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Collective letter to Friends of Covent Garden regarding allocation of single seats


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What a disappointment! I haven't been able to book ROH tickets as my first jab is next Monday & 2nd not until 20th July so I'm not risking myself or others before then.  However, I received a lovely email from the Young Vic theatre BO several weeks ago reallocating me a seat for their delayed production of Cush Jumbo's Hamlet at the end of July - a single seat (upgraded from the original price bracket because of distancing) - so theatres can treat their customers well if they choose & generate good will (the Bridge Theatre has also done this).  I know ROH is X times bigger & more complex, but not to cater at all for single attendees is not the way to treat loyal supporters, let alone Friends members. 

 

I gave up my Friends membership a few years ago when an especially high round of seat ticket prices for limited view seats irked me beyond endurance tied in with changes to tickets for Friend's events made clear people not prepared to fork out large sums of money were increasingly less welcome & less tolerated (I should that since 1992 some years I have been to 50 plus performances & depending on the show I buy single tickets across all tiers & prices). I have missed ballet in the last year, but not at any price!

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OK, I've just had another go at the ROH ticket booking. Only by booking 2 tickets can I get where I want to be - which is near the front of the Orch Stalls. The tickets I have booked as singles are Row T and Row V and I am a Supporting Friend so pretty high up in the pecking order. I'm also a member of the Fonteyn Circle - more £££ sponsorship.  I know I'm fortunate to be able to do this, but it is high on my priority list of life choices.  I was so disappointed yesterday when I repeatedly clicked the 1 ticket selection and was told - not available.  I can't see properly if I am not close to the stage, so enjoyment is lost if I book alternative parts of the House.  I almost gave up at one point and this for Mixed Bills which I would not normally see as my favourite offerings. Imagine if it was Manon or Mayerling!  

I know we should think ourselves lucky just to be there, but.........................

I also know the super sponsors give £KKKKs and thus get first choices. 

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3 hours ago, bridiem said:

 

I assume (hope) that they could release the extra seats if/when it's confirmed that social distancing is no longer required after 21st June.

 

Then if they did that I'd have to return my tickets - on the assumption that I'd booked seats I wouldn't normally be able to sit in simply because there was supposed to be nobody sitting next to me.  Not to mention anyone else who might understandably be getting cold feet at the prospect of sitting next to a stranger still.

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I think that the ROH probably announced that its seating would remain socially distanced until next season in order to avoid a situation where:

  • people booked under one protocol but found themselves attending in the midst of a completely different scenario; and
  • many of us got even more exercised than we currently are because, in order to get single seats, we had had to accept locations in the auditorium which were not to our liking and then found that, having been originally denied (e.g.) the front row, we then had several rows of people sitting in front of us

From a conversation I had with a member of the ROH staff this afternoon (having been unable to get through earlier) most of the Friends/Patrons and Booking Teams have been having their ears bent all day - and the issue of lack of single seats has been predominant.

 

The point about 'friendship' having been almost entirely one-way during the past 13 months or so is well made.

 

But I did have a similar problem booking for ENB at Sadlers Wells - virtually no single seats available in the lower areas of the theatre. And the RFH was no better.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, capybara said:

But I did have a similar problem booking for ENB at Sadlers Wells - virtually no single seats available in the lower areas of the theatre. And the RFH was no better.


I don’t have the info to comment further on Sadler‘s Wells. However, I challenged the Southbank Centre about the lack of singles in the RFH seating plan, and was told that there was flexibility available - a single booker could call the box office and be allowed to book one of a pair, with the other removed from sale. So their initial optics were poor, and they weren’t transparent about how they could accommodate people, but they *were* - like just about every other org I’ve heard reports about - able to find solutions where necessary.

 

In contrast, the ROH has taken a blanket “computer says no” attitude, which has resulted in the ridiculous scenario whereby people paying £1260pa in membership - that’s a Premium 1 subscription - were in some actual reported cases unable to access a seat anywhere in the Stalls Circle or Balcony as a single, while a member of the general public who’s able to book as a pair can go in later this morning and have a good choice of seats throughout the house.

 

I’m sure that as lovers of the arts we all appreciate the decisions that will have had to be made about how best to use the available capacity. But telling members who complain that they can’t “leave a gap in the seating plan” (I’ve now seen emails from 2 members who’ve been told this) is not acceptable. We are all individual members, not awkwardly-shaped jigsaw pieces that can be slotted in to fill in the corners. Our money and loyalty was good enough for the ROH when they were taking our membership money, and if their seating plan fails to cater for such an enormous subset of us, they need a new (or more flexibly-managed) seating plan.

Edited by RuthE
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I thought I read somewhere that there were more single seats available this time round. Why was it possible to buy single tickets at least hours after general release last time but sold out before Friends had finished booking this time? 🤔

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2 minutes ago, Rob S said:

I thought I read somewhere that there were more single seats available this time round. Why was it possible to buy single tickets at least hours after general release last time but sold out before Friends had finished booking this time? 🤔


Perhaps they release a new allocation for general public? It’s always (in recent history) been a requirement of their funding agreement, though I don’t know if this is currently waived.

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1 hour ago, RuthE said:


Perhaps they release a new allocation for general public? It’s always (in recent history) been a requirement of their funding agreement, though I don’t know if this is currently waived.


Or perhaps not. A friend of mine (who could have booked as a Friend yesterday but forgot) reports that the best she could do this morning (following public booking opening) for any performance of Don Giovanni was a £184 stalls seat.

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Posted (edited)

Gosh ... you’d think the ROH would know from historical bookings, that the volume of single seat purchasers is high?  Or at least higher than they’ve catered for?

Edited by FionaE
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57 minutes ago, FionaE said:

Gosh ... you’d think the ROH would know from historical bookings, that the volume of single seat purchasers is high?  Or at least higher than they’ve catered for?

 

Perhaps demand for pairs is even higher...

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Britain is not alone. Wolf Trap in the Wash, DC, area - a national park for the performing arts, funded by tax payers, in great part - is only selling "pods" of even-numbered tickets. Singles are not available. Minimum # of two can be purchased. The Filene Center has a roof but is open on three sides & picnickers sit on a grassy hill behind the seats (totally outdoor).

 

Our tax dollars at work, fostering elitism. Good grief.

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Peony said:

Single tickets only isn’t equitable as it precludes families. To maintain 1.5 or 2 metres between single seats would presumably reduce the capacity to what, a quarter? Ideally they’d have a dynamic booking system like they have at cinemas. I haven’t seen inside the socially distanced ROH, do they not allocate many single tickets? I had tickets for Christmas but then London went into tier 4 and our hopes were dashed!


Having now drafted the letter, I’ve acknowledged that any “chessboard” pattern would need to have designated areas to accommodate people whose groups include young children or a disabled person. Other than that, I’m sure families can survive sitting with one seat empty between members for an hour and a half at a time.

 

(As one of my friends said - she’s been with her husband virtually 24 hours a day for over a year, so is quite sure she won’t miss him unduly while sitting a metre apart while watching a show.)

Edited by RuthE
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, RuthE said:


Having now drafted the letter, I’ve acknowledged that any “chessboard” pattern would need to have designated areas to accommodate people whose groups include young children or a disabled person. Other than that, I’m sure families can survive sitting with one seat empty between members for an hour and a half at a time.

 

(As one of my friends said - she’s been with her husband virtually 24 hours a day for over a year, so is quite sure she won’t miss him unduly while sitting a metre apart while watching a show.)

 

And, after all, single seaters can shuffle together if they are in one another's bubble. 

 

 

 

Edited by capybara
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, RuthE said:


Having now drafted the letter, I’ve acknowledged that any “chessboard” pattern would need to have designated areas to accommodate people whose groups include young children or a disabled person. Other than that, I’m sure families can survive sitting with one seat empty between members for an hour and a half at a time.

 

(As one of my friends said - she’s been with her husband virtually 24 hours a day for over a year, so is quite sure she won’t miss him unduly while sitting a metre apart while watching a show.)


I think the problem is that the seat numbers are a random allocation and they don’t allow under 14s to sit without a parent (very sensibly!). When I booked earlier I got seats nowhere near each other- different rows and different sides. I tried several times, different performance days and areas and the same thing happened. Luckily one of mine is old enough to sit alone. 

They only appeared to have pairs as well, no 3s or 4s. So I ended up booking 2x2 so in the same boat of paying for an extra!

Edited by Peony
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Posted (edited)

 

1 hour ago, capybara said:

 

And, after all, single seaters can shuffle together if they are in one another's bubble. 

 Actually, not necessarily. It’s up to the venue to sort that out to their satisfaction if they give a certain seating layout to your group. If you all skooch up together, you may no longer be compliant with distancing from the people in front and behind.

 

Edited by RuthE
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Whatever happened to the "Seat out to help out" scheme that people were urging the Chancellor to bring in?  Has it been displaced by this Government's apparent disdain for the arts in general?

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There are now three threads on this subject and it’s getting bit confusing.

However, the essential point about single seats AT THE MOMENT is that a number of people who would normally book as a pair have been precluded from doing so because of the social distancing rules.

That obvious fact renders the ROH research referred to completely irrelevant in relation to the summer booking period.

Was that considered? No, of course not.

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43 minutes ago, capybara said:

 

However, the essential point about single seats AT THE MOMENT is that a number of people who would normally book as a pair have been precluded from doing so because of the social distancing rules.

That obvious fact renders the ROH research referred to completely irrelevant in relation to the summer booking period.

Was that considered? No, of course not.

 

Aren’t we awaiting government advice on the social distancing rules between friends and family from 17 May?  I believe a lot of people are thinking (rightly or wrongly) that the rules will be relaxed so there’s no need to socially distance in your group of 6.

 

Whether everyone who would usually attend in a pair is comfortable in doing so even with relaxed rules is another question entirely (but I’d say that a risk assessment for them to make).

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5 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

Aren’t we awaiting government advice on the social distancing rules between friends and family from 17 May?  I believe a lot of people are thinking (rightly or wrongly) that the rules will be relaxed so there’s no need to socially distance in your group of 6.

 

Whether everyone who would usually attend in a pair is comfortable in doing so even with relaxed rules is another question entirely (but I’d say that a risk assessment for them to make).


What we’re awaiting for confirmation of, post-17-May, is if we are going into Step 3. This allows (a) 50% capacity audiences, and (b) household mixing indoors. If they can open at all, it’s (legally) OK to go with somebody not in your bubble.

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5 minutes ago, RuthE said:


What we’re awaiting for confirmation of, post-17-May, is if we are going into Step 3. This allows (a) 50% capacity audiences, and (b) household mixing indoors. If they can open at all, it’s (legally) OK to go with somebody not in your bubble.


to quote from gov.uk

Social contact

As part of Step 3, no earlier than 17 May, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible, allowing people to decide on the appropriate level of risk for their circumstances.

This means that most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal. Indoors, the Rule of 6 or 2 households will apply - we will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this.

As soon as possible and by no later than Step 3, we will also update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.

 

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I don’t think that contradicts anything I said, does it?

 

I know that Glyndebourne for one opened their whole season for booking on that basis. If the show is on, it’s up to you to risk-assess who your +1 is.

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14 minutes ago, RuthE said:

I don’t think that contradicts anything I said, does it?

 

I know that Glyndebourne for one opened their whole season for booking on that basis. If the show is on, it’s up to you to risk-assess who your +1 is.

 

I thought there was a distinction between “meet” and “be close to to for significant periods of time” but it is really confusing and not at all clear.  

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

There are now three threads on this subject and it’s getting bit confusing.

However, the essential point about single seats AT THE MOMENT is that a number of people who would normally book as a pair have been precluded from doing so because of the social distancing rules.

That obvious fact renders the ROH research referred to completely irrelevant in relation to the summer booking period.

Was that considered? No, of course not.


The letter makes this point very clearly!

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My point is that the current demand for single seats was likely to be higher currently than any previous ROH research suggested.

That is why using ‘normal’ data is not an acceptable argument in response to complaints. (I think the research was mentioned in another thread.)

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5 minutes ago, capybara said:

My point is that the current demand for single seats was likely to be higher currently than any previous ROH research suggested.

That is why using ‘normal’ data is not an acceptable argument in response to complaints. (I think the research was mentioned in another thread.)


I quote from the draft letter:

 

It should have been immediately obvious to everyone that the social distancing requirements of the past year would temporarily greatly increase the proportional demand for single tickets for any live performance, even among people who may usually book as one of a pair. For anyone who is the only member of their household wishing to attend a performance, the choice has been to go alone or not go at all, and while this should become easier in Step 3 of the Government roadmap, it will not cease to be a problem until the vaccination programme is far closer to completion.”

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This discussion about seating would be better informed if the ROH had published a layout plan showing how all the available seating has been laid out, so we could see both  the overall allocation of doubles v singles  and their respective positioning. 

 

Although I attended the one live mixed bill that was managed in November, the split of seating wasn't something I properly clocked at the time.

 

Given the circumstances I suspect the desire to maximize the total number of seats available would have  been a major consideration. The particular layout of the ROH may not have made it easy to design a compliant scheme.

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4 hours ago, Richard LH said:

This discussion about seating would be better informed if the ROH had published a layout plan showing how all the available seating has been laid out, so we could see both  the overall allocation of doubles v singles  and their respective positioning.

 

But would they actually know?  What if someone messes up their carefully laid-out plans by asking for 3 tickets instead of 2, say, and all the other seats have to be adjusted leftwards (or rightwards) as a result? 

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