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Box office manager Alec Connell: ‘My first job was in 1985 when it was still manual ticketing’

Alec Connell Alec Connell

With two shows at the Criterion Theatre and a busy Christmas in the West End, Alec Connell tells Georgia Snow what that means for the box office…

What are your main responsibilities as box office manager?

Ensuring that the ticket-buying procedure runs smoothly across all channels – window sales, phone sales and online. The Criterion is a very small theatre and we are quite limited space-wise, so we outsource our phone sales, but my job generally is to ensure that ticket buying works as smoothly as possible. It’s operational but it’s the frontline for anything ticket related.

Is your job busier at this time of year?

It’s a really busy time for us, the West End is mad. We have two shows at the moment [The Comedy About a Bank Robbery and Mr Popper’s Penguins], so it’s definitely busier. They’re both the same producer, so it’s really just a question of keeping an eye on more than one thing at once. During the Olympics we had an auxiliary programme here, with lunchtime talks and late-night shows, so there are times when we have a lot of things going on at the same time then. It does increase your workload but it’s really just doing more of the same things.

Have you always worked in ticketing?

Pretty much. I started doing holiday jobs and then went from there. I will have been at the Criterion for 19 years in April. I do like working here. It’s a lovely theatre and I particularly like that it’s an independent theatre, so my job here has greater responsibility than it would have elsewhere. I work very closely with the general manager and I’ve learnt a lot about the contractual nature of productions coming in – things that I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to be involved in otherwise. That makes the job more interesting.

How have you seen your job change throughout your career so far?

It’s changed enormously. I had my first job in a box office in 1985 when it was still manual ticketing. Obviously computerisation was the biggest change, and I was at Stoll Moss when they went from manual to computerisation, and I was also on the back end of manual ticketing being phased out at the Drury Lane and at the Haymarket. It’s very different now. More and more it’s going that way [online]. Obviously there are people that are resistant to that, but it’s the bulk of the sales now.

Mr Popper’s Penguins runs until December 31 at the Criterion Theatre, London; The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is booking until October 29, 2017

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