Like thousands of people who book tickets to see a show or concert the additional travelling or even overnight expenses can make the whole experience run into hundreds of pounds: for families in particular. It seems that the so called ‘state-of-the economy’ factor is ignored completely as thousands flock each weekend, despite any financial protestations about the sheer cost of ‘things’, to see their favourite sports team, band, show or singer at whatever location in the UK. We will enjoy ourselves! Fans and the devoted have a seemingly bottomless pocket of ready cash for the £10 programme, souvenir shirts, parking charges, food and drinks, train tickets, tube fares, petrol, hotels and bed-and-breakfast rooms. When one does eventually arrive back home in the wee small hours, as the kettle boils, one’s reflection of a great experience is short lived when compared with the legacy of credit card slips and petrol receipts as they tumble onto the table from tired handbags and wallets. Still, we have the memories, right?
Last weekend we drove to Rockingham Castle, all of three miles, to see a show. The parking was free, the beer was £2 a pint, the programme was £4, it was a full house with a ‘west-end’ cast of many and when we left, the roads were free of traffic. Total travelling time – 15 minutes. Tickets for two – £60. Four drinks – £8. We were still home in time to watch a film with a glass of wine. A stunning time was had by all and not one financial hangover between us. The fact is that on our doorstep we have some fantastic show venues, often with better facilities, easier access and better views of the stage than anything that the capital can offer. Corby’s Cube, Wellingborough’s Castle theatre, Kettering’s Lighthouse, Market Harborough’s Leisure Centre and Northampton’s Royal & Derngate. Then there are the other venues, often overlooked that have additional attractions. Places like the aforementioned Rockingham, Tolethorpe Hall, Kirby Hall or Elton Hall. These venue’s are a favourite with the likes of Bryan Ferry and some of the finest promenade concerts or Shakespeare play make an excellent accompaniment to a picnic in front of the stage. Elton John will shortly be appearing at Northampton’s cricket ground – whod’ve thought! I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that if I want to see Madonna again she’ll have to come and see me first. ‘I just can’t afford you anymore darling’. Ironically, the show we saw at Rockingham, Craig Revel Horwood’s production ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show’, a celebration of the music of Neil Diamond with Brian Conley and Darren Day, will undoubtedly end up on a west-end stage. But that doesn’t matter. There will be more brilliant events on our doorstep: we just have to look. The entertainment industry is no different from any other: times are hard for them too. They’re beginning to get the message that to get even more ‘bums-on seats’ you really have take the show to your customers.