The Sherman Theatre is in Cardiff, and in late 2012 the theatre reopened its doors after a major rebuild. It produces and presents theatre in both the English and Welsh languages, and also works with writers in both languages. The Paul Hamlyn Club Award has led them to create Sherman 5, a new programme that seeks to build repeat attendances from people who have never attended a performance at the theatre before.
The scheme was launched in October 2014 at the first production by the company’s new Artistic Director, Romeo and Juliet. In its first year Sherman 5 is open to residents in the Communities First areas of Cardiff, and to community groups referred to the Sherman Theatre. Individuals must register in order to gain a Sherman 5 Card that allows them a free first visit and subsequent visits at a price of £5, with further discounts for children, young people and families. Members attend designated Sherman 5 nights available for all productions, with subsidised transport, a discount at the bar, and free activities and events in the foyer. The Sherman 5 offer was developed in response to consultation with members of the Communities First communities over the previous year, led by the newly created post of Sherman 5 Coordinator. By February 2015, Sherman 5 had a total of 542 members, and during the Sherman’s autumn season September – December 2014, a total of 839 Sherman 5 tickets were used.
Community members can build up Time Credits in exchange for community volunteering in Cardiff, and it is possible to exchange these to purchase Sherman 5 tickets. During autumn 2014, 248 Time Credits were used in this way. Sherman 5 uses Facebook, Twitter and a blog to share updates and connect its members, and hopes they will use these platforms increasingly themselves to share the scheme more widely and encourage others to join.
In autumn 2014 the Sherman formed a partnership with local newspaper The South Wales Echo to invite families who live in the Communities First areas of Cardiff to apply to become Sherman 5 Families. Over a year, The Echo will follow their experience of going to the Sherman Theatre for the first time, and they will be asked to share in the paper their experiences of visiting the Sherman and report on what they have seen. Five families have been active on the scheme since Romeo and Juliet, attending all five productions since then. They have also participated in the Sherman’s first Audience Panel, an in-depth family consultation session where they talked about how they see coming to the Sherman. As they get to know the theatre and its team in person, and see a range of shows, this allows an open conversation, which helps to explore the way that theatre is seen as being ‘for the likes of other people’. The Sherman 5 families have experienced a shift in thought about this for themselves, and now perceive a visit to the Sherman as something they look forward to doing regularly.
The Sherman will begin a new strand of the Sherman 5 project that will work with two schools in the Communities First area who currently work in-depth with the Sherman’s Creative Learning team. Sherman 5 will support students between 14-18 years who show great promise in the creative arts to come to see productions at the Sherman independently. They will be encouraged to come regularly, discuss and review the work online, and participate in a young people’s audience panel to help shape the way that the theatre can support more young people to visit independently.