As a region, we’re fortunate to have a booming arts scene, a scene filled with talented up-and-coming performers across a variety of genres. Luckily enough, we’ve also got some of the best venues in the country that are more than happy to put on our local talent regularly – but, when was the last time you committed to going to see a local show? Like everything else, the price of theatre, music and dance continues to rise and a lot of people simply can’t afford to spend money attending a gig they may end up not enjoying – and that’s where ARC in Stockton can lend a helping hand.
In January 2015, ARC implemented a ‘Pay What You Decide’ (PWYD) pricing scheme, meaning that you can book a ticket for a variety of performances without charge, only deciding what you would like to pay after you’ve seen the show. Not to be confused with ‘Pay What You Can’ schemes where you still pay in advance, the PWYD scheme gives you the freedom to pay nothing at all if you didn’t enjoy the show, or on the other hand, if you loved the show you can pay as much as you like!
ARC decided to take the risky move to implement this scheme due to the majority of their performance programme featuring brand new works; meaning that audiences were reluctant to attend shows due to fears they wouldn’t enjoy them – the PWYD scheme looked to alleviate these fears.
Three years later and the PWYD scheme has proved a great success, with ARC calling it: “The single most effective way of increasing audiences for new work.” The stats speak for themselves when it comes to PWYD; looking back on 2015 (when the scheme was first introduced) vs 2014 (before it was introduced), audiences at ARC were up by 44%, new audiences to ARC were up by 39% and audiences new to theatre at ARC were up by 20%. Not only has the scheme meant that more people are getting to experience the wealth of new talent the region has to offer, it has also meant that people are feeling more compelled to come out of their comfort zones by experiencing a side of the arts entirely new to them.
With the North East being one of the most financially unstable regions in the country due to lack of employment opportunities, what ARC has done by implementing the PWYD scheme is of vital importance. The scheme is making art accessible again, giving everyone the opportunity to get involved regardless of their financial situation. Also, our region isn’t famed for its theatre-going culture – whether that be due to financial issues or an elitist stigma surrounding the idea – the PWYD scheme is a step towards removing this stigma, showing that the theatre should and can be for everyone.
However, the audience aren’t the only ones that benefit from this scheme – the performers do too. Due to the increase in audience numbers as a result of the scheme, performers get to show their works to more people than they ever could in the past.
PWYD has been a revolution for ARC in Stockton, benefiting all who are involved. We can only hope that more local arts venues follow in ARC’s footsteps, making art more accessible for the masses.
For further information regarding ARC’s innovative PWYD scheme, and to find out more about what’s coming up at the venue, please head to arconline.co.uk now.