who have had to wait on the telephone will have been charged a great deal. If you have a bundled mobile package with minutes then the call would not have cost any money other than using up minutes on that package. One caveat to that is if you are calling from aborad of course.

We introduced the telephone only system because the previous system of having them first available online, and then half online and half on the phone was unfair to those who did not have internet access. Given the nature of these tickets, it is entirely possible that some people taking advantage of them do not have access to the internet. We also stopped the ability of patrons to visit the box office since clearly those who live nearer have an advantage. Finally, we introduced caps on the number of tickets per person for the season. all of this is designed to make the Inspire tickets as fairly distributed as possible.

Clearly, people find the need to be on the telephone all day to be tiresome and we understand the frustration this causes but the demand is such that this would probably still be the case if we had 100 people on the telephones! Having said that, we are entirely unhappy that people have to spend so long on the phone and then run the risk of not being successful in acquiring tickets. If we could process calls more quickly that would be preferable then at least people havent wasted too much of their time and we recognise that.

But how to improve things? We will look at it again but be assured no matter what system we come up with, there will be many who will be dissappointed; with so many people wanting the Inspire seats that is inevitable.  We have looked at postal ballot but that feels like a retrograde step and requires a lot of cost, effort on the part of patrons and a great deal more administration. Email ballot or internet forms would help that but would people be convinced of the fairness of ticket distribution? I am more than happy to listen to suggestions.  Clearly, when offering several thousand seats at £12, there are going to be those who miss out but making it fair and easy is our primary goal.

feedback and suggestions can be sent to info(at)