LAR in the community
Tourism and Ludlow Assembly Rooms
Tourism is an important part of South Shropshire's economy, bringing in a massive £100 million a year. Tourists coming into the area mean that there are increased numbers of customers for businesses such as shops, pubs, hotels, restaurants and various visitor attractions; this translates into significant employment opportunities, to the extent that tourism accounts for 25% of all jobs in the county.
Visitors like coming to Ludlow, partly because it is a beautiful town set in spectacular countryside, and partly because there is a good range of things to do in the area. After a day of walking in the hills, or retail therapy in the local shops, visitors are on the look-out for entertainment, especially in the evenings. This is where Ludlow Assembly Rooms comes in - perfectly placed right in the centre of Ludlow, there is a live show or film on every night, and always something to choose from.
Says Paula Redway, director, "We're always delighted to welcome visitors to the area, and often we bring real added value to a visitor's experience. For example this year's Mediaeval Fayre at Ludlow Castle was in the middle of a very cold snap. Hundreds of visitors made their way to Ludlow Assembly Rooms to warm up in the café, and lots of them decided to stay on in Ludlow overnight to watch the Sunday matinée of the new Harry Potter film which we were screening on release. It was great that we were able to offer that ‘added extra' to people visiting Ludlow for a day or a weekend - it's having an all-round good experience that makes people return time after time, and tell all their friends what a great place Ludlow is to visit".
A postcode analysis of the Assembly Rooms' audiences for last year revealed that, as expected, the great majority (over 19,000) live in the SY local postcode area, and thousands more in other local postcode areas, but a surprising number of people come from well outside the area. For example 560 bookings came from people who live in Greater London, 1,208 from Birmingham, 588 from the South East (places like Oxford, Portsmouth and Brighton) and 511 from the North East (including Chester, Manchester and Stockport).
Eileen Fermor-Harris runs the highly successful B&B Number Twenty Eight on Lower Broad Street, Ludlow. She says "guests often ask me what they can do in the evenings, and having the Assembly Rooms right in the middle of town is a real bonus - there's always something going on, and visitors are often amazed at the choice and quality of shows and films on offer".
Ludlow Assembly Rooms is proud to contribute to the range of attractions and entertainment that makes South Shropshire such a popular and successful tourist destination.
Ludlow Assembly Rooms shares its expertise
Running an Arts and Community Centre is a complicated business, and between them the staff at Ludlow Assembly Rooms have a wealth of skills and experience. Increasingly they are making this expertise available to other organisations, and can offer support in a number of ways.
Box Office ticketing is an obvious example, especially for Festivals. This year Sheep Music ticketing was taken care of by LAR's Box Office, handling ticket sales including telephone booking, enquiries and sending tickets out in the post. This freed the Sheep Music Festival up from having to staff a full-time Box Office, along with all the associated admin work, and customers benefited from being able book their tickets 7 days a week, 10am - 8pm, using credit cards if necessary.
But ticketing is not the only benefit on offer; for the past two years Ludlow Festival has booked Ludlow Assembly Rooms to manage their event publicity, including creating and implementing a marketing strategy to increase the Festival's national profile.
The Green Festival has also benefited from Assembly Rooms' expertise; two years ago the Assembly Rooms took on co-ordinating the Festival, generating ideas and assisting with administrative support. The Green Festival is an established highlight of summer in Ludlow - and the Assembly Rooms continues to programme a suitably Green film as part of the Festival.
Take to the stage
Ludlow College has worked in partnership with Ludlow Assembly Rooms for the past two years to put on two highly successful stage shows, Grease in 2008, and this year The Little Shop of Horrors. This gave many students their first taste of performing on stage, with all the necessary technical equipment provided (lighting and sound), and the professional expertise that is needed to put on a full-scale show. The result was a resounding success for both students and audience - some audience members even said it was the best shown they'd ever seen.
Other partnerships include working with the Choral Society to establish youth choir Ludlow New Voices, working with DaSH on the Carnival, and more recently putting on a Film and Disability Day as part of the Borderlines Film Festival. Local theatre company Pentabus have worked in partnership with the Assembly Rooms to put on a series of Diversity Days, promoting understanding and celebrating difference.
This is only a taste of what Ludlow Assembly Rooms can offer, to find out more call The Director, on 01584 813703.
How Ludlow Assembly Rooms benefits the Local Economy
Ludlovians worked hard to get Ludlow Assembly Rooms up and running in 1993, and today Ludlow and the surrounding area benefits hugely from having its own community centre and place of entertainment. But there are also less obvious benefits to Ludlow - for example, the venue brings substantial benefits to the local economy. An independent survey conducted by Sheffield University in 2005 found that activities at the Assembly Rooms support the local economy to the tune of £3,000,000 a year.
How is this possible? Largely through providing employment, and purchasing locally, both of which generate activity in the local economy.
Tracey Fielding, finance officer, says "We always purchase locally if we can, and we certainly buy loads of things from local shops; for our café we buy from Ludlow's butchers, veg shops, the Deli and Bikold, and we get lovely apple juice from local suppliers Tickmore and ice cream from September Organics in Weobley. We buy various things from local shops Homecare, South Shropshire Glass, Roundabout stationary, Kingfisher Leisure Wear and the Star paper shop. And of course we use local suppliers like Think Graphic in Corve Street (for our brochure design), Orphans Press in Leominster (for our website), plus Pykefield Signs and Craven Security - and our extremely tall windows are cleaned by a company from Knighton."
Local supplier Matthew Lloyd from Think Graphic says, "Like a jigsaw piece, the ebullient Ludlow Assembly Rooms fits snugly into the town's economy, and supports all that interconnect with them."Bringing people into the area
Audiences for Ludlow Assembly Rooms' shows come from Ludlow itself, and also from the towns and villages that surround it - and when people come into Ludlow they often combine their visit with a bit of shopping, or a meal out. But big name artists (such as Eddie Izzard who appeared last year) attract people from far and wide. Once visitors - whether audience or artists - have experienced the delights of Ludlow, they very often return with their families for a day out or a holiday, benefitting local businesses such as shops, cafés, restaurants and B&Bs.
It takes a lot of people to run a building like Ludlow Assembly Rooms, and the venue provides employment for over 30 staff, mostly part-time, who all live locally. The staff have a wide range of skills and work in the kitchen, on box office, in the office, on technical jobs and keeping the building clean.
Local employment keeps people in Ludlow and encourages local spending, helping to keep the local economy healthy.
13 October 2009
Ludlow Assembly Rooms celebrates its volunteers
Huge thanks are due to the 162 people who regularly give up their time to volunteer at Ludlow Assembly Rooms, and the many more volunteers give up their time for shorter periods to help with particular projects.
There are activities of one kind or another going on in the building all the time, including live shows and films, regular classes for all ages (art, dance, yoga etc), workshops, talks, clubs and societies. An organisation with this much going on needs a lot of support - and that's where the volunteers come in.
Volunteers help in all areas of the organisation, with the majority stewarding at live shows, films and workshops - with the obvious benefit of seeing the show. Other volunteering opportunities are tailored to fit around time availability or interests, and include working with the various staff members in the busy office, with the technical team behind the scenes, or helping the public on Box Office.
There are plenty of benefits for volunteers too, including meeting people, making new friends and the stimulation of learning new skills - not to mention feeling right in the centre of things and knowing that they are making a valuable contribution to a very worthwhile cause. Says Judy Hennah, who has volunteered regularly in the office for over seven years: "I couldn't believe my luck when I moved here; all that entertainment and amenity on my doorstep, and the opportunity to volunteer and support such a valuable asset. I'm always made welcome during my few hours a week, and whatever I do (however small) is acknowledged and appreciated. Great place, great people! "
What makes a typical volunteer?
Apart from a desire to support Ludlow Assembly Rooms, volunteers are as varied as can be; some are retired, some work full or part time, and some are at school or college. Says Harry James, who goes to Ludlow College,
"when I first came to Ludlow I knew nobody, but the Assembly Rooms put me on the fast track to Ludlow's social life. Not only is it a great way to get integrated into the community, but it opens many theatrical doors as well as giving you invaluable experience. It also looks great on a CV!"
New volunteers are always welcome to join the team, to find out more pick up a leaflet or ask for a Volunteer Application Form from Box Office (01584 878141)
Ludlow Assembly Rooms already planning next Youth Festival
For the last two years Ludlow Assembly Rooms has raised the money for and delivered an annual free youth festival in the Sandpits area for young people of all ages. This July the Festival was a huge success, attracting over 1,000 visitors to take part in the activities which included skateboarding competitions, art, dance, music, theatre, a talk by a Blue Peter nominated author, and a visiting helicopter.
Says Paula Redway, director, "We do an incredible amount for young people, and are very proud of what we do. Young people can take part in weekly regular activities throughout the year, and we always put on fun workshops and films in school holidays for all ages. We often programme shows aimed at a young audience, and put on events like the ice rink for young people and families, as well as offering free tickets for people under 26 to all our live shows all year around.
All this is fairly visible, but you might not be aware of some of the things that go on behind the scenes. For example we work closely with Ludlow College every year to put on a big musical theatre show; we host the Kumon Education programme which coaches children in Maths and English, and every year we take over 20 work experience students, helping them to get an idea of what it's really like in the world of work.
Now we're looking ahead to next year's Youth Festival, and we're very keen to hear from young people, and get your input into what goes into the Festival at the planning stage. Our doors are always open, so you can just pop in, or give us your ideas via our Facebook page. We want the next Festival to be the biggest and best yet, so if you have any ideas or would like to take part in any way, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.'