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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Discount theatre scheme 'fails'
Theatre queue
The scheme did not generate new audiences
A scheme to boost audiences at West End plays and musicals has failed to bring in many first time theatre-goers, it has been claimed.

London mayor Ken Livingstone's 350,000 discounted ticket offer largely attracted regular theatre-goers, says a report by the London Assembly's Culture Committee.

On average only 17 tickets in every 1,000 for this year's 'Get into London' promotion were bought by people attending the theatre for the first time.

But Mr Livingstone accused the committee of "knocking a London success story" and said the scheme had been "highly effective" in getting people back into the theatres.

He organised two cut-price ticket promotions in 2002 and 2003 to try to boost tourism and bring new and more diverse audiences into London's theatres.

Up to 70 shows were involved in this year's promotion, including Bombay Dreams, Chicago and My Fair Lady.

Committee findings
Nearly half of the tickets were bought by people who already attend the theatre at least once a month
Four out of five of the subsidised tickets were bought by white people; only 1.6% by black people; 6.6% Asian and 4.5% Chinese
Disabled and elderly people often could not take part because of the location of theatres or timing of shows
The mayor hailed both schemes as a "runaway success".

But the committee said there was no evaluation of the first promotion, which received 250,000 funding and was supported by free bus tickets from Transport for London (TfL).

Committee chairwoman, Meg Hillier, said the promotion had been marked by "woolly objectives, an absence of rigorous evaluation and questionable claims of success".

She added: "Without a fundamental re-examination of the promotion, we are concerned that it risks becoming a 'feel good' event which subsidises existing theatre-goers without contributing substantially to generating new audiences or supporting culture in other parts of London."

But Richard Pulford, chief executive of Society of London Theatre, said the figures only showed tickets bought over the internet.

He added: "Even so, the figures show that, far from failing to draw new audiences, 49% of those taking advantage of the promotion usually go to the theatre once a year or less.

"A quarter were young people aged 25 or under - and 13% from an ethnic minority."

He added that 80,000 people took advantage of the offer when the "uncertain international situation" had meant smaller audiences.

  • To find out about the discounts and to buy tickets call 0870 840 2468

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