‘Concert in a Phonebox’

September 2015

Snape has a world class concert hall in a beautiful location. While many people come to watch a concert, many more come to experience one of the other facets of the destination. My colleagues at Snape Maltings and I estimated that around 15% of visitors saw a concert while they were on site.

This is partly due to the frequency of concerts. We have a huge amount during the Aldeburgh Festival in June and Snape Proms in August, but far fewer spread over the rest of the year. This project was intended to allow any visitor to the site to experience a concert, no matter if one was not scheduled that day.

I used a special mount which held 7 GoPro cameras facing in different directions, so that their fields of view overlapped. This was placed above the BBC Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Martyn Brabbins, for their performace at the 2015 Aldeburgh Festival. I then stitched video from each together into a single file, which covers up, down, left, right, backwards and forwards, using AutoPano Video software.

This was then loaded onto a smartphone inside a VR headset, and placed the old red phonebox outside the Visitor Centre at Snape, which used to be the direct link to our box office in Aldeburgh before we added one at the concert hall. The headset dangled from the roof and plugged into the mains to prevent needing to be recharged. It was hooked up to a bluetooth speaker for great quality sound without the added faff of putting on headphones. The noise that emanated from the phonebox also served to lure people in, which was important as the phonebox was not staffed.

The Concert in a Phonebox ran from September to December 2015, covering one of our quieter periods of programming. It received many comments in its guestbook and coverage in both the local and national news. The comments were overwhelming positive.

We also surveyed some of the visitors:

  • 28% were young children and families, who wouldn’t normally be able to attend a full evening concert.
  • 73% hadn’t been to a concert at Snape Maltings before.
  • Of those that hadn’t been, 42% said they were inspired to book tickets, and 23% would maybe book in the future. (A fair number were tourists from countries as far as New Zealand, so reasonable that they wouldn’t return!)

The Concert in a Phonebox helped Snape Maltings reach a new audience, from those who couldn’t attend a concert because they were too young, too far away, or there simply wasn’t one on, to fans of music other than classical (we had plenty of requests for other genres in the guestbook). The video is still on Youtube to enjoy, with over 66,000 views so far, mostly outside the UK.

It was a leap of faith to assume people would notice and pop into the phonebox, but we were pleasantly surprised. This meant no staffing costs. However, as the weather worsened and the components started to break, it became more of a burden on staff inside the building, and eventually we turned it off for good. It turns out that being turned on and displaying 360 video all day every day for 3 months is pretty hard work for a smartphone.

I am very grateful to the following companies and individuals for their help with the project:

  • The players of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for their generosity in allowing the filming to happen, along the BBC Radio 3 team for their fantastic audio recording.
  • Bruizer for the loan of the camera and mount.
  • Hammerhead VR for the loan of the AutoPano software.
  • Ron Evans who mentored me through the project, which was part of the AMA’s Culturehive Digital Marketing Academy.