What’s your first ever memory of going to the theatre?
I can remember mine, well at least I can remember a memory of the memory. I would have been 4 or 5 and I was wearing my best dress, and mum had put on makeup and high heels which was very unusual.
The foyer was bright and festive and there was a buzz like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Everyone was in a great mood. You kind of remember these feelings as a kid.
We were off the the panto.
I can’t remember which show it was nor what happened on the stage that night, but I can remember knowing that I wanted to come back again and again, and luckily I would get to do just that.
Sylvie was my Aunt’s Aunt (not a blood relative really but someone I am eternally grateful to) and was Personal Assistant to Philip Headley the then Artistic Director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East…which even until today is my local Theatre.
Every year she would give my mum some complimentary tickets to the panto, a luxury my mum couldn’t always afford, especially once all of my siblings had arrived.
It was the highlight of my year throughout my childhood, especially as I wanted to be a dancer, wanted to be on the stage.
When I was 16 years and 3 months old I applied for a job as an usher, without Sylvie knowing. I didn’t want her getting me the job. I wanted to get it on my own merit and I did.
I would go onto work as an usher for around 3 years, until the theatre went dark for a while for refurbishment.
Those years were transformative for me.
They were the happiest of my life.
With free access to a range of different genres of theatre, which was by now my passion, and what I was studying at college, and about to head off to university to to a degree in.
I got to meet so many cool people, the late Barbara Windsor, most of the cast of Eastenders ha ha, and even the occasional Hollywood star.
It wasn’t just the productions or the celebrities I was studying though…it was the ordinary people too, the audiences, it astounded me how one building could attract with their programming, so many diverse people into its fold.
One week it would be a laugh till you wet yourself comedy show filled to the rafters with Londons black community, and the next it would be a straight play about the troubles in Ireland where you could literally hear a pin drop.
This is why when it came to choosing what I wanted to focus my research on a few years later…I chose to write my dissertation on cultural diversity, community and the arts….with a specific focus on young people and how they use street dance to express themselves.
So what the heck has this all got to do with clubhouse?
Clubhouse is the new audio based social media platform taking the world by storm…some would say it is elitist…like the Oprah or the Ballet…because currently it is invite only, and only available for people with Apple phones.
The way the app works is that you can host rooms, be a moderator or a speaker, or an audience member. And each room is different in its vibe, etiquette, culture, and format. Some rooms go on for days, some and short and to the point. Some are inclusive and without hierarchy and some are all about the people on the stage.
Or as I have found myself saying of late,
“There are rooms that are good for business, rooms that are good for the soul and rooms that are good for nothing”
To be fair the app is still in its infancy, and lots of us are still just working it all out. I have been on there for around 6 weeks and have been playing around hosting different types of rooms and working out the best return on investment for my time…not just in terms of money but in terms of connection, and relationships and fun.
There are 100% things you can do to strategise and leverage this app, and my best piece of advice would be after spending a bit of time observing, start to be intentional and focus on your personal objectives for being on the platform.
So a few tips
As a room host
Think about your room like a show. Think about how it starts, the moments of ritual and drama, and the way you bring things to a close, a resolution. Are you encouraging audience interaction or is there a fourth wall…you know like those plays where the actors don’t even acknowledge the existence of the audience.
Think about the energy of your room…is it a comedy, or a tragedy, immersive or a one woman show…thats how you build a regular audience, unless it’s more variety, or improv, where you don’t know what you are getting.
Let folks know the parameters of the show, think of this like your programme. Who are the main characters, what is the format, the running time, is there an interval…let the audience know where they can leave a review.
It is your job as the host to remind people of the etiquette and the culture of your room, so don’t be afraid to reset the room as often as you need, and maintain your boundaries as you see fit.
As a guest speaker
Remember the director (or host/moderator) will have a vision for the room. Their room their rules, so check in with them about their expectations and any ground rules. Try and listen in on one of their shows before hand to get the vibe.
Be helpful. Be a good egg. Big up the host and the other mods. Be respectful.
Don’t hog the stage. Even if you think you are better informed or more of an expert than the hosts. I mean imagine if Sir Ian McKellen jumped up on the stage and did his version of a monologue every time he saw someone doing a mediocre job.
But also, be yourself. Show your character. Anything goes. You don’t need to put on any falsities, airs not graces…your style, your vibe, your specific take on your topic is what will create a wonderful blend of viewpoints in any rooms…so show people who you are.
As an audience member
Be open, be inquisitive and support the shows, I mean rooms, that you love. Feed back on social media, tell your friends and give the hosts a shout out from time to time.
Depending on the format of the show, get involved from time to time if you can. Be brave. But also give others a chance. If you are a natural and enthusiastic speaker, learn to be a good audience member too.
One of the greatest opportunities as an audience member in clubhouse is to hear different view points to your own, and to broaden your circle. So use the search function to find new rooms, maybe rooms on topics you are slightly interested in, ones outside of your business area.
And remember SIZE MATTERS, some of the most profound theatre I have seen in my life has been the one mans shows, or the experimental in the round productions…rather than the big Andres Lloyd Webber extravaganza.
Variety is the spice of life and the trick to not getting bored or overwhelmed by clubhouse.
This app couldn’t have come at a better time. We are desperate for connection, desperate to be entertained and have something to get excited by. As a business owner this app has so much opportunity, but where the real opportunity lies is in our ability as humans to simply engage and see what we learn about ourselves.
Look out next week for part two of this blog which will be all about the baddies and the villains of the clubhouse world.
Julie Creffield is a community engagement strategist and creative business mentor from East London. She has worked for more than 20 years helping bring people together to create change with movements that matter.
Starting her career as a drama and dance practitioner working with hard to reach young people, she went on to write policy for the London 2012 Games Maker programmes, founded a global plus-size fitness movement, and through her work has inspired millions of people to think, feel or do things differently.
She now works with solopreneurs to help them grow and leverage their communities for more influence, impact and income…and she runs a regular morning business show on clubhouse called “Breakfast Minus the Bullshit” which runs Mon-Fri 7.30am-9am
Come give her a follow and get involved @juliecreffield or check out her new juliecreffield.club mini site