Work-based Learning Toolkit and Partnership Plans

An Tain Arts Centre Ireland – Silver Screen Initiative

Who are An Táin?

An Táin Arts Centre is an independent arts space in Dundalk, Co. Louth based in the former Táin Theatre, Town Hall, Crowe Street. Supported by Louth County Council, An Táin Arts Centre houses a 350-seat main theatre, a 55-seat studio theatre, a visual arts gallery and two workshop spaces.

What is An Táin’s offering?

The programme is a diverse collection of local arts, film screenings, national tours, workshops, exhibitions and in-house productions. The largest proportion of its users are within a 10km radius of Dundalk.  However, it attracts groups and individuals from an extended catchment area for large scale productions, exhibitions, etc.

Who is the target market?

Paul Hayes, CEO of An Táin, described its audience as diverse and broad reaching, from small children in shows to older Silver Screen attendees.  Their target market is based around interest and not traditionally around age bracket.

Identifying the Gap

Accessing Big Data – informed An Táin of a gap and a market in that gap.

An Táin describe their “Friends of An Táin” demographic as typically 50+ who attend productions across the calendar year.  This is backed up by European and National Market Research on Arts supporters.  Through interaction, relationship building and social events with this homogenous group, who are already engaged with An Táin and supportive of its annual programme, Paul Hayes and his team sought to bring Access Cinema, an initiative funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, to Dundalk.  Access Cinema offered access to the best of Irish, world and independent cinema, via An Táin.

Incidental Learning – through conversation, observation and interaction

Silver Screening runs every 2nd Tuesday of each month from 2-4pm.  Through An Táin polled their target group to gauge suitability of venue within An Táin with a majority vote for the smaller 55-seater studio space that most importantly had easy access, with no need for stairs or lifts.

The programme alternates a classic movie with a newer release each month.  The format is film first then catch-up afterwards with refreshments. Responding to their audience, some want to critique the film together with Paul Hayes, sharing their common interests.  This group is non-age specific and share a common interest of films.  Whilst others just want to enjoy the social space outside the studio to catch up with one another, however, they all share the same social space very well.

So popular is the monthly event and invested are the Silver Screen members, the An Táin welcome ideas for new movies month on month.  If it is available, An Táin can show it.

Evolving the Service at An Táin

Big Data shows a national and international trend – older men are the hardest to attract into The Arts.  85% of ticket sales are purchased by females.  Seeing this gap in the market and using Bricolage pedagogy, Paul Hayes called in to Dundalk’s Men’s sheds venue and saw first hand that, in addition to a workshop section for carpentry, projects, Men’s sheds also had a Creative Room.  This housed creative writing classes, Tai-Chi, art and much more and proved very popular.  This begin a period of idea generation and concept design, in consultation with the Men’s Sheds.  An Táin secured funding for a Film project, capturing “Journeys” of many of those attending the Men’s Sheds.

In 2018, Paul Hayes reached out to Men’s Sheds again and specifically to the older men, who can be resistant to new ideas and activities.  An Táin and Men’s Sheds are staging a “Song Cycle” – A live song cycle written and performed by members of Dundalk Men’s Shed with music by Zoe Conway and John McIntyre, directed by Paul Hayes with additional lyrics by Sophie Coyle. Exploring themes of journey, memory and change, the song cycle will be performed live with theatrical elements.  This is part of May’s Bealtaine Festival, celebrating the Arts & Creativity as we age.

Using Universal Design and Empathy as a learning tool, listening and adapting – An Táin found that song was not seen as soft or feminine to the older, more resistant Men’s Shed members.  History has shown the power of men’s choirs across the world, from mining towns to military units.

An Táin are also collaborating with The Irish Countrywomen’s Association to create an Immersive Arts experience for their Louth members.  An Táin asked them what they would like to do and are tailoring a more involved monthly experience – glass of wine, an information talk and viewing in the gallery basement space and then a film rounded off by tea, coffee and chat time.  An Táin saw the difference is not age led, it is interest and socially led.

Benefits & Opportunities

This is a captive audience for An Táin with many Silver Screen fans now stalwart attendees at An Táin’s monthly Art House Film programme.  Many now bring their partners and this has opened a whole new vista for them in their lives.  A broadening of audience base occurred organically and most importantly this customer segment is seen as sustainable and loyal.

Another phenomenon is that during school holidays, many of the Silver Screen members take along their grandchildren, thereby broadening the reach of the arts.

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