Prince, Penguins and Pensioners: An Ode to the Folding Machine

On her first day at Town Hall Symphony Hall, cultural intern Ellie Franklin thought that she knew exactly what I was walking into…

Arts organisations are all too often tragically underfunded and undervalued and, for that reason, many of them operate with far fewer staff than you might imagine. Knowing I was going to be based within the marketing team, I imagined that I would only be working with a couple of people. In direct comparison to my expectations, I walked into a marketing and communications department and found that I was amongst a team of eleven, including myself. At first, I admit, I was a little taken aback. With ten other people in the office, what possibly could there be for me to do? I felt destined to the fate of many of my friends who had taken internships post-university; overqualified tea girl. How mistaken I was…

Not Your Average Office

Not your average office…

I’ve been at THSH for just under two months now and it is safe to say that there is always something for me to do, and one of the most exciting aspects of being an intern is that I never know exactly what I’ll be doing next. Some days I’m pulling data for e-shots and direct mailings, others I am working on campaigns for the Birmingham International Concert Series and others I find myself developing surveys and working on audience development projects that will hopefully benefit the organisation into the future. I’ve been to Newman University to promote the Soundbite scheme (a scheme for students and anyone aged between 16 and 25), had meetings with Education and Jazzlines Departments of our organisation and written an awards application for the Family Arts Festival that took place over October half term! As you might guess from the title of this blog, I’ve also developed a strange affinity for the folding machine; there is truly nothing more satisfying that looking at a box full of neatly folded programmes or beautifully stuffed envelopes (it’s weird, I know).

Promoting Soundbite at Newman

To give you a brief snapshot of what life is like as an intern in the THSH Marketing and Comms department, here’s an overview of a week in Symphony Hall:

It was, by all standards, a pretty exciting week. Monday morning the office was abuzz with rumours that we were going to be announcing a huge artist who was going on sale this week. Even programming couldn’t confirm exactly who it was, just that they had an album coming out and that they were huge enough to sell out Symphony Hall in a matter of weeks. Who could it possibly be? By lunch time we’d confirmed that it was Prince; it was huge, it was crazy, it meant a lot of extra work!

It’s not every day that you have an artist as huge as Prince announce that he is playing at your venue. It’s also not every day that you have an artist as temperamental as Prince announce that he is playing at your venue. Friday rolled around and I walked into an office in chaos by just after 9am. Prince had decided to delay the 10am sale of tickets due to some trouble with touts attempting to sell tickets for a ridiculous £2000.

Our job was to ensure that we got the word out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible via social media and emailing our members, whilst dealing with the barrage of fans who wanted to know exactly what was going on. Of course, Lara, our digital manager, was stuck on a delayed train that morning and our head of Commercial programming was on annual leave; just your typical Friday 13th disaster – yes, it was Friday 13th too. Whilst it’s always exciting to work in a job that twists and turns faster than you can keep up, that was almost too much excitement for a Friday morning. Sadly, the weekend that followed led to Prince indefinitely postponing the tour in light of the attacks in Paris.

But it’s not just superstars like Prince that can cause an uproar at Symphony Hall. In the same week we also had Daniel O’Donnell go on sale. I hadn’t, personally, heard of him, but I soon realised that in some circles he was a big deal. We had two lovely ladies come and physically camp outside of Symphony Hall (just below our office windows) for the days leading up to the ticket on sale, which is a serious commitment when you consider that it’s November and temperatures were getting down to around 2 degrees at night!

Daniel o'Donnell Fans

Daniel O’Donnell fans

As for the penguins? We have, and I’m not entirely sure why, been gifted a number of giant plush John Lewis penguins. Our office has adopted two: Business Penguin and Business Penguin Lite. Not only are they glorious to cuddle if you’re having a tough or tiring day, but we’ve adopted a habit of sitting them in the chairs of whoever is out of the office. People have even almost started conversations with them.

Penguin Lite         Penguin Boss

One thing’s for sure, it’s never dull in Marketing and Comms.

And, you know, I haven’t made a single cup of tea yet.


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