As lockdown eases, read how we are using our closure to better understand our audience

As lockdown across the country begins to ease, at Portsmouth Guildhall we find ourselves in a bit of a limbo situation waiting to hear when we might be able to reopen and what measures we might have to put in place to keep ourselves and our customers safe when we do.

So, while for the moment we plan as best we can and actively participate in conversations across our industry, we are also working hard to understand our audiences and learn from other sectors and venues around the world.

Since going into lockdown we have been approached by numerous organisations wanting to conduct research with our audiences and we have largely resisted these requests so as not to bombard people, but recently we have joined a national survey involving 300 of the country’s most significant cultural organisations and our ticketing partner, Ticketmaster, have conducted a survey with 176,000 of their users.

The purpose of this research being to understand how you feel about returning to venues such as ours and how you feel about buying tickets for shows and events, so that we as a business can plan as best as we can, with our audiences at the forefront of our minds.

And the results? Well, clearly people are missing being able to attend live events and on the whole say they want to and will return (which is of great relief to us as a business that has been closed for 10 weeks already and no end in sight!) but the big question is ‘when’ and this is naturally where people have differing views and concerns and some just don’t feel ready to answer at the moment.

As we’ve already seen with the easing of measures in other areas, there are people who are happy to flock to the beaches or queue for hours at the likes of Ikea, and equally there are those that still prefer not to set foot outside their front door and we can understand both ends of this spectrum and everything in between. We also understand that there aren’t generalisations across demographic groups to be made – what people feel comfortable with is very much an individual choice and decision.

What the research has clarified is the range of measures that will need to be implemented to help people feel safe and confident when making that decision to return, and this is where our focus at the moment lies working on plans to maintain distancing, contactless processes, sanitisation and cleaning procedures, protective screening, our communication systems and much more to reassure you that your wellbeing is our priority.

What is also clear is the will of the entertainment industry to come together, to share knowledge, information, ideas and to support each other through these times, learning from others across the world. Much has been said of theatres in Seoul that have remained open throughout the pandemic with deep cleaning, temperature checks and contactless systems with reportedly venues in Australia now following a similar approach. You may have seen the projected distanced seating images of Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin last week and this is another possibility we have to consider.

Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin

Over the coming weeks we will be participating in further surveys to understand if people’s feelings are changing as lockdown continues to ease and hopefully the government advice for concert halls and theatres becomes clearer, and we thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts with us. Audience samples to complete surveys are selected at random but if you would be interested in joining an online focus group please drop us a line at – we would love to hear from you!

Please stay engaged with us online and our social channels where we will keep you posted on our plans for the future.

Thank you for your continued support through this period of temporary closure – buying a ticket for a future show or making a donation if you can makes such a difference at a time when we have a very limited income.

We look forward to the time when we will see you again!

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