Save North Devon Theatres

It’s fair to say that there is a lot of going on in the world right now, and as we see daily in the news and on social media, there are some large issues that people are not afraid to say that they are unhappy about. You only have to browse through the media channels to see the photos and videos of slogans, signs, protests and articles filling our feeds.

Here at BlueFrog we asked ourselves, can there be similarities between how social media portrays these big issues, and the issues of a small business – your business – but in a positive and productive manner?

We discussed The Power Of Social Media in a previous blog, and we believe that by using the tools available you too can create a stir on social media.With a focus on a local North Devon company we take a look at how you can get the public on your side, sharing the issues that matter to you and your local community.


North Devon Theatres:

North Devon Theatres’ Trust was a voluntary company, running two locations in North Devon: the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple and the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe.

It went into administration on January 23, 2017 and, at the time of writing, remains closed with no plans to re-open. We don’t claim to completely know how or why it went into administration but we can look at what took place on social media once the news broke.

It all started with an image of a basic sign appearing on the entrance to the Queen’s Theatre, telling people that the theatre was closed and all planned shows had been cancelled.

Notice of closure

This started a frenzy of tweets and Facebook posts speculating as to what it could mean, before the news that North Devon Theatres has officially gone into administration reached local press.

The website was taken down, as was the Facebook page – both with no warning or further information.

Save ND Theater Tweets


What happened next?

The good people of North Devon then took over, and, since the Theatres went into the administration, there has been:-

  • A Facebook group set up called Save North Devon Theatres, now with more than 4,000 likes.
  • The hashtag #saveNDtheatres trending on Twitter.
  • Live Facebook streams of local BBC and ITV news reporting on the matter.
  • An online petition to save the Theatres – which was just short of its target of 10,000 at the time of writing.
  • Local people showing support through social media, uniting fans in every way possible.
  • A growth of community spirit on social media as people voiced dissatisfactions which, in turn, led to marches through the local town centre.
  • Save North Devon Theatres PosterFishermen’s Friends, who had a show scheduled for the Landmark, offering a free gig to those who had already bought tickets to their show and were unable to claim a refund.
  • A new venue announced for the popular North Devon Gang Show, which features a cast of 70 scouts, guides and leaders and was due to be performed at the Queen’s Theatre during February half-term.
  • Celebrities, including Bill Bailey and Jenny Eclair, who have both performed at the theatres, sharing their support.

Bill Bailey supporting North Devon Theatres


How social media helped the #saveNDtheatres campaign:

Charmain Lovett, an Ilfracombe-based singer who played a huge role in campaigning for #saveNDtheatres, said that “social media played a big part in the story that unravelled around the administration of North Devon Theatres”, citing both positive and negative elements.

She explained: “The immediate online effect was felt when the Journal posted a speculative story about a closed sign at the Queen’s Theatre on its website and Facebook. For me this showed the negative side to social media as this was put out into the ether before the staff were even told the devastating news.

“Following on from the confirmation that the Trust had gone into administration it was a spectacle to see how Facebook went into overdrive. Traditionally you would have relied on the printed press or local television channels for breaking news, but even they use social media as their primary format for these stories of importance, so the word spread very quickly.”

Save North Devon Theatres

Charmain is pictured on the right of this picture, with Lee and Joanie Baxendale, outside the Landmark Theatre

The news breaking at such speed via social media came as a surprise to many, including a lot of the theatres’ staff and volunteers, but it did allow for the #saveNDtheatres campaign to be created by Helen Cooper with support from many including Jo Lock, Martin Bray and Richard Prowse. 

This grew at a rapid rate, and within 24 hours the Facebook page had more than 4,000 followers and a 38 Degrees petition had nearly 5,000 signatures.

Charmain continued: “This fast-paced reaction with such high numbers of support would have sent a very strong message to North Devon Council about the shock and sadness of the Theatres’ closure.

“I would say overall that the online campaign has allowed a great deal of pressure to be put on the powers that be in a far quicker and targeted manner than it would have pre-social media days.”


Thinking about your business:

Things happen suddenly and are not always unavoidable, but before disaster strikes we recommend using social media to your advantage. Whether your business faces closure, lack of funding, or is being threatened from outside issues such as roadworks and local developments, you have a voice and can have your say via social media.

If you are a business which has regular customers, happy guests and belong to the community, people will support you and will have their say – as shown in the aftermath of North Devon Theatres’ administration.

This can be channeled through a good social media presence; planning, interacting and keeping on top of everything can have such a positive effect.


Using social media to aid your business:

If you know something is going to happen that will change your business for the worse there are several things you can do early to get the support you need:

  • Start using hashtags and a slogan as you tell people via your social media of the situation. Save North Devon Theatres, or #saveNDtheatres, is the example we have used, but make yours personal and relevant to your business. Include it in every bit of text and in images to make your message clear.
  • Be completely honest over social media about what is happening and why. This helps gather honest support in return.
  • Use online posters – a picture travels fast, and the right wording can attract attention, especially if you need to fundraise.
  • Use Facebook Live, create Snapchat and Instagram Stories, film your situation for a personal face to face approach.
  • Thank people for their support with personal messages and by staying on top of your social media interactions.
  • Contact the local press in order to get the story straight and also drum up support – hearsay can have a damaging effect.


With luck, and the right strategy, your story and your business’s needs can travel around the social media in your area, or even beyond.

We’re not saying you’ll be on TV and start local marches, but if people need to know that they need to visit your business to support you, or drop some change into a jar to raise money, or deliver a message to the council, by using social media correctly you may just achieve your goals – and unite your fans using social media.

Feel your business may be coming into difficulty? Have you made full use of social media’s potential to remedy the situation? Contact us at BlueFrog to talk about this topic further, and if we can help we will.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *