The Stratford Literary Festival brings authors to Shakespeare’s home town for a packed programme of talks, workshops and family events twice a year. Annie Ashworth, co-Founder and Director, explains how TicketSource helps bring the festival to life.
Why did you decide to launch a literary festival in Stratford-upon-Avon?
Fifteen years ago, literary festivals were popping up all over the place because bookshops were closing at a considerable rate due to competition from online book sales. Authors couldn’t rely on incredibly well-informed and enthusiastic booksellers to drive their sales anymore and needed to get out to their public themselves. I’m a published author, and I had a friend who ran a bookshop, and we said to each other, “Why isn’t there a literary festival in Stratford, the most famous literary town in the world?!” So, in 2008, we decided to start one. We began with three days in a tent by the river, and we now do eight days in the spring and a long weekend in the winter, as well as a school’s week, workshops in prisons and community events throughout the year.
When did you start using TicketSource?
In 2018. Until then, we used the box office system of our main venue, but in spring last year I got a call out of the blue saying that the venue was going to close after our festival had finished. We were in a flat panic – we had no venue or box office for our winter weekend, but we had big names booked, including Rick Stein and Kamal Ahmed, and we needed a professional box office. TicketSource was recommended to me by my colleagues at Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, where I’m also an Artistic Director. I explained to Phill Picton, Business Development Manager at TicketSource, that we needed to move quickly – and they were so good. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with it.
Which features of the system are most helpful?
The Front of House report feature is really useful. If people can’t find their ticket for any reason, we can easily check their name against the report. Another big plus is that we’ve got all the data for our audience members. Previously, information was collected by the venue’s box office, and we didn’t necessarily have access to it. If I needed to contact customers about an event, I would never have been able to get the email addresses out of the old system. It’s enormously helpful – one of our speakers had to change the date of their talk, and I immediately emailed everybody who had booked to tell them. That would have been no end of a headache if I’d not had control over audience data. TicketSource also integrates with MailChimp, which means that if people want to sign up for our newsletters, their details immediately go into our mailing list.
What’s been your experience of TicketSource’s customer service?
Like many literary festivals, we’re a small team. When we send an email with a query, we don’t have the time to go back and chase it up – we need someone to react to it. TicketSource are very good about that. Similarly, when you ring up, you know you’re talking to people who understand your business. For our ticket sales, we use TicketSource’s telephone box office service alongside the website. The interaction between TicketSource and our audience is so important because they are representing the festival. The box office hours are longer than our previous box office, which has been really helpful, and people have commented on how polite and efficient the TicketSource staff are.
Would you recommend TicketSource to another event organiser?
Absolutely, no question. I’d give a 100% recommendation. As a registered charity, we’re extremely busy and under-resourced, and the last thing we need is an important part of the festival to be a hassle. As Festival Director, the TicketSource system has revolutionised my life and made it much easier to run our business.
For more information about the Stratford Literary Festival, visit www.stratlitfest.co.uk
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