What is the future of ANLO and young people?

Posted on 23 February 2011 Written by

Yesterday over on the Guardian Blogs, Lyn Gardner wrote a challenging cry defending the need for support in young people as theatre’s future.

The young offer extraordinarily good value in every way. We need to invest in them. If theatre can’t afford the young, it can’t afford the future.

She refers to the funding cuts which have seen the end of Creative Partnerships and Find Your Talent (let’s not also forget Future Jobs), and how there needs to be investment in young people, because ultimately they need the support to develop into the Bright Young Things of tomorrow (another Guardian piece).

Those of us who are behind the running of A Younger Theatre are working continuously to bring you information and resources that are valuable to you as young people. We hope that AYT can act as a pool of knowledge, with a commitment to every young person who is struggling to find the answer to their questions. AYT is a platform to raise the voice of those under represented, and we are committed to the bigger cause – not cutting the young out of the arts.

Last year we were invited to speak at a knowledge share event in relation to the closing of the free ticketing scheme A Night Less Ordinary. We presented AYT as a resource, a place for engagement and understanding brought to young people by young people. Since that event, we have forged relations with several new theatres who want to actively engage young people in their work, and we continue to work with them now.

On March 21st we have been invited to give another presentation at the final A Night Less Ordinary meeting. This is an important event, where a large body of organisations will be meeting to discuss and inspire the big question of: What happens next. Will ticketing schemes be dropped? Will engagement with young people be phased out? Questions, and concerns are being raised, and AYT are there to represent young people.

We shall be speaking in a session called ‘Re-imagining A Night Less Ordinary‘- with particular attention to how price is not the only issue. They want us to speak about this article on AYT as to why young people don’t go to the theatre. The organisers have summed up our presentation as the following:

  • Recognise that price is not the only issue:
  • Theatres are facing challenges in attracting young audiences- but what are the real issues and attitudes of young people to attending the theatre? Do we need to rethink programming and create product that engages young people?

    We want to hear what you think, so we can tell the organisations present exactly what young people believe the problems to be So, what are your thoughts? What do you want us to say? What are the challenges beyond price that face you when attending theatre? Is the price of theatre tickets the only problem for young people?

    Please use the comment box below, and AYT will ensure that your message is heard.

    Jake Orr

    Jake Orr

    Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

    More Posts - Website

    Follow Me:

    7 Comments For This Post

    1. Tiffany Stoneman Says:

      I’ve used ANLO several times as a way to get non-theatre going friends interested in theatre and seeing shows they would never have seen before. I’m a passionate audience member, and so am willing to pay to see shows, but ANLO is a vital resource in the encouragement of young people to see productions – without that, they may never bridge the gap from free theatre to willingly spend their money on it. Most people I know cannot bear the thought of spending £20+ on theatre tickets – if they knew what the experience was like through schemes like ANLO and other free-ticket companies, they’d realise that theatre is worth it. But they’ve got to start somewhere.

    2. Holly Parker Says:

      Having used both ANLO and FreeB (or, will be using my first FreeB tickets on Saturday to be precise!), I’m obviously appreciative of the schemes. There has been criticism of ANLO that it only gave young people already interested in theatre a free ticket, rather than encouraging those without engagement to go. Thinking about this now, as a young person interested in theatre, perhaps it should have been my duty to introduce my non-arty friends to join me on a trip to the theatre for free. Perhaps as young people, we should take more responsibility for introducing the arts to our peers? With the imminent abolishment of ANLO maybe I missed my chance on this. I feel a bit of an idiot that it didn’t occur to me beforehand.

      I have three younger brothers who have probably never set foot in a professional theatre venue. Is that really the government’s fault for not engaging them, or my shortfall as an older sister who really ought to be fighting the arts’ corner.

      Maybe on some level I just assummed they wouldn’t be interested. They probably wouldn’t be interested in spending their hard earned wages on a £40 ticket but if I’d have offered to take them for free? Maybe I could have got them hooked.

      Maybe I was put off by the experience of taking a group of young people from a local Youth Group to the theatre last summer. I’m not going to lie, it was a trying experience. They chatted the whole way through, laughed at inappropriate moments, ate crisps, rustled sweets and huffed about it being boring. Maybe I just didn’t take them to the right thing.

    3. Matthew Says:

      I have got to be honest I am take regular visits to the theatre and once I heard of ANLO I thought great at long last the government are trying to bring the arts to young people. However not once did I once use the scheme not because I didn’t want to because I couldn’t. Living in the Midlands theatres were many many theatres that took part however all of which were major areas and major theatres and most thought about one thing… they wanted the scheme because it brought income to them and they were going to water down the scheme as much as possible. For example one localish theatre the only thing they were offering was ballet, opera and productions that tickets were only available for weekday matinees or school nights. Now how on earth is this suppose to attract young people to get to the theatre? For one it costs to get to this theatre which would of been about £7 on the train then you have the thought of a very late night and having to get up for school the next day or in the case of a matinee having to completely miss school how did that make sense. It didn’t I tried to communicate with this theatre who brushed me under the carpet and offered me complimentary tickets not part of ANLO to try and sweeten me up. And as for the opera and ballet yes there may be free tickets but how are you going to gt teenagers to view it that already don’t go to the theatre….easy answer your not. So enough with the scheme as it was moving on to the factor effecting the scheme.

      Theatres need to stop thinking about money yes they may be a business but the future of there business holds in the hands of young people invest today to bring tommorow.

      Theatres need to showcase more productions to invoke young people to go there your not going to gt them to watch 4 hours of Shakespeare first of. Start with some comedy maybe some brand new productions written by young people.

      Bring back youth theatres that involve everybody I can guarantee some young people don’t go to the theatre now because they have wanted to be part of a theatre group but have been refused because there parents cant afford it (It does cost a lot at the moment) or the people going there just treat them like rubbish.

      Bring back theatres that involve local schools.You see nearly every week somebody like the army going to attract young people why not theatres!which brings me on to my next point

      publicising it young people are not going to look at there local theatre the theatre needs to go to them first.

      Travel costs – a big obstacle in the way to get to my local theatre I have to pay £5.20 just in travel alone that’s £5.20 without ticket prices that’s already expensive for young people.

      Local theatres- I think there is no such thing any more well not enough anyway in many towns young people don’t have a theatre they have to travel to get to one or one that actually shows something every week. I live in a town that has a theatre but used more as council offices than a theatre.

      Concession rates this links up well with my nest point but as stupid as it may sound most local theatres don’t offer concessions for every performance how on earyh are you going to get young people that have never been to the theatre to fork out £25 for a ticket your not. Another thing is family tickets surely the true way to get young people to the theatre is through family shows and dare I say it panto. The amount of friends I have spoke to what talk down at theatre enjoy pantos!

      Ticket prices and offers are still a huge barriers I have talked about last minute deals to offer young people half price discounts that have been talked about but never implemented and many many other schemes the truth is theatres don’t want to implement them because it means money.

      One final short point is school trips they are few and far between now. Surely making more of these accessible will make young people think its great to watch a show.

      So it looks like the key to my argument is theatres and how at the moment they are doing nothing to attract young people they have no outreach programmes and are not willing to put money forward to do so.

    4. Sophie Says:

      Rather than giving away free theatre tickets, the key is to make tickets affordable to young people – £5-£15 range ticket schemes are ideal – and to offer a range of ways for us to become involved with theatres apart from just a single show. For example, professional development opportunities for those working in the industry or aspiring to work in the industry, talks, tours, networking events, courses, workshops, in-house youth theatres. This is more more likely to result in a higher take-up and longer-term interest in theatre. And of course, it’s crucial to advertise lower priced ticket schemes sensibly and make it obvious that they are available when booking via a theatre website, which was a massive problem with ANLO.

    5. Christian Says:

      Without previously hearing about ANLO, I am devastated to hear that the initiative might be coming to an end. I’m a keen performer and theatre lover, and have previously spent my hard earned pocket money/wages on tickets to see productions – (sometimes) having to pay an adult price because I’m over fourteen. It is important for initiatives like this to remember that their aim is to spark enthusiasm over theatre, not to thrust cheap/free tickets into their hands and hope they’ll swallow up the show. It all depends on how the scheme is marketed. Not only should ANLO concentrate on maintaining the attainment of current theatre-goers, but also spark enthusiasm over the arts for those who wouldn’t normally see the theatre as form of entertainment. Working for a theatre company during work experience last year it was interesting to see how unwilling some schools and places of education might be to push the arts and to incorporate these initiatives into their bulletin boards.
      If ANLO were to continue, it would have to look at marketing the advantages of going to the theatre, not only to young people but also to theatres, schools, colleges and other establishments (i.e Theatre groups, community drama clubs).
      I’m sure with a push of marketing and focusing on getting new people to the theatre, the scheme would thrive. It would be a shame to see such a great idea go to waste.

    6. Deborah Ritchie Says:

      My love of theatre grew when my teachers took me to see powerful and amazing plays at a point in my life when I was open to new ideas. What keeps me & my children away now is cost. Theatre tickets are value for money but when you don’t have any money then any cost is too much. My kids would love to be part of theatre groups, my eldest daughter thas taken part in a young rep summer project but the waiting list to join the main group was so long she lost hope. The alternative? Money making ‘businesses’ like Stagecoach. I used to run a charity theatre group in a small town, which cost the same as sending your children to a youth club. We made our costs by charging for theatre tickets for parents/families. It was enough, we didn’t need to pay wages, we did it for the joy of theatre and the pleasure of seeing kids develop.

      Teachers can’t afford to budget for theatre trips in the current economy, Parents can’t afford to put shoes on feet let alone bums on seats and it seems everyone who could enthuse and ecourage children to be part of theatre wants to make money.

    7. Clare Lovell (Digital Officer for Birmingham Repertory Theatre) Says:

      We’ve recently restructured the Young REP admissions system for exactly the reasons Deborah outlines above; the waiting list was growing faster than places within the youth theatre were opening up.

      Information on ways for young people to engage with The REP’s youth theatres is available on

    1 Trackbacks For This Post

    1. Falling Headlong – and how we can make theatre trailers work « BURNTarts Says:

      [...] the pressure from various quarters to succeed seems only to undermine any attempts to do so – see the fall-out from the abandoning of A Night Less Ordinary scheme as evidence of this; in the meantime, commercial theatre seems to have enjoyed much greater [...]

    Leave a Reply

    Comments are subject to A Younger Theatre's Comment Policy. By submitting your comment you automatically agree to to the Comment Policy.
    Advertise Here
    Advertise Here

    Join our E-Newsletter

    Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.