The generation game: making strategic choices to future proof your programme #ADA

The generation game: making strategic choices to future proof your programme #ADA


Emma Callin and Sean Kenny, Villa Marina & Gaiety Theatre, Isle of Man Government look at how they can attract a younger audience (14-24 yr olds) as part of their Fellowship at the Audience Diversity Academy. 

VillaGaiety has multiple versatile venue spaces, but one in particular The Promenade Suite (capacity 300is under-used though well positioned for walk-up trade and smaller, intimate gigs. We are well known for live music but this is usually popular UK and international acts in The Royal Hall (capacity 1600) and we know we can attract those aged 30-40 with this programming on a regular basis. Find out more about us here   

The challenge  

As an entertainment complex, we often fail to attract younger audiences and we have been criticised for not having enough to offer the under 30s, particularly the 14 – 24yr age rangeIn addition, we need local bands to provide the warm-up for large-scale live music acts and we want to build good working relationships with them so we have a greater stable to choose from. 

We also want to work closer with the IOM Arts Council on shared aims around arts and audience engagement. Since we agreed this project, a longer term challenge could be that due to the global pandemic we cannot bring acts through the currently restricted Manx borders so may rely on local performers to fill our programme.  

The Experiment 

We are programming monthly, free, live music in The Promenade Suite on Friday nights using local bands who have received support from the IOM Arts Council. We have received Arts Council funding to pay the bands, but all other costs must be found within existing budgets. We have made the gigs free in the hope of attracting a younger audience and we are programming bands which we know have a loyal following and that might not usually come to VillaGaiety 

Results So Far  

We have had one gig and we were pleased to see that our expectations were largely met. The gig went very well with attendance of 213. However, we ran into some challenges around internal comms on this project. We both found this a bit disheartening but we are rectifying how we manage this for the next gig which takes place on 30th October and we will assess the difference afterwards. Also, we didn’t manage to capture the specific audience data we wanted so we are taking steps to improve that for the rest of the experiment.  

Next steps 

Our next gig will include an incentive of free tickets to a large-scale event, but only for those who come to the gig to try and encourage attendance. We are also including video content in future marketing to improve engagement with the target younger demographic. To help gather audience data we will issue wristbands so we can be more specific on numbers and audience age range. We are looking forward to our Halloween (Hop-Tu-Naa in the Isle of Man) themed gig this month!  

Head and shoulders of Emma Callin      Head and shoulders of Sean Kenny

Emma Callin, Head of Villa Marina & Gaiety Theatre, Isle of Man Government 

Emma has been in post since 2018 prior to which she was Arts Development Manager working with the Isle of Man Arts Council for 11 years. Before returning to the Isle of Man in 2001, Emma gained a BA Hons in Performing Arts from the University of Hertfordshire and worked at the Hackney Empire.  

Sean Kenny, Events and Programming Manager, Villa Marina & Gaiety, IOM Government 
Sean has been in his post since 2017 but has worked for the complex in various roles for 13 years. His current role concentrates on developing a varied programme of events and entertainment. Sean graduated from Lancaster University with a BA Hons in English Literature in 2006 before returning to the Island to pursue a career in the public sector. 

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Audience Development & Strategy
Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2021