SHOWS put on at the West Gippsland Arts Centre are increasingly attracting crowds from outside of Baw Baw.
First published in the 10 April 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Manager Rob Robson said the Arts Centre was continuing to draw visitors from across Gippsland while reaching further into Melbourne.
“We do a regular survey of where our buyers are coming from because our ticket system collects that information,” Mr Robson told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“When I look at individual ticket buyers, and I’m not talking about numbers because quite clearly the number of local attendants is quite high, we’re finding that over 50 per cent of individuals who purchase tickets to performances here come from outside the [Baw Baw] shire.
“Obviously that’s through South Gippsland, our neighbours in LaTrobe and Wellington and right down to Bairnsdale, but increasingly what we’re observing is we’re extending our reach from Pakenham, Narre Warren, Berwick and further and further into Melbourne.
“Clearly the Monash Freeway and Eastlink have made it easier. People say ‘I reach the Monash and turn left instead of right, I drive the same amount of time, I often get to see the same show, I’ll often pay less for the ticket, my parking is free compared to the city where it’s going to cost me $30 or more, I’ll get a meal before the show at the restaurant here, and it feels nice and friendly.”
Mr Robson said limited public transport options were not a hindrance in attracting new customers.
“I don’t think people going out in an evening in the country ever think about going by public transport,” he said.
Mr Robson said the recently-formed Gippsland Theatre Network was helping grow audiences at venues across eastern Victoria.
“It’s very much about getting people to travel across shire borders instead of working in those silos,” he said.
“You will find in our brochures this year and our [Gippsland theatre] colleagues’ brochures if a show is on at multiple venues. So if you miss it here I can see it elsewhere.
“I think that’s really important.
“We talk about ‘what is a community?’ A community is not just a group of people defined by geography, it’s defined by a shared interest.”
One measure of the success of the Arts Centre has been the number of people with a membership. Mr Robson said that had grown significantly over the past half decade.
“When I came here about five years ago we had about 300 members of the Arts Centre, and the number now is in the region of 800.
“Members are largely locals. They’re not in it just for the cheap tickets, they just want to belong.
“We have people come to members’ nights who never come to shows, they just want to support it.
“The members become fantastic ambassadors. The most likely person to come to a show who has never been before is someone a member knows, not someone we know.
“I don’t think there’s a show that goes by where we don’t have someone who walks in for the very first time.”
Get free email updates from the Baw Baw Citizen
Read more Baw Baw Entertainment