One of the biggest problems facing the fringe is reaching new audiences.
To raise the profile of some of London’s best kept secrets we needed to think outside the box and after taking part in this week’s The Stage poll – “Will you be watching/listening to the Olivier Awards this year?” – I think I’ve hit upon an idea – let’s live stream The Off West End Theatre Awards (or ‘Offies’ to their friends)
The media coverage of the Oliviers is the reason they are such a good thing for British theatre. By offering both the glitzily edited highlights and live radio coverage, an exclusive event is transformed into one millions can enjoy. And this isn’t hyperbole, in 2012 almost one million people watched them – a profile raising figure if ever there was one.
Now, I’m not naive enough to imagine that millions of people would tune in to a live stream of the Offies. But, increasingly, this technique is being used successfully to reach larger audiences and gain momentum for fringe shows. Why shouldn’t this be capitalised for the scene as a whole?
Because of space restrictions, the Offies are invitation only (as are the Oliviers) and although they post unedited videos of the awards/speeches etc post event, some of the buzz is inevitably lost in knowing it has happened in the past. There’s nothing like being there while the action unfolds. Moreover these are not the hyper edited sexy productions of ITV – understandable given resources – but with technology providers like Ipercast maintaining that live streaming isn’t expensive to implement, the production standards could match any West End award.
And the big boys are already onto this. The Olivier Awards are live streamed and, last year, the audience focussed and technologically savvy What’s On Stage streamed their awards to great success. People could tune in and imagine they were there, sharing in that comedy unplanned moment before Twitter ruined it.
Is it a pipe dream to imagine people having Offies Parties?
Of course the fringe has a few less sequins than the Oliviers, but at the impish Offies there is always plenty of sparkle, wit and not a little controversy. This is the chance to see the voices of the future while they’re still forthright enough to say what they think, not what their agent tells them.
With Simon Callow presenting, the incentive to tune in will be high and could even call out to international audiences. Nothing would assist the Offies ambition more to “help raise the profile and status of independent theatres in London by giving them greater power to promote their work individually and collectively”.
And if it took off, is it a pipe dream to imagine people having Offies Parties? Perhaps…
I’m sure there might be logistical problems with what I’m suggesting. But, if the Offies were live streamed do you think it would help? Perhaps more importantly, would you watch?