Howl of the Bantee - Stafford Centre

Howl of the Bantee - Stafford Centre

Postby AJMcKenna » 25 Sep 2015, 11:32

Positive things about the Stafford Centre as a venue: it had a very friendly and welcoming staff, who were happy to store flyers etc in the venue to save on me carrying things across town every day (which really helped), and were happy for a fresh delivery of flyers to be addressed to the venue when I ran out midweek. Chella Quint did an excellent job as venue captain, and I found everyone who shared the venue to be really helpful and supportive - we did a lot of co-flyering together and worked very hard to keep everyone's morale up.

That said, the venue does present some interesting challenges to the performer. It has a very different vibe to a lot of the spaces I'm used to performing in, being very brightly lit and spacious, and lacking a bar. For someone used to performing in bars and theatre spaces where the lighting can be controlled to create a sense of intimacy, this was somewhat tricky for me to handle.

The biggest difficulty came from the venue's location rather than anything else. Although it isn't really all that far from the centre of town, on the maps it looks as if it is, and this can put people off if you're directing them from the centre of town. Towards the end of my show's run I stopped flyering on the Mile at all, because explaining to people how to get to the venue put them off! I found the spot in front of the church between Cafe Camino and the Conan Doyle was more productive in terms of getting people interested in the show, and easier to explain the venue location because it was just down the road.

Flyering outside the venue itself didn't yield much interest, as people passing the venue were generally on their way home from work or heading into town for other stuff.

The biggest thing I took from using this venue was the importance of adapting a show to the venue you get - I think there are venues in Edinburgh where the show as I'd constructed and rehearsed it before the Fringe would have worked perfectly, but the Stafford Centre is *not* one of them. I had to do a lot of work to make my show work in this space, and particularly in terms of turning the challenges of the venue into things that worked for the show. I'm very proud to say that I did do this, and looking back on this, although it was quite stressful at the time, it was actually one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Fringe for me because I was being forced to think hard and stretch myself in a very short space of time. Once I relaxed into this and started enjoying the challenge I had a really good time. I'm not going to pretend it wasn't stressful though.

A good aspect of the challenging nature of the venue is that there is very little sound bleed from other patrons or other shows.

Smallest audience: 0 (3 people came in initially but left after the trigger warning)
Largest audience: 10

Tech: The venue has a large TV which can be hooked up for powerpoints which, a couple of other shows in the venue used. I didn't, as my show didn't use any powerpoint stuff. The venue had a PA which had been provided although in the event I didn't use this - one advantage of the room's large size and low sound bleed from outside is that the acoustics are very good and you can easily perform unmiked, which was a definite advantage for me as I knew I was going to need to move around a lot both vertically and horizontally for this show.

Accessibility: the venue is up quite a high flight of stairs. If there was a lift anywhere for wheelchair users I didn't see it. It's possible this may have discouraged some attendees.

If there was one thing I would suggest doing with this venue, it's looking at using partitioning to try and make the performance area smaller, or perhaps putting performances on in a different part of the building entirely. The large size of the room makes it hard to get an atmosphere going (very much the opposite problem to many Fringe spaces I know!). If I was going to give any advice to performers using the space as is, it would be to make this work for you - acknowledge the venue is out of the way, thank people for coming, and acknowledge that the audiences will be small - make the audience feel as if they're a special, select gang of people, and this will create a sense of atmosphere regardless of how many of them there are.
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