Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Peter Andre is back in the house!

Just over 3 weeks since Peter Andre’s cancellation hit the national press, I’m delighted to say that he’s made it to Plymouth, and we are all systems go for tonight’s gig.


Tonight is our last show before Christmas, and ends an epic run of 18 events on the trot in December.  It’s our busiest time of the year for the arena, and many of our team are quite rightly looking forward to the respite that Christmas and January brings.  As ever they’ve pulled it out of the bag and ensured things have run smoothly throughout, despite the challenges of sickness and the weather.


Mind you, across in our leisure department, school holiday time means no rest for the wicked: our fun pool and ice rink are open all days except Christmas Day, Boxing Day (26th) and New Years Day.


Thank you for reading, and have a fantastic Christmas!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Peter Andre's concert tonight is postponed

Peter Andre was rushed to hospital in the early hours of this morning in excruciating pain. At present he is being monitored closely and being kept in for extensive tests and scans. 


Peter was due to play at Plymouth Pavilions tonight for the first night of his Arena Tour, however this has had to be postponed due to his current condition and will be re-scheduled for Tuesday 21st December 2010.


Peter’s manager Claire Powell said:

“We are very worried about Peter and at present we do not know what is causing him to be in so much pain. Peter is terribly disappointed that he is unable to perform at tonight’s sold out opening night.  At this time we have no more information though we are hoping Peter will be able to perform at Minehead tomorrow as planned. We will keep his fans informed via his website www.peterandre.com for further information on the situation.”


Information for fans that are due to attend tonight’s concert:

Concert promoters ask that ticket holders retain their tickets which will remain valid for the rescheduled date.  Those unable to attend the show on the 21st December should apply to their original point of purchase for a refund within the next 14 days.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Bomb Evacuees use the Pavilions as a Rest Centre

Well, where do I start!

As part of the city's plans for dealing with major incidents, we have an agreement in place to make the Pavilions available to be used as a base for affected members of the public, emergency services, and in essence whatever is required.  Yesterday, it was required.


As I’m sure you’ll know by now, an unexploded World War 2 bomb was found in the old NAAFI on Thursday afternoon.  At 5.30pm we received a call that the area around the bomb was being evacuated, and the emergency plan was being launched.  Within minutes, members of the public who had been hurried out of their homes and businesses were arriving at The Pavilions.  This included all the guests and staff of the Holiday Inn. 


Thankfully, plans for this are sat on shelves waiting to be read, and regular training is undertaken within our Front Of House teams.  By 6.30pm, around 300 residents of all ages were being looked after by our staff (who had either stayed on, or had come in at literally a moments notice), by the emergency services, social services, St Johns Ambulance, and even a holidaying Reverend.


The bomb was eventually made safe and was ready to be moved by 10pm. Unfortunately the route it needed to take went right past the Pavilions, so one final set of precise planning was required to ensure everyone within the building was safe should the bomb explode while passing us!


At 10.50pm we were able to give the "all clear", and allowed people to leave.


Even with all the planning in the world, these types of events can be difficult, let alone at a moments notice.  However, I'm so proud to have witnessed the evening be handled in a first class manner.  I cannot praise enough every single member of staff involved, who all played their own important part in the events.  Some worked a 14 hour day.  Others came in at a drop of a hat.  All went beyond the call of duty, which was just what was required.


So thank you to everyone involved.  And not just our staff, but to the Police, Council, NHS, various branches of the Social Services, and numerous charity volunteers.  They all helped many, many people, including those that were young, old, sick and disabled, to have the most positive experience they could at a time of anxiety and concern.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Rhod Gilbert is postponed

Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert, who was due to be with us this Wednesday evening was postponed today.  He has pneumonia, and was ordered by his doctor this morning not to go ahead with this weeks commitments.  If you know anyone who was due to be coming, please let them know.
Hopefully though we've also managed to get the message out to them.  On average, we only cancel or postpone 1 or 2 shows a year, and the alst time it happened so close to the event was around 3 years ago.  Thankfully though, we're pretty good at having procedures in place for things like this, and our team knew exactly what had to be done today.
The first I heard about it was an email from his Promoter at around 2pm this afternoon.  She was contacting us, and the other venues affected.  We immediately took the show "off sale", which means we stopped selling tickets, but at that point didn't give any indications as to why.  Before we communicate that the show isn't happening, we want to also communicate what IS happening instead.
Both myself and the Promoter were keen to rearrange the show for a new date, and that process, which invloved not just us, but also the other venues, was finished by 4.45pm.  We had a new date of February 3rd next year.
In the meantime, our Marketing team had drafted the Press Release, plus an email and posted letter, both of which would go out to everyone that had bought a ticket, to be doubly sure that they heard, and don't turn up on Wednesday.
At 4.45 I was able to say to the team "It's February 3rd, go for it".  The date was inserted into the documents, and our printer started printing the letters.  Throughout the afternoon they had also already printed all the envelopes and run them through the franking machine.
All available hands were on deck to fold the letters and stuff the envelopes.
By 5.45, one hour later, the email had gone, Radio Plymouth were making the announcements that the show was postponed, and I had over a thousand letters in my boot on the way to the sorting office.  They will be on doormats tomorrow morning.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Almost a train crash

An update for you on my blog last week regarding the Thomas The Tank show.  I mentioned how we'd strenghtened the stage to take the weight of the trains, which are over a tonne each.
First the good news.  Our sums were right.  Where we had bolstered the strength, it held up.
Now the not so good news, which I received at half five on Friday night.  During the tour (as happens with most tours while they are on the road), the show had been refined and improved.  As part of that, Thomas was now using a much greater area of the stage than we had believed.  Unfortunately we had only strenghtened the area we thought was needed. 
There was only one way to find out if this was a problem.. to ask Thomas to rehearse!  And so he did.
Crack...  Crack...  Crack...
After a few panicked phone calls, it was clear there were two options: to somehow spend more money on Friday teatime to make the whole stage stronger, or to think about cancelling some or all of the shows.  Well as a father of 2 who were due to come the next day, it was clear that upsetting around 2000 children wasn't an acceptable outcome. 
Thankfully, the next phone call to Totem Timber went well, and despite the fact that they were on their way home, were able to supply what we needed.  Our maintenance and technical teams worked around the clock, as they do so often, without anyone (including me) ever noticing or appreciating.
The result was that the show went on, and thankfully no children witnessed a train crash at Millbay Station this weekend.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Trains are calling at Millbay Station again!

Those with long memories may recall that the Pavilions is built on the site of a former railway station.  “Plymouth Millbay” Station stood opposite the Duke of Cornwall Hotel, and was the original terminus for the city.  It opened is 1849 and the last passenger train departed in 1941.  


Until now.


This weekend, we have not 1, but 5 trains back at Plymouth Millbay station, as children’s show Thomas and Friends takes to the stage.  They’re hefty things as well – so much so that we’ve had to get the Pavilions stage especially re-enforced to handle the weight.  I hope we’ve got the calculations right!


Oh, and next time you are near the front entrance of the Pavilions, look out for 2 granite posts near Millbay Road.  They are the original gate posts to the station, and are all that is left of it today. 

Friday, 27 August 2010

It's almost silly season!

Hi again.


Well this is my first post in almost 2 months, and the reason for that is that July and August are very quiet times both on stage and behind the scenes at entertainment arenas such as ours.  There are 2 main reasons for this.  The first is the fact that we British tend to plan and measure our “summer” around the 6 weeks of the school holidays.  This means that lots of us go away at the same time, and although this helps traditional tourist attractions (like our leisure facilities, for example), it makes the job of selling tickets to a show in that period much harder than it otherwise would.  For that reason, very few acts go out and tour across the summer.


So what do they do instead?  Well that’s the second reason, Festivals.  These have exploded in numbers and scale over the last decade, and every summer weekend has at least one major festival.  Each of these will have many stages, so that everyone from breakthrough acts to the international superstars can be accommodated.


You may wonder therefore what we have been doing for the last 2 months.  Well, pretty much the same.  A lot of our arena related staff – and that’s everyone from Box Office to Technical to Catering to – also make the most of the opportunity of the quiet time, and have good long summer breaks.  But the other thing we do, particularly me in my role, is stay on top of who’s going down well at the festivals.  The show Promoters are doing this as well, scanning for the act that’s suddenly going down a storm, and might be ready for a UK tour.


I’m pleased to say that the phone has been red hot this week, and lots of deals have been done.  We’ve got some great shows to bring you over the next 6 months.  Most of them will be featured in our new season brochure which is at the printers and will be out in a couple of weeks (our Marketing team don’t get a quiet summer!), but there have also been some great last minute signings too, and you’ll start to hear about some of the biggies next week.


Here we go again…

Friday, 2 July 2010

I Bet You Didn't Know

The Pavilions as a building is owned by the council, and for the first year or so of its life was run by them too.  But in 1993, the Management team of the Theatre Royal were asked to take over what too many people were calling a "white elephant".  Ever since then, Theatre Royal (Plymouth) Ltd has run The Pavs, as we affectionately call it.
Now that means that although we run the venue as businesslike as possible, believe it or not, the Plymouth Pavilions is a not for profit charity.  There's no shareholders, no big conglomerate, no-one getting rich.  Instead, the approach at the Pavilions benefits from the same attitudes and ambitions that the Theatre Royal as a charity has.  As far as the entertainment programme is concerned, our aim is to provide the city and region with the widest possible choice of events that will, at some point, appeal to all.
Now that might sound like a normal thing to say, but unfortunately, it's not.  In this modern day of commercialism, venues in towns and cities around the land are often run by private companies, and as their shareholders would expect, are run to deliver the most profit.  What that means in reality is that only the shows that generate lots of money for the venue ever happen.
But a venue run as a charity with an objective of enhancing the local culture will put on events that might not make so much money (or even lose money), if it feels it's contributing to local life in some way.
To put the meat on the bones, because the Theatre Royal runs the Pavilions, we're able to bring to Plymouth Male Voice Choirs, Shaolin Monks, Brass Bands, Japanese Drummers and more.
The reason for me writing this today is that I have just come from a classical concert in The Guildhall, where Classical Brit winner and one of the finest violinists in the world, Nicola Benedetti, has just performed Vivaldi's Four Seasons alongside The European Union Chamber Orchestra. 
As part of it's charitable objectives, the Pavilions organised, promoted and subsidised this concert.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

It's horrible at the Pavilions right now

Several months ago I wrote about how the programme changes from year to year, depending on trends, the economy and the like.  One of the areas I focussed on was how there would be less shows for children this year than last.  Thomas The Tank Engine is coming in October, which I have to say is a logistical feat to fill our stage with a set including several moving trains!
Our other main childrens show is with us right now.  It's Horrible Science, which is an educational TV programme for kids, as is Horrible Histories, a sister show, which I can reveal here will also be with us next February.
What's been really great about this show is the fact that I mention above, that it's educational, and full of key stage curriculum content.  However, it's delivered in a very entertaining way.  Because of this we've been able to encourage local schools to organise daytime trips to see the show, and on it's first day today, over 1300 schoolchildren had a fun day out just ahead of half term, and learnt about science without even realising it.  It's here until Saturday, and as far as I'm aware, includes the first ever 3D show in the Pavilions!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A long time in showbiz

It's been a really quiet time for us in the office over the last month or so, hence why I haven't blogged much.  There are 2 things that dictate how busy we are: what is going on in the arena, and what we are planning.
On the first point, March is often one of our fullest months, and this year was no exception.  Why?  It just is.  The same as April is one of our quietest months.  There are just less shows around.  In May we are in action almost everyday, although to the outside world you wouldn't know, as this in the main is work for corporate clients, rather than "shows".  More about this in my next post.
So to the second point, the forward planning.  As I just mentioned, the diary has peaks and troughs.  The biggest peak is November and December, where we see the highest concentration of headline shows.  We start looking at dates for these shows over a year in advance, and a things stand right now, there are only a handful of days across those 2 months that don't have something planned.  However, right now we're not actually moving many of them further forward.  That's because 8 months is a very long time in showbusiness.  Before going out on the road,  Comedians will want to see how well they're received on Mock The Week.  Bands will want to see how their records sell before going out on the road.  Or how well they go down at Glastonbury.
Last years Christmas Coup, Them Crooked Vultures, didn't get arranged until the end of August.  The planning lull will last another month before the winter season starts firming up. 
There's already some really special stuff in the diary which will be awesome for Plymouth this year, but with a bit of luck, I'll get some phone calls is August again too.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

It's not about personal taste

This week we've had someone with us who polarises opinion.  They did so before their performance, and they have done after.  I'm talking about Peter Andre.
I remember about 6 months ago I had a lengthy conversation with the Promoter who was wanting to send Pete out on a nationwide tour.  Aside from the usual details about the show itself, we tried to judge the mood of the public.  Team Pete v Team Katie and all that.
We eventually agreed that we had a show we were happy with, and we put it on sale.
At this point, let me declare that I'm neither Team Pete or Team Katie.  That sort of celebrity hype is of no interest to me personally.  And that sentiment runs through everything I programme for the Pavilions.  It's never about personal taste.
My remit and desire is to provide a diverse range of events that over a reasonable period of time will provide something for everyone.  I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight that the Pavilions, with it's charitable status and cultural objectives, is unique in being able to do this. This approach means that we can bring to Plymouth acts like the Japanese Kodo Drummers, as we did a few weeks ago.  Or Treorchy Male Choir.  Or Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
Peter isn't my cup of tea, but I appreciate that he is admired (and not) by many.  I am glad to have been able to provide the people of Plymouth the opportunity of whether or not to go to his concert.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

We're still going Bonkers with Dizzee

This evening (Tuesday), the phones suddenly went mad with fans of Dizzee Rascal, who's at the Pavilions tomorrow night.  They'd heard that his gig is cancelled.
Any other day, we'd have been able to respond to this straight away, but today we were doing things a little differently.  The Events team started the day with Health & Safety stuff like Fire Alarm drills, and  finished it with an off site business planning session.  So when the guys back at base rang us at 8pm and told us the phones were going beserk, we didn't have the answers.
A quick internet search via a mobile phone revealed Dizzee had cancelled tonight's gig due to a throat infection.  However, upon further scrutiny, that was a story from a couple of years ago!  I eventually got hold of the number for Dizzee's representative, who is on the road with him.  Tonight, they're in Brighton.  When I explained what we'd heard, she told us that some troublemaker made a rogue posting to Facebook this morning.  From that the rumour grew to Twitter.  And then to radio stations. 
It's not true.  Dizzee Rascal will play Plymouth tomorrow evening.  But we've experienced the power of social networking, in the negative message that spread today,  followed tonight by Dizzee's personal message on his Twitter site putting the record straight.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Backstage at... The Prodigy

The Prodigy were here on Monday evening, and they’re just the sort of act you’d expect would leave me with loads of tales to tell. Boozy antics, backstage bust ups, and smashed TV’s. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but there was none of it. In fact, just about the worst thing I can come up with was that the band travelled here in separate limos, so the environment isn’t top of their agenda!

If you were here on Monday, or have read the comments on thisisplymouth, you’ll know that it was an awesome night. Throwing back to a previous posting, it’s also great that it’s been acknowledged that although the sound system was loud, which it really needs to be for a gig like this, that the sound was perfect and you could hear every word.

The biggest worry for us ahead of the gig was that we received some intelligence that organised pickpockets had targeted this tour, had bought tickets for all of the shows, and were travelling the country conducting their crimes. Losing your wallet or your mobile on a night out can completely change your evening, and of course it doesn’t do our reputation any good either. It’s extremely rare that such a thing happens here but we couldn’t ignore the tip off, so we worked extremely hard to try and strike the right balance between taking every step possible, but without spoiling the experience for our 4000 customers.

The best way to prevent crimes like this is to deter or prevent the criminals in the first place. The Police were fantastic. On site we had a Police CCTV van, and around a dozen uniformed officers and PCSO’s. They maintained a high visibility presence around the venue, but also respected our wishes for them not to be present inside the arena, so that our customers didn’t feel intimidated. Instead, they also provided undercover officers, who were inside and on the lookout at all times. In addition, our security team of around 40 were on full alert.

We also took the rare decision to search and pat down customers on entry to the venue. We don’t do this lightly, as we don’t wish to intimidate, antagonise or scare anyone. In actual fact, the feedback that we’ve had over the last couple of days was that it had quite the opposite effect – people were happy and comforted by the fact that we took their safety so seriously. Importantly though, it worked. The evening passed without major event, and “Everybody In The Place” went home happy.

Friday, 15 January 2010

New signing

Within the last half hour I’ve just completed negotiations on our first major signing of the year.  Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more than that right now, as the announcement can’t be made for a few more weeks.


The timing of when a show is announced is sometimes completely random, but on many occasions it is planned with meticulous detail, and involves many different organisations.  With this show, the act in question haven’t released any new material for a little while, and so the first job to be done is to get them back in the public eye.  To start it all off, the 1st single from their new album will be unveiled on the radio.  That will be followed by the band doing a heavy schedule of promotion such as media interviews.  Then the single gets released, and touch wood it does well in the charts (which it should).  A week later the album will be released and hopefully the same pattern flows.  At that point, when the public appetite for the band is at its highest, the tour will be announced.


Later that week there will be a “pre-sale” which is where a small allocation of tickets will be sold early to hardcore fans through the act’s official website.  Then on the Friday, we’ll start selling the tickets


And it doesn’t end there.  A few weeks after that the follow up single will go out.  The theory being that each wave raises the hype, and helps the sales of the next.


In this case the whole process of the single’s first play on TV and radio is happening right now, and we’re scheduled to announce the show on February 1st, so make sure you check www.plymouthpavilions.com and www.thisisplymouth.com that day to find out who it is!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

What you never get to see

Happy New Year!
Over Christmas I signed off the artwork for our new season brochure.  It's being printed as we speak (or is that type?!), and will be in the post to our subscribers and available in hundreds of locations across the South West in 2 weeks time.  It's our major showcase of the events we're presenting from now until the summer.
However, what I bet you don't know is that a sizeable amount of what we do in the Pavilions Arena never makes it into the brochure.  Or the website.  Or into any publicity at all.
That's because as well as the entertainment events we host, the Plymouth Pavilions is the South West's leading conference and corporate destination.  Organisations from all over the country (and sometimes abroad) choose to hold their events right here in Plymouth, which often go below the radar of the local community.  Recent examples include a conference for the Royal College of Nursing, a prestigious media awards ceremony and a trade union congress.  This year amongst others we're hosting a major Baptist Assembly.
In addition to that, we host many local corporate events.  Just this week we have 2 local employers hosting their Christmas parties in the arena.  But back to the national stuff we attract.  The planning cycle for these types of event is often 2-3 years.  It starts with us pro-actively marketing Plymouth as an exciting conference destination to the people who book these events, and after lots of conversations ultimately leads to some bookings. 
This part of our business is incredibly labour intensive in comparison to sticking a comedian on a stage for a night.  However, the benefits to the city of several hundred (or thousand) delegates and their families descending on Plymouth, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and buying in our shops is a return that far outweighs the investment. 
Plymouth is a wonderful destination, and we find time and time again that once we've demonstrated that, business will come from all over the country to the West Country.