As an audience member at Saffron Hall, your evening usually starts when you walk into the foyer. But there’s a whole team of people there long before you arrive and long after you’ve left. One of our Front of House Duty Managers, Adam, takes us through his schedule for a typical concert night at Saffron Hall.
The Front of House team first get involved with an event about three months in advance, when our team of eighty or so volunteers sign up online as stewards. Different events need widely varying numbers, from three stewards and a Duty Manager (DM) for Foyer events, up to 24 stewards and two DMs for a sold-out concert in the Hall. A day or two before the event, the DM assigns roles and positions to the stewards, with notes for each on where they’ll be and their role in making it a smooth and successful event.
Two and a half hours before the concert, the Duty Manager arrives at the Hall when the orchestra are usually in mid-rehearsal. As the foyer is converted from its daytime role as a school reception area, the DM sets out the merchandise and programme tables, signs and banners and collects the First Aid equipment and hearing loops, while checking the arrangements for the event with the Concert Assistant. Is photography allowed and is anyone allowed backstage? When can we let in latecomers tonight? Do we expect an encore? Will the artist be signing their CDs in the foyer after the event?
The Box Office team arrive and start to set up.
The Deputy Duty Manager arrives and carries out the safety checks, including checking every fire exit around the Hall, and ensures that all of the toilets are clean and fully stocked.
The tempo picks up as the Bar and Catering teams arrive.
Soon afterwards, the stewards arrive for their briefing, at which they hear the details of the event, from car parking plans to programmes, any special customer needs and receptions being held in the interval or after the concert. After the briefing, some of the stewards take up their positions ready to start selling programmes or CDs, take coats in the cloakroom or direct people to car parking spaces. Others go into the auditorium for a reminder of the evacuation procedure and to check their radios, before going to their assigned door.
By now the audience start to arrive, and we pride ourselves on helping the audience to have a relaxed and enjoyable evening, and on having the stewards on hand to help people find the right entrance or to answer any queries.
During the performance, the DMs stay in the Foyer, we have an audio and video feed of the concert, but we’re not idle! We meet latecomers and help them enter, help the Bar team put out all the pre-ordered drinks if needed and prepare the foyer for the interval or the end of the show, setting up for ice-cream sales and the signage for any receptions, counting the programme money …all the time being ready in case anyone is taken ill, the DMs are all fully first aid trained, or the fire alarm goes off (thankfully a very rare event!)
An hour or so after the concert ends, the DMs have got everything back to their original position, ready for the school to resume the next morning, or ready for another concert on the following day.
The Hall has now put on several hundred successful events, but one thing I have learned from working there is that each event is different, and the success depends on getting a large number of small details right, as well as being prepared to handle the unexpected. When is the right time to bring out the ice-creams before the interval if it’s a hot day and the first half is running slightly longer than expected? How many stewards need to be outside in the rain to direct customers to the furthest carpark? What do you say to a customer who has arrived with tickets for a different event? And what needs to happen when the police arrive looking for an elderly man who has gone missing, or there’s a power cut, or if the fire alarm goes off when Maxim Vengerov is on stage in front of a full house, playing a Stradivarius that’s worth more than the Hall … fortunately that last one hasn’t happened! Playing a small part to ensure that each event runs smoothly gives me and everyone on FoH quite a buzz, however, we welcome feedback at any time so that we can continually improve your experience at the Hall. And we love hearing just how good the performance was after each event.
Saffron Hall is a charity and we rely on income from ticket sales and donations to keep doing what we’re doing. If you want to support us through this difficult period, please consider making a donation or becoming a Saffron Hall member.