“The shows add an exciting and different dimension to our entertainment offer. The atmosphere in the pub during a show is great, people are enthralled, and the performances are intimate and informal which customers really enjoy.”
INN CROWD shows Roaring Success at The White Lion
Publicans Karen Johnson and David Thompson have been offering INN CROWD shows since 2017, the year they first opened traditional village pub The White Lion at Selling, Kent www.whitelionselling.co.uk, and enjoy the different dimension the shows bring to the pub’s entertainment offer. The White Lion, which has a strong following for its great food, quality drinks range, including local ales, and a wide range of events and entertainment, such as monthly quiz and live music nights, musical bingo, wine tastings, theme dinners and INN CROWD shows, with around six hosted each year.
The shows help drive incremental business for the pub, as they are hosted in its function room or, in the garden, weather permitting, during the summer. For performances hosted in the function room, the start time is scheduled for 9pm, to give people the opportunity to come in and dine or have drinks pre-show. For summer shows which are able to be hosted in the garden, the pub, which is a Shepherd Neame tenancy, hosts performances in the afternoons with attendees encouraged to have lunch before or dinner afterwards.
Quality entertainment on locals’ doorstep
The pub is a special part of the INN CROWD’s history, as Karen and David have been hosting its shows since the conception of the project in 2017. Publican Karen says: “The shows took off very well straightaway. Our supporters in the village are very capable of going up to London or into Canterbury to visit the theatre, but they love the fact that they can come and see a show locally and have a meal and couple of drinks at the pub too as part of the experience.” She adds: “Audience numbers can be up to 40 people, with an average of around 25 attendees a show. The majority of attendees will come in and have drinks or a meal before a show, with around an extra 20 covers when an INN CROWD performance is on. It is lovely to have something different to offer people and the shows help bring new people in, with couples visiting us again after the shows.”
Spreading the word
Karen markets the INN CROWD shows through social media, including live entertainment groups for local towns and village and with posters put up in the pub and on the village noticeboard. Karen adds: “One of the most effective ways is through myself and David talking to people and encouraging them to come.” The publicans charge £7.50 for a ticket, but when they have upcoming shows soon after each other, for example they have shows booked for February, March and April, tickets for all three are offered for £20. Karen says: “We position the cost of the show as accessible for all, so people can enjoy a show and a drink at the bar and it isn’t too expensive. We feel if we package it up and say it is £30 for show and meal, it might put some people off. So feel it is best to leave it optional to book in for dinner.” She adds: “If people want to come in before the show for a meal or drinks then that is great, and if they don’t then the £7.50 still helps towards the cost of the show and hopefully people will like it and come back.”
Enjoyed both sides of the bar
Another lovely benefit of hosting the shows for The White Lion’s team is the enjoyment they get themselves from them. Karen says: “I absolutely love the performances and the diversity of the shows. It is always good to hear customers buzzing and talking about the shows when they come up to the bar afterwards. It’s a great feeling.” She adds: “The shows add an exciting and different dimension to our entertainment offer. The atmosphere in the pub during a show is great, people are enthralled, and the performances are intimate and informal which customers really enjoy. The chat, feedback and enthusiasm from customers after a show is really lovely to hear.”
Booking recommended to other venues
Karen says she frequently recommends INN CROWD shows to other publicans. She recommends: “Talk to INN CROWD and find out more. They offer shows at a really reasonable rate, so you can see if it works or not and take it from there.” She adds: “It is very easy to put on a show. INN CROWD send us the upcoming programme and we will have a chat about the different shows and what we think will be best suited to the pub, look at the dates available and then it is booked in.”
Karen’s Top Tips on Hosting
- Talking to local people and customers about the shows is really important in helping drive attendees.
- We have hosted shows in the pub’s main bar. If you are looking to do this consider if it will work with the type of customers you are likely to have in there, eg loud people who will talk over show or customers, heckler types etc!
- Advertise the shows about six weeks in advance, and if you already have another show booked in then make sure you promote in at other performances.
- If you are looking to host shows in the garden, you need to have a back-up space in case of bad weather as people won’t come out to watch in the rain. The shows we have hosted in the garden, when the weather has been good, have been great and really well attended.
The host touring scheme for the White Lion is Applause Rural Touring. INN CROWD is funded by Arts Council England.
The lead partners are Applause Rural Touring, Creative Arts East and the National Centre for Writing.