We had a meeting with a lot of our regularly performing groups. Here’s the minutes of the meeting, I thought they might be helpful for improvisers to understand what happens behind the scenes.
Hoopla Improv Comedy Club Meeting
Dates: Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd May 2016
Hoopla Impro Comedy Club’s Mission Statement
To provide the best shows and community for people new to improv, delivered in the most fun, friendly, encouraging, safe and supportive way possible.
This includes putting on shows that are accessible, entertaining, welcoming, inspiring and fun for an audience new to watching
improv, giving them a great introduction to the world of improv. It additionally includes providing performance opportunities, support and community for people who are new to performing improv themselves.
Hoopla’s values include being fun, friendly, sociable, affordable, accessible, open, warm, supportive, unpretentious, open to everyone, and most of all providing a fun and welcoming improv community in London.
For performers Hoopla aim to provide a fun place to perform where there is a large friendly repeat audience that supports improv, and we aim to have a fair deal where 100% of the profits from the club are split equally between performers, front of house volunteers, tech support and hosts. This enables acts to perform at no financial risk and minimise barriers to getting shows on stage.
Hoopla Improv Comedy Club in general will switch to a more community run venue, with groups, Hoopla and The Miller all working together as one team, to enable the shows to be as good as possible with a great experience for the audience.
Long term volunteer recruitment and training program:
- Hoopla and core performing groups to work together on recruitment, long term training, and ongoing management of a pool of tech support, front of house and host volunteers.
- This pool of volunteers to provide basic tech support only, any specialist tech requirements to be covered and booked by the groups themselves.
- The front of house, hosting and tech support volunteer experience to be improved, with them treated as equals by all
performers and adopted and supported into the impro community and most of all thanked and appreciated.
Volunteers to be rewarded with a rich training experience, free classes, free shows, share of profits on the night, being part of the team and most of all being appreciated and thanked.
arrangements (starting September 2016):
- We aim to have a fair deal where 100% of the
profits from the club are split equally between performers, front of house
volunteers, tech support and hosts. This enables acts to perform at no
financial risk and minimise barriers to getting on stage.
- The first £35 of online ticket sales per night
to go to Hoopla to help cover the costs of facebook ads, google ads, printing
costs and other expenses that are involved in running an ongoing night. This
will all go on expenses for running the night and will not be profit for
Hoopla, as we make our income from training instead. This is only if groups are
using Hoopla’s online sales, they are welcome to set up their own online sales
that we can point to at no charge.
- All remaining online sales to be split fairly
between performing groups and front of house, tech and hosts in the month
following the show.
- Online sales processed once a month instead of
once a week in the future, to free up admin time. If groups haven’t been
contacted and/or paid within month of show they should contact Hoopla.
- All cash sales to be split fairly between
performing groups and front of house, tech and hosts on the night at the end of
show. Hoopla do not need a split on cash sales, even if there were no online
- Performers, hosts, front of house and tech
support to be treated equally regards share of profits from evening.
prices (starting September 2016):
- Free access to Hoopla students and their plus
ones remains for all shows apart from festivals. The exception to this is if a
night is sold out in advance online, then online ticketed people only will be
let in before 8pm and then free standing room only access after that.
- Nights are also free to cast of our regular
groups, even on the nights they are not performing, so that performers can come
and support each other and the night in general.
- Pricing to change in September to £7 on the
night and £5.50 online, to enable us to continue to provide the best acts
possible and to cover the proposed admin expenses.
- Varied ticket prices are also possible, with
increased prices for some nights to cover festivals or international guest
- We will also continue to put on a large amount
of free nights, to keep improv affordable and accessible to all.
regularly performing groups:
- General tasks involved in running the night to
be divided more between the regularly performing groups, with a more community
focussed feel to the night.
- Hoopla especially need help with the
recruitment, training and long-term management of a pool of front of house,
hosting and tech support volunteers.
- Hoopla to provide a clearer email at time of
booking groups that clearly allocates roles and responsibilities between Hoopla
and performing groups.
- Groups that run their own nights within Hoopla
(The Playground, Glitch Cabaret, Guest Speaker Geekeasy etc) are a really good
model and something Hoopla are keen to encourage more of, but they still need
support from the proposed volunteer pool so the key performers aren’t doing too
much and getting stressed on their show night.
- Groups encouraged to share photos of successful
nights and general success stories and share with Hoopla on facebook and
- Formal system of how much promotion is expected
from groups on facebook, twitter etc. This will be communicated at time of
booking the groups.
- Groups and Hoopla to communicate more after
nights to find out what went well, what could be improved, and to celebrate a
- Steve at Hoopla to cut down on the number of
nights he is at, in order to concentrate on future planning, his own
performing, filming, building up new shows and other fun events. This doesn’t
mean he doesn’t love the shows, it’s just become impossible to both be at all
the shows and plan and produce all the future shows.
present were various improvisers from regularly performing groups at Hoopla’s
nights at The Miller. There are also groups that couldn’t make it that we’ll be
catching up with over email or phone this week.
hugely helpful and I know it was a bit long-winded but I didn’t really know
what to do beforehand so it was really helpful to chat about everything and
hear from you all.
loves the shows at The Miller and is really proud of what everyone does, and
overall thinks it’s amazing how well it’s all going.
he feels a bit older than when it started, has other things going on, and also
wants to get back into performing properly instead of being purely a producer.
means he needs to make a lot of the processes more efficient, by discussion with
groups and working out how to share workload
also ask regularly performing groups to work together as a team to take some of
the admin time off Hoopla, and to find out if there are tasks that Hoopla does
(and is no longer able to do) that could be done by teams.
enable us to work together as a team and keep on putting awesome shows for the
did introductions of each person, with a mix of improvisers, people running
groups and people running whole nights at Hoopla Improv Comedy Club.
have been running shows non-stop for 10 years, including 6 years at The Miller.
ran 136 evenings of shows last year.
programmed over 100 different improv groups last year.
at mood board of favourite photos from the last couple of years to understand
underlying values of the club. These included but are not limited to:
for the audience. Interacting with the audience.
happy, fun times.
different improvisers together to work together as one team.
performance opportunities for new improvisers and supporting them.
Experienced and new improvisers working
Supporting new people to London and
introducing them to new friends and safe, supportive and friendly community.
Putting on fun entertaining shows that are
accessible to a mainstream audience.
needing to cut back hours spent on admin in order to focus more on performing,
family and experimenting with growing improv into new and interesting places.
looked at different models of other improv clubs, comedy clubs and fringe
theatres to learn from them and see how Hoopla could fit in:
Large well managed and staffed venues,
largely staffed by unpaid interns or interns paid with training and experience,
all money going back into the venue.
PROS: Great marketing, big audiences, front
of house team, tech team, good industry contacts, good venues.
CONS: No payment at all to acts. No cash
payment to staff (they are on intern/course payment basis), which may be tricky
in UK due to controversy regarding using unpaid workers and over using interns
and work experience. Large amount of work to set this up and manage.
Venues/Leicester Square Theatre/Canal Café:
Well managed and staffed venues that operate
on a profit split with the acts and often require acts to pay a deposit up
front to perform.
PROS: Front of house team provided, tech
CONS: Often not a great profit share to acts
and acts have to pay up front to perform, which can be expensive and
Free entry, donations collected at end.
PROS: Eliminates a huge amount of admin. Large
audiences. Money still ok.
CONS: Might de-value improv in the eyes of
All profits currently go to acts, split
fairly between performers. Venue relies on volunteers or acts to do front of
house, tech and hosting. Mix of paid audience and free audience from Hoopla
PROS: Provides place for acts to perform at
no financial risk. Fairly pays acts. Good audience sizes. Audience who like
CONS: Hoopla running at a loss (£10 – £20
per show) due to covering facebook ads, google ads, extra show payments and
general expenses. Hoopla currently struggling to provide full front of house
and tech support as we don’t have the budget or time to do this properly and we
feel like we are exhausting volunteers to do this and providing an unfair deal
Steve from Hoopla often feels that the
expectation is that Hoopla should be running a fully supported and staffed
night, but the current financial model and time available to run Hoopla doesn’t
Hoopla want to maintain themselves as a
performer friendly venue with a fair deal to all performers. Hoopla is
continuing to be run by performers and will need groups working together.
Hoopla are continuing to run where all cash
profits on the door on the night are split equally between performers, tech and
front of house at the end of the night.
The first £30 of all online takings from
each night to go to Hoopla to cover advertising costs and general expenses.
Remaining online show payments to be split
equally between performing groups, this will be arranged over the month
following the show.
Groups and Hoopla to work together more to
try and solve the problem in front of house, tech and hosts.
Hoopla to provide a clearer email at time of
booking groups to clearly lay out what is expected from Hoopla and groups and
clearly allocate responsibilities for each building up to show.
discussed common challenges that pop up:
Often groups and Hoopla only hear the
negatives about the nights and communication could be improved and be a bit
Steve from Hoopla not being at a night
doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you guys!
Confusion about how invoicing works.
Front of House volunteers often not
Tech support often not available.
Hosts often not available.
Groups encouraged to share photos of
successful nights and general success stories and share with Hoopla on facebook
Groups and Hoopla to communicate more after
nights to find out what went well and to celebrate a bit more.
Steve at Hoopla to cut down on the number of
nights he has to be there, to be able to concentrate on future planning,
building up new shows and other fun events. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t love
Invoice amounts to be discussed over the
month following the show and paid within one month of the show happening. This
is so Hoopla can do it all at once per month and minimise admin time. If groups
haven’t been contacted and/or paid within month of show they should contact
Groups and Hoopla to work together more to
try and solve the problem in front of house, tech and hosts.
looked at challenges facing three areas where we currently struggle: Hosting,
Tech Support, Front of House.
This used to be mainly done by Steve from
Hoopla and also Mike. Gradually other groups have started running their own
nights within Hoopla and self-hosting.
Steve from Hoopla is no longer able to host
as many nights as previously, due to lack of time to cover everything in Hoopla
and also to free up time to focus more on future planning and producing some
Groups running their own nights has been successful
in many ways but also has places too much stress on the key members of the
group when they are having to do everything, and sharing this responsibility is
There is a current shortage of improvisers
who like and are good at hosting.
This has been done by a mix of people: the
host, a standalone tech, the performers, front of house people.
Some groups have paid a professional tech
and this has made the show really good.
There is a shortage of tech support
Originally this was provided by Hoopla with
Hoopla are struggling to find volunteers to
There was concern that the front of house
groups are often not thanked enough by performing groups, and should be
incorporated more into the evening.
Hoopla are unable to pay front of house
volunteers a proper wage, and Hoopla feel it is unethical to keep asking people
to do it for free.
Hoopla need help from performing groups with
providing front of house.
We need a pool of hosts that we have trained
up in how to host in Hoopla style that we can rely upon to look after the
audience, cast, tech and front of house in the night.
We need a pool of tech support volunteers
that have been trained up.
Groups to receive only basic tech, provided
by either the host, front of house volunteers or the performers.
Any professional tech support to be booked
by the performing groups themselves. Please don’t swamp the host or front of
house volunteers with complicated tech requests on the night. Anything more
than basic lights and sound should be provided by a tech provided by the
performing group themselves.
We need a pool of front of house volunteers.
Front of house and other volunteers need to
be thanked and supported by performing groups and welcomed into the wider
Possibility of a wider training program for
support crew, people interested in being front of house, tech support and
hosts. This training program to be longer term and also connect the volunteers
to groups so they can learn from each other.
looked at a map of our average audience to understand where people came from
and also look at the financial model of the night.
big chunk of the audience (up to 50% on some nights) are Hoopla students and
their plus ones who get in free. We checked with groups and everyone seemed
happy with this arrangement as it provided a big audience and also attracted
new people to improv nights and helped build up a long term audience.
should be free to core cast, even if they are not performing.
can add people to the guest list on the night. Please just do that on the night
by chatting to the front of house, no need to email in advance.
are half price.
General admission is £5. We discussed this
price and everyone felt it is regarded as quite low in the comedy scene
considering the standard of many acts we have on. It hasn’t changed for six
years so pricing to change in September.
Free access to Hoopla students and their
plus ones remains. The exception to this is if a night is sold out in advance
online, then online ticketed people only will be let in before 8pm and then
free standing room only access after that.
Nights are also free to cast of our regular
groups, even on the nights they are not performing.
Pricing to change in September to £7 on the
night and £5.50 online, to enable us to continue to provide the best acts
broke down how online ticket pricing works.
each £5 ticket:
50p goes to booking fee and ticketing agency
90p goes to VAT.
Leaving £3.60 that goes to acts.
previously have been paying groups extra if it’s a low ticket sales night, but
Hoopla will not be doing this anymore.
discussed the possibility of dropping online sales and keeping it all on the
door to save admin team, but it was felt this would be a step backwards for the
club and maybe loose audience numbers.
said the current admin process for this is inefficient and time consuming.
We are keeping online ticket sales.
Online ticket sales increased to £5.50 in
September to cover booking fee.
Online sales processed once a month instead
of once a week in the future, to free up admin time.
Online ticket sales split fairly between
groups, but there will not be any extra top up payments from Hoopla if it’s a
low audience night.
looked at more options for how we could run the club and work with groups.
running it all.
this is what would happen if we carried on with the current model.
feel that we’re currently unable to please everyone without either making a constant
financial loss or sacrificing other creative projects for the sake of admin
time, neither of which we want to do anymore.
Miller running the club instead.
could opt out and leave groups to book directly with The Miller while Hoopla keeping
a couple of their own nights.
would remove all admin from Hoopla, and in the short term could still work, but
in the long term it was felt the lack of coordinated programming would lead to
the end of the club.
Staff. We discussed that we could get paid staff:
of House (£20)
cost for coordinating (£50)
would come to a total of £145 per night, so all the profits of the night would
have to go to staff and none to performing acts.
this would make a well run night we felt it was against Hoopla’s original
values of providing a fair deal for performers.
or donation night.
would cut out a huge amount of admin for Hoopla, and also cut down on the
amount of volunteers needed.
was felt that this might accidentally de-value improv in the eyes of the
were open to trying some nights like this.
providing front of house, tech and hosting.
would have to help out with front of house, tech and hosting.
to be clearer at time of booking about what is expected.
priority given to groups that are able to help out with the night in general.
working as one time.
continue to go directly to performing groups.
Club to convert more strongly to a community
Groups to help out with the recruitment and
training of front of house, tech and hosting volunteers.
Building up and ongoing pool of front of
house, tech and hosts, with ongoing training and support so they feel part of
Everyone to work together on each night,
Hoopla to be clearer at time of booking about what this would involve.
Profits to continue to go to performing
groups to keep it a fair deal for performers.
Option to also have some free nights, but
most nights will be paid with a slight increase in tickets prices starting in
went through a list of all tasks done by Hoopla and performing groups to try
and find any inefficiencies, overlaps, and to see if there was any way we could
share the workload better.
also discussed a new model of night that has been going well where one group
runs the whole night and can book in any sub groups they want, and is also
responsible for booking their own host and front of house. These nights have
been popular with audiences and are easier for Hoopla to run, but they need
more assistance with hosting and front of house as otherwise it was putting the
core members of the group under undue stress.
still happy to do, no change or extra help currently needed:
Booking in regular weekend groups.
Booking in guest weekend groups.
Booking in international groups.
Booking in festivals.
Booking in late night shows.
Booking in jams.
Booking in Launch Pads.
Booking in networking events.
Managing relations with The Miller.
Sorting online tickets (although this needs
to be made more efficient).
Putting shows on Hoopla website.
Putting shows on Miller website.
Listing shows online press.
Listing shows other press.
Press releases and ongoing press relations.
Facebook Ads (cost needs to be covered by
online sales in future).
Google Ads (cost needs to be covered by
online sales in future).
Email Newsletter (cost needs to be covered
by online sales in future).
Producing new shows.
Encouraging new acts.
help with and will have to be a community run thing with the groups working
Booking in hosts.
Finding front of house volunteers.
Training front of house volunteers.
Front of house.
Finding tech support volunteers.
Training tech support.
Booking in tech support.
Providing tech support.
Some money from online sales to cover
happy to continuing doing:
Training in improv.
Cross promoting at other festivals and
Facebook marketing about Hoopla shows.
Twitter marketing about Hoopla shows.
YouTube marketing about Hoopla shows.
Email marketing about Hoopla shows.
Booking in sub groups if they are running
their own evening.
Hiring rehearsal spaces.
Art work for general marketing.
Podcasts and other online presence.
Suggesting international groups.
Putting Hoopla in contact with other groups.
that groups currently but need help with or improvements needed:
Carrying musical instruments and equipment.
Finding cheap rehearsal spaces.
Front of House, Tech Support, Hosting.
Groups and Hoopla need to work together more
to support the night.
Hoopla to make division of responsibilities
clearer over email when booking each act, with a formal rider type email.
There needs to be a pool of trained and
reliable front of house volunteers, tech support, hosts and gig captains.
The groups that run their own night there
need additional help so key performers aren’t doing too much on the night.
Having more groups running their own nights
would be good, and also ensemble shows.
More community events to be encouraged.
Late shows and jams to be booked in with help
of groups, with more variety of different styles of jams.
Communications between Hoopla and groups to
Groups to take an active role in the support
of the club and also the recruitment and training of support staff.
have a mission statement and values for their club but it was felt this could
be communicated and celebrated more. So this will be included on the website
and also when communicating to groups.
thanks to all the groups that took part in this, at the meeting and on email
and phone. It was really helpful as going into it I didn’t know what we were
doing but just being listened to really helped so thank you.