Luke Shires joins Chichester Festival Theatre team at exciting time

Luke Shires, new director of marketing & communications at Chichester Festival Theatre, comes into the role at an exciting time – the beginning of Justin Audibert’s time as CFT artistic director.
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There will be growing excitement early next year as we move towards the announcement of Justin’s first CFT season as successor to Daniel Evans who so successfully navigated the venue through the pandemic.

Luke is delighted to have joined the team: “It is always a thrill when this kind of job in this kind of venue comes up. I live in Brighton and I moved to Brighton three years before. I ran the Old Market in Brighton for a year. I was there helping them in that post-pandemic recovery which was really interesting. But the thing is Brighton is a really different beast to Chichester. Brighton operates a little bit like an echo chamber. It has got its own language and its own culture vibe. It is quite a young and experience-seeking audience in Brighton that were quite quick to come back after the pandemic but a lot of them are students so there is a lot of turnover. So in Brighton there was a question of trying to generate longevity and loyalty.”

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Two things very much already in evidence in Chichester: “So to come to Chichester, when you've got that longevity and loyalty, it almost feels like a cooperative. It's a remarkable place. In Brighton I was executive director but before that I had 20 years of marketing experience, And my brain has always been fascinated by the way that people buy tickets, why they buy tickets and why they don't buy tickets but what I really enjoy about Chichester is that there's a real appreciation in the theatre of our audience’s desire to come along. Our job is to make sure that we serve them as well as we possibly can. The fact that we appreciate so much the people that want to come to experience what is programmed here means that we have to match these people well and serve them but the fact is that compared to other venues the audience here just absolutely loves the theatre and that stems from the whole notion of it being a theatre that was made for the people by the people."

Luke Shires (contributed pic)Luke Shires (contributed pic)
Luke Shires (contributed pic)

As for the marketing, Luke enjoys that it is so multilayered, a blend of science and being creative, gut instinct and data: “My starting point here is to really understand the data. We have got very robust data and it's just really a question trying to get a feel for that. So the first port of call is understanding the audience that you have got in order to better understand that there are similar people out there that might not have engaged with the theatre so far but would really love to. You would love to think that everybody in Chichester has been to the Festival Theatre but obviously I know that's not the case so it's a question of thinking about who don't we have. We have to think about trying to attract the wonderful student population that we have here and about trying to attract the people that aren’t coming already.” But of course making the task all the more challenging and all the more interesting is the fact that potential audiences are not fixed targets: “It's a moving target. People are not stats. They are individuals. What we have to do is form a connection with people we might not have connected with before.”