TKR report on responses to the online survey

This document includes evaluation reports on the response to an online surveys that was commissioned following the final performance of The King’s River

 Background

 

In commissioning The King’s River project Woodbridge Riverside Trust wanted to make a lasting difference through:

 

  • the impact that participation has on the people who take part in creating and performing the narrative, music and dance for the performance
  • the sense of place, new interests, links and understanding that organisations and individuals forge through joint work towards a common purpose
  • the creation of a new cultural experience of lasting merit that is owned by the performers, supporting team and the audience alongside the artistic team who help create it – and leaving musical score and resource, a legacy of learning, and a ” documentary/gallery of the journey we travelled making the music happen and ” conforming to educational outcomes.

 

The project team aimed to do so:

  • using varied diverse local talents, and celebrating their brilliance for a bold “adventure of our ship”
  • using the story of Sutton Hoo, the King, the journey and the funeral cortege as a “resource for the piece”
  • incorporating musical instrumentation, poems, riddles and elements from the time “of the original ship into a modern relevant exciting performable piece of music”
  • encouraging drama and dance within the performance
  • developing the musical piece in partnership with others in the community who have a particular interest in the project (and to encourage the inclusion of many and varied groups from the town including schoolchildren, students, youth and community groups)
  • exploring the viability of ʻotherʼ language into the spoken/sung score.

 

Evaluation of Kings River internet survey “How did we do?”

 

Introduction

 

1               This evaluation is based on the results of an internet survey “How did we do?”, commissioned by Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT) following the final performance of the King’s River, for the audience, community performers and volunteers who took part in the project.

 

1.1           There were 250 (email) invitations to take part in this survey, and invitees were also asked to tell others about this opportunity to comment.  There is a second evaluation of a second survey, for the professionals involved in the project or advisers to it, in a separate document, produced solely for WRT to learn from. Those who took part did so on the condition that it would remain confidential.  Both surveys were published 3 days after the final performance and open for two weeks.

 

1.2           Although the need for the surveys and other feedback was prompted by the requirements of the Arts Council, the surveys and additional comments serve a second important purpose – for WRT and the Kings River team to learn and to inform their actions in the future.

 

“How did we do?”; results set against project objectives

 

  1. Overall the 144 responses to the first survey (summary data p7-9, and attachment 2 spreadsheet of comments received separate document) were very positive in achieving the objectives of the project. This was shown broadly in comments such as this, from a singer
the commitment of all the performers, costume makers, choreographer, composer, musicians and the organisers. The friendships that were made and the lovely atmosphere of the performances. I think the choice of the soloists was excellent. It was a wonderful thing for Woodbridge to produce which brought people together…

 

Data Analysis

 

3               Of the responses, over 50% were from members of the audience, the remainder from active participant in one way or another.  The overall rating for the performance was 4.28 out of 5.

 

3.1           Just over 70% of the respondents thought the fact that the Kings River was a local story was the first or second most important thing about it.  The next two most important things, almost equally, were the sites that the performance took place and that local people were involved implying an understanding of the sense of place; both sites are historically and culturally important to Woodbridge.

 

3.2           Similarly, of the 29 answers from performers, nearly 70% rated as enjoyable working with other people to create music stories and dances and over 86% rated as enjoyable working with other performers and the directors in rehearsals. Taking enjoyment as a reasonable proxy for involvement, there was an important impact in participation in creating and performing the narrative, music and dance for the performance.  One performer said

…This was… a fantastic opportunity for the young performers to really get a taste of a real performance – to work with…talented and dedicated people and to gain a real insight into performance, music and dance and all the back stage work, as well as our history.

 

3.3           Of the 35 of the volunteers who answered the survey, over 91% answered that being part of a community project was the most enjoyable, and over a third of them also said that doing something new, working with professionals and meeting new people were enjoyable.  Enjoyment is a reasonable proxy for the positive impact of participation.

 

Review of comments in terms of achievement of objectives

 

3.4           112 out of the 144 respondents made one or more comments, many of them lengthy and demonstrating a keen interest.  By and large the comments were very positive about most aspects of performance, content and the overall experience.

 

Impact of participation

 

3.5           The volunteers and the performers clearly felt part of the team.  For many – including the many children – it was something completely new but for some it will make a lasting difference.  As one singer commented “Fabulous experience and wonderful people. I am joining a local choir as a result”.

 

The sense of place, links and understanding forged through joint working

 

3.6           It is difficult to distil out support for this complex objective but there were several (positive) comments about localism and history and, where it was mentioned, participants really embraced the experience of being part of a large and complex team;

.. it was particularly pleasing that the concept, the music, the drama, the production and everything about the delivery were all developed in Suffolk, for Suffolk and about Suffolk. This was something to be proud of.
It was an amazing experience to be part of this new community opera telling the story of the town I live in and love – and to do it with so many local people, many of whom I didn’t know before we started, and such a talented musical and production team was a privilege and joy.

 

The creation of a new cultural experience of lasting merit

 

3.7           This is part of another complex objective and not easily answered in this survey, although the two comments below (one from a member of the audience, the second and third from volunteers) hint that this objective may have been achieved.

 

I loved the songs and the originality was great. And the participation of local children and the standards were excellent.
The performances were incredible – a real dream come true for us. It was a community project which was professionally directed/produced – and the mix of having a few professionals plus many local people was wonderful. The music and lyrics were special. I truly believe that the result was world-class. Having Part 1 on site with the river as the main backdrop was exceptional. As was then moving the locality (and the time frame) to The Riverside Theatre for Part 2
I especially liked the fact that we were doing this as a community embracing our own heritage, celebrating it in ways that involved everyone and contributing to a lasting legacy

 

3.8           There were only three seriously adverse comments from the 144 respondents.  These are considered further in the next section of this report.  The comments centred around expectations as much as the production (respondent 104 “I liked the outside location, and the anticipation of the event itself. However, the actual performance was very disappointing….”).  In terms of the objectives in the headings above these respondents would say that this was not a new cultural experience of lasting merit.

Review of comments – Wider lessons

 

  1. These are drawn from the many comments received (see 3.4 above). Specific search terms included

Acting                      Actors                      Children                 Community         Congratulations                                    Costumes              Dance                      Dancing                   Heritage                 Historic                                    History                    Libretto                                    Music                       Musicians              Performance       Performers                  Production          Sang                          Set                             Setting                    Singing                    Staging                    Songs                       Story

 

Some comments appeared in more than one category.

 

4.1           In general, what stood out was how well a complex project with a large team – amateur or professional, artistic or logistic, personal or professional interest – came together successfully. But WRT and the production team would be well advised to consider in depth, and learn from, the many detailed and thoughtful comments.

 

4.2           There were 20 comments that referenced the community – mostly centred around how the whole project had brought (at least parts of) the community together

It was an amazing experience to be part of this new community opera telling the story of the town I live in and love – and to do it with so many local people, many of whom I didn’t know before we started….

This was an important objective achieved by WRT and the production team.

 

4.3           There were 26 comments that referenced the story – mostly congratulatory in the way it was handled (although including comments about being difficult to follow).

The story also made me think and learn more about the Town I live in

 

4.4           In addition, there were 19 comments that did include the term production.  Many were quite general and referred to the whole idea behind the performances as much as the on-the-night experience

An enjoyable and imaginative production which brought the historic background to the Sutton Hoo Longship saga to life.  Great to see the local children involved.  The second half was a tribute to Mrs Pretty’s prescience in having the site scientifically explored.  Well done

And people really enjoyed being a part of it

My daughter learnt so much from being part of this fabulous production and working with such lovely people, she still grins when we talk about the amazing performance she was lucky to be part of.

 

4.5           There were 16 comments that referenced the search term performance; in general they were positive

The performance was extremely professional thanks to the professional performers , however that is not to understate the enthusiasm and involvement of the school children and other local people .It was a perfect mix
The performance conveyed the Sutton Hoo story well bringing Woodbridge heritage back to life.

 

 

4.6           There were only four comments referencing the actors or acting although 15 referenced performers. The involvement of the players was brought out several times

From a performer point of view, I really enjoyed the process of being taken from an inexperienced amateur to the level we achieved

 

 

4.7           There were 46 comments including the terms music or musicians.  By and large these reflected the great enjoyment given to both participants and the audience,

… Excellent music, beautifully performed by both singers and instrumentalists…

although there were some technical criticisms

… Music was compositionally fascinating though often became ‘lost’ with other distractions…

 

4.8           There were only two comments including the search term song but 15 comments including singing or sang – on the whole complimentary, but also made wider points,

The singing was choral…mainly in support of soloists – and dramatic speech to musical background. This was really enjoyable and improved markedly as a result of the excellent work carried out by the professional leaders in charge of rehearsals. It was hard work and I was absolutely exhausted at the end but it was a truly satisfying experience – completely different from anything else I have ever done and on a par with the most challenging singing I have been involved in…

 

4.9           There were 32 comments relating to the costumes and every one of them was highly complimentary, typically as in the boxes below

The costumes were fantastic and a lot of effort had gone into them, one of the best parts of the performance…
The costumes were stunning…

 

 

4.10        There were no results for set but 21 results for setting.  All were admiring of the open air (one comment included “brave”)

Superb setting; perfect to see that story told in that particular place
Loved the outdoor setting as our evening was perfect and the oystercatchers were calling which made it very atmospheric.

 

 

4.11        Seven of the comments included the search term staging and overlapped with the comments on setting– but they mostly went wider than this to look at the whole production

The strong points were the orchestral playing and the principal singing voices. The staging was very static, possibly because of the nature of the piece, with continuous orchestral scoring which meant that the performers lacked confidence to use the space more effectively. The younger cast members and children were not always fully engaged and looked bored during the first section; however, the choreography allowed the youngsters to use their skills as the Elements. In the second half of the performance the children obviously enjoyed their two numbers – with Mr Brown and as refugees and these were the livelier sections of the show as a whole…

 

 

4.12        There were 41 comments that referenced the children.  Nearly all were very positive about

  • the integral role that the children played,
The enthusiasm and professionalism of the children was unexpected but absolutely brilliant. The actors engaged with the children so well.
  • their talent,
The children were amazing – knew every word of the songs and sang with confidence
  • their discipline
The enthusiasm of the children and the way they changed gear and commitment when the actual performances occurred
  • and their dance
The children were superb in their modern dance & routines
  • although some felt that there was too much of the last….
I understand why there were so many dances for children but some of them should have been spaced out with other items.

 

4.13        There were twelve comments relating to heritage, history or historic, and these comments typically picked up related issues

Wonderful setting for the first half, really rooting the production in its rightful setting. The sun picking up the gold and silver banners and sail beautifully and the birds calling in the background… great to see such a wide range of ages in the performers and the feel of a community coming together to honour and celebrate its history, old and not so old. very moving overall

The comments left a strong impression that local people appreciated and wished to know more of local maritime history – of course centred around the Anglo-Saxon period

 

4.14        None of the seriously adverse comments came from any of the participants in the project – although there was some criticism – “too gloomy” commented one volunteer.  And some came from expectations – “community theatre or opera is not something that can be left to amateurs….”.

Whilst the criticisms were few they were mostly thoughtful, not venomous and whilst this production shows that it is never possible to please everybody. There were relevant points about how much preparedness, comprehension of the plot and the content and extent of dance within the production which the production team should study. One commentator said that

The aspirations were laudable and ambitious, and the ‘local’ historical narrative was entirely apt…choreography was very good indeed (though too often, perhaps understandably, under-achieved in performance). In general, the performance itself did not quite live up to the collaborators’ aspirations. Although the use of children from the community was an admirable strategy, most of them needed far more directorial guidance on basic performance skills… Costume design and execution were excellent. More could possibly have been made of the actual river and the magical setting.

 

4.15     Finally, there was a single comment that the search terms threw up with had congratulations in it. Good – and fair – to end this section with.

The whole experience was totally unique so we didn’t really know what to expect. It was absolutely brilliant- a real community project. Many congratulations to ALL those involved…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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