A Chat With Iain Christie of Liverpool's Royal Court

21 Jun 2019

Following our campaign this May, Made 4 Creativity, we decided it was about time to speak with some of our customers on what creativity means for them. This week we chat with Iain Christie, marketing manager of Liverpool's Royal Court and his thoughts on creativity.

In last week's blog we shared with you the understanding behind our first editorial with the arts professionals- Why Failing Fast Can be Good for You. This week, we take a further look into what creativity means for our customers and how it plays a role in their everyday working life - through data! Meet our great friend Iain Christie.

Our customers are incredible. We could sing and shout for days about how much we love each member in our community, the work they devote themselves to endlessly, the incredible results they experience, and the passion they have for the arts and cultural sector; our customers are champions of the Ticketsolve Community. 

We know Iain very well in his role as marketing manager with Liverpool's Royal Court, but we’re curious folk here at Ticketsolve. We wanted more of an insight, so we had a quick chat with Iain. 

1. Tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Liverpool and had a fairly normal childhood. Lots of football and rugby balanced out with singing and music. Dad was very into classical music and Mum was really into theatre so my sister and I were exposed to the arts at an early stage. They took us to all sorts.

2. How did you get into the arts?

I did English at university so was qualified for precisely everything and precisely nothing. I went to see an Ed Byrne gig at a local theatre and recognised one of the bar staff. He put in a good word for me and the following day I was an usher. My career path was usher, barman, technician, fire officer, box office, marketing assistant, and then marketing manager. All in the space of about a year.

3. What was the first performance you ever saw? What was the experience like?

The first one I remember was Toad of Toad Hal at the Liverpool Playhouse. I can still remember the stoats and the weasels overrunning Toad, Ratty, Badger, and Mole. The first inappropriate one was as a ten-year-old watching Alan Bleasdale’s Having A Ball starring completely nude Sylvester McCoy. I remember going into school the next day and telling everyone that I’d seen Dr Who starkers!

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Iain’s passion is electrifying for the Royal Court. We wanted to know the specifics;

4. What is it about the Royal Court that you love?

I’ve been working at the Royal Court since we took it over in 2005 and I’ve been working with this company since 2001. Until last year we never received funding so we were entirely commercial. There is pressure with that because you need to make money to keep the business going but it gives you enormous freedom. We are a small team here so we can change direction very quickly. The management structure is very open so if someone has a good idea and we all agree they can just crack on and do it! We’ve had some big success and some notable failures but we are never left wondering “what if?”

5. What are the future goals for Liverpool’s Royal Court? Where do you see the Royal Court in 5 years?

Still open! We are constantly expanding and now that we have some Arts Council support we have got the opportunity to offer more for the community. Our audience comes from traditionally working class areas and are seen by most theatres as “non-attenders”. We have introduced things like our Community Choir, Youth Theatre, and People’s Players (amateur drama company) to improve access to the arts for people from these areas. There is a big problem in UK theatre as it is becoming more of a middle-class pursuit which is cutting off huge swathes of people. The industry loses out on talent and the people miss out on being involved in a process that can boost confidence, productivity, and creativity. If we can keep on doing more of that, while keeping a roof over our heads, then I’ll be happy.

6. What is your favourite performance you have worked on at Royal Court?

That’s a tricky one as we have some absolute belters here. The one that has stayed with me the most was On The Ledge by Alan Bleasdale in 2008. I love his writing and he is an absolute hero of mine so to meet him, work with him and find out that he is one of the nicest people on the planet was huge. When he approved the marketing copy for the show without any amends I was on cloud nine for a week!

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While we had Iain’s attention, we decided it was a prime opportunity to check in about Ticketsolve;

7. Before Ticketsolve, what was the biggest issue Liverpool’s Royal Court was facing?

The biggest problem that we had from a ticketing point of view was the layout of the building here. Because we originally ran the venue as a comedy club, we had taken out all of the rowed seats in the stalls and put in booths tables, and chairs. If customers book down there they can have a pre-show meal an hour before curtain up, watch the first half, have dessert at the interval then see the rest of the show. The more traditional ticketing companies couldn’t get their heads around it, proposing clunky workarounds that made reporting a nightmare.

8. How or could Ticketsolve help with that issue?

Ticketsolve were great. They were a relatively young organisation back then and were flexible enough to acknowledge what we needed and find a solution. As time has gone on we have improved the offer using inside charges and recommendations. We have been able to increase the number of options for our customers which has led to higher revenues without jacking up the base price ticket.

9. What is your favourite thing about Ticketsolve? What could we do better?

Ticketsolve seems to be entirely staffed by people who are good at their jobs and up for a laugh. These are two characteristics that we value very highly at The Court. The business there seems to be constantly evolving and improving and they are a good bunch to work with.

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The Royal Court are mighty fine creative people. We wanted the ingredients to their secret sauce so we asked Iain what’s in his recipe;

10. What does creativity mean to you? What drives your creativity?

Creativity is that magical ingredient that makes the thing in your head turn into something that exists in real life. I’m quite good at talking nonsense so I tend to take the role of making the business sound good but I am absolutely blown away by watching our show carpenter look at a piece of wood, make a few cuts and holes in it and turn it into the perfect prop. The same with the show designers, lighting designers and sound designers. They take a script that can’t possibly work on stage and somehow present something to an audience that is completely real. Deadlines tend to drive my creativity. We need some copy and artwork that will sell a few thousand advance tickets and we need it by next week!

11. Is taking a risk a part of creativity?

Creativity is all about risk. In every field, the biggest leaps have been made by someone saying “I know that we always do it this way, but what if we did it that way?”. I think that the most satisfying times that we have had as a business have been the ones where we took the biggest risks.

12. If you could offer other Ticketsolve customers one piece of advice around creativity and failing fast, what would that be?

Just do it. You can kill an idea by over-analysing it. Obviously, you need to think through the consequences but the beauty of working in the arts sector is that your idea is never going to kill anyone, no matter how bad it is. Use whatever data you have to steer you in the right direction but when it comes to the final leap, just take it. It’s the only way that you will know if it will work. 

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Iain’s a playful guy and he’s got good taste. So, to finish our nosey quest we asked him;

13. Any Telly or movie recommendations for us.

I’m a big fan of classic comedy and the more modern American comedies. Parks & Recreation and Community are both excellent and I’m loving Mum on the BBC right now. For drama I’m enjoying The Virtues at the moment. Stephen Graham is an astonishing actor.

14. How do you unwind from a stressful day?

I’ve got two daughters so I go home and get stressed by them instead. I’ve had a season ticket at Anfield for 25 years so that’s my chance to get away from it all.

15. Cats or dogs? Beer or wine?

My wife is a cat person and I’m a dog person so we compromised and got two cats.

Beer as a preference but either if you are buying.

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