Our first Brighton Scratch night at The Marlborough Theatre last week went really well. We had a lovely audience, a great selection of work, and the artists got useful feedback. This will definitely become a regular event in our calendar.
We hadn’t run a scratch night before this one, and there were a lot of things we had to consider (or that we didn’t consider but will next time!). So, to help out any of you who’re planning a scratch night in the future we want to give you some advice. Here’s our list of the top 5 things to think about when planning your scratch night.
The Top 5 things to think about when planning your scratch night
1.The feedback process.
This was really important for us and one of the first things we started thinking about when planning our night. A scratch night is only as useful as the feedback the artists get from the audience. Our event used the Critical Response Process developed by Liz Lerman to structure the feedback (post on this to come soon). You can structure the feedback however you want, or not at all. Some key things to consider are: what do the artists want to get from the feedback? Do they have specific questions, or are they happy for an open discussion with the audience? Might it be good to give the audience the chance to give non-verbal feedback?
Is it important to you that the venue you run your scratch night in is wheelchair accessible? Embarrassingly this wasn’t something we took into consideration before choosing our venue. Only when a wheelchair user emailed to ask if the night would be accessible did we actively think about this. Unfortunately the Marlborough Theatre isn’t accessible at present. We now plan to consider accessibility for every event we plan in future and to run events in accessible venues wherever possible. Lesson learned.
3. Ticket prices.
Ask yourself why you’re running the scratch night. Is it to raise money for your company, or is it to provide a platform for yourselves and other artists to share new work? For us it was about nurturing other artists. Raising money was a factor, but a secondary one. We chose a Pay As You Feel set up and that worked really well. If making money is more of a factor for you, consider how much you want to charge your audience. You don’t want money to be a barrier to people taking a risk on new work, we recommend no higher than £5 per ticket.
Don’t forget that by running a scratch night you are programming an evening of entertainment. You want the audience to feel satisfied with the range of work they’ve seen. You might want to consider setting a theme for the evening, so people apply with work that fits that theme. We didn’t do this, but we chose work that we felt linked well thematically and our audience really valued this.
5. Liaising with the venue.
It’s easy to think of a scratch night as something that will come together on the day and doesn’t require much planning beforehand. But, it’s well worth your time to make sure you check in regularly with the venue and communicate your needs for the day.
Find out what technical support you’ll be given, if any. Who will be around to offer any help on the day? Will someone be running your box office? Also make sure you check what needs the artists have. Are they expecting you to provide any technical equipment or simple set pieces? Make sure the venue has anything you need so you aren’t running around trying to find a microphone or a table on the day!
Find out when you can have access to the space from and get there as soon as you can. We had 3 performances of 15 minutes each, and spent a good 6 hours setting up the space and sorting out technical aspects of their pieces.
Let us know your experiences
Have you run a scratch night before? How did it go, and what are your top 5 tips for anyone thinking of running one?