By the time you are reading this we will have celebrated the official re-opening of Westlands with Darcey Bussell cutting the ribbon and marking a new chapter in the life of the sports, entertainment, conferencing and leisure complex. I hope that the event has gone well! This event marks the ‘end of the beginning’ for what is an exciting, challenging and ambitious project and there are so many people involved in the project that have contributed and continue to contribute every day to its success.
I moved down to Yeovil in the summer of 2009, when at the age of 28 I amazed myself being appointed the manager of The Octagon. I’d enjoyed success being the Programme and Marketing Manager of Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury and had enjoyed previous roles at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Unity Theatre in Liverpool and a placement with Rambert Dance Company as part of my degree in Arts and Entertainment Management at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. What I lacked in experience I made up for in passion and I was happy to beaver away into the small hours at The Octagon and felt very fortunate that I had a theatre – an endless treasure trove of possibilities!
The team at The Octagon have been very supportive, patient and ‘up for a challenge’ and over the past seven years we’ve enjoyed tremendous success in growing our audience – up from 79,000 in 2009 to over 130,000 for the last twelve months. No manager acts alone and without the hard work of the team I really wouldn’t have got very far at all so I am grateful to each and every one who has supported me and kept me going – the manager tends to get the accolades for the team!
Over those seven years we’ve made plenty of mistakes, tried and failed on a number of occasions with various projects and initiatives but one of the most noticeable things about working in this area is that from the beginning people have been willing us to succeed. The people I come into contact with generally have a genuine affection for The Octagon, I was made to feel very welcome and people made it clear they were willing to support us and, when asked, their words became actions. The philosophy for our approach at The Octagon has been a simple one – we want people to have a great time, and for them to want to come back and bring their friends and family.
I’m always on the lookout for the best entertainment, arts and performances that will inspire, move and make people happy. My favourite part of my job is booking the shows we have and trying to create a dynamic and exciting programme that is varied. But a visit to The Octagon is so much more. The experience begins from first hearing about the show, to booking your tickets, to enjoying a meal before, an ice cream in the interval to telling friends and family about the experience. We are still working at The Octagon to make improvements and the goal posts keep moving forward. With each visit we want to exceed your expectations, taking advantage of new technology and improve the service. Taking on managing Westlands we begin that journey with our second venue.
Westlands is a very different venue to The Octagon but the philosophy remains exactly the same – ‘we want people to have a great time’.