Bang on target

BBC One’s Bang Goes The Theory is touring the country, aiming to inspire budding scientists and engage with its audience. Stand Out talks to Mark Rackstraw, event manager, and David Sasse, project manager, Bang Goes The Theory Live, as the event heads out on its third consecutive tour…

Bang Goes the Theory Live – describe the roadshow. What’s the brief?

Bang Goes the Theory is BBC One’s flagship science series and has put science back into the heart of primetime TV over the past four series. Accessible for the whole family, Bang looks at how science shapes the world around us, in an engaging and relevant way.

The Bang Live roadshow is part of a wider BBC Learning campaign that builds on the popularity of the TV show to inspire an interest in science amongst our audiences. The aim of the roadshow is to appeal to both the passionate fans of the show, engage new audiences with science and drive audiences back to the TV show and website. We want to demystify and democratise science by showing its importance and relevance to everyone. The roadshow has already welcomed over a quarter of a million people since it launched in July 2009 and aims to prove that science can be fun and exciting.

The Bang Live roadshow combines  a live show, which takes place in theatre venues, and the Bang Interactive Area, filled with hands-on science exhibits, which is located in city centre sites to maximise footfall. The free event is an opportunity for fans to meet the presenters, watch a variety of daring science stunts and try out fun science experiments provided by ourselves and a number of national and local partners. New for 2011 is Dr Yan’s Dance Lab, a mass-participation science experiment, which uses the latest advances in motion-capture technology to find

out what makes someone a good or bad dancer.

Where is the roadshow visiting and how have you chosen your locations? Our objective is to reach as many people across the UK as possible and each year we try to ensure that we have a spread of locations across the country. We try to maximise footfall by targeting high traffic city centre locations and free festivals. Since we launched in July 2009, we have been to 23 locations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We’ve already been to London and Edinburgh this year and we have events coming up in Cheltenham, Coventry, Cwmbran, Bradford and Manchester.

Over the three years we have been running, the majority of the UK has been able to reach a roadshow event within 90 minutes of where they live. We respond to feedback we receive via the TV show and target the geographical areas with the highest response. We also get contacted by event organisers, which have experienced a Bang event and invite us to come to their event. This was certainly the case for the Hartlepool Tall Ships event in 2010 with the organisers getting in touch after we had attended the Belfast Tall Ships in 2009.

How big is the footprint you take up on site? What features in your event kit?

The footprint is fairly adaptable but as a minimum we require 30 metres x 20 metres, however, our ideal set up is 40 metres x 50 metres. We are completely self-contained and our event kit includes marquees, generators, a production office, fencing, crowd control barriers, portaloos (staff only), PA system, lighting rig, Alideck staging, telehandler, plasma screens and trussing.

Who is your target audience and how do you promote the roadshow to them?

The primary audience reflects the audience for the TV show. It’s a broad family audience of 24-48 year olds with children. The secondary audience is teens and young adults. The roadshow is mainly promoted through a variety of BBC channels with calls to action within the TV series, information across BBC websites including Bang and Things To Do (a new BBC free events finder) and promotion via local BBC TV and radio. We also work closely with our science festival partners
to promote our events through their programmes and publicity channels and via local and national press.

How does the 2011 roadshow differ from previous tours?

The 2011 roadshow is on a much bigger scale than previous tours. The live shows used to be held within a Saddlespan 5000 marquee with a maximum capacity of 300 people per show. The live shows now take place within theatre venues, so that we can be more ambitious with the stunts that we perform, extend the length of the shows and reach larger audiences with each show. The Interactive Area has also been expanded to three times its original size. This allows us to include more content from the TV show such as Jem’s gas-powered go-kart, square-wheeled bike, microwave ray-gun and 360o swing model. It also allows us to invite more science partner organisations to share the space including the Open University, the Society of Biology, the Institute of Physics and local science centres and universities.

In terms of numbers, how many visitors do you hope to engage with at each location?

On average, the Bang Interactive Area attracts between 3,000 and 6,000 per day, however, in Edinburgh this year it attracted over 9,000 visitors in one day. For the entire experience, including the live shows and the interactive area, we aim to reach between 10, 000 and 20,000 visitors at each location depending on the scale and duration of the event.

Do visitors leave with any collateral/marketing material/promo items? We produce Bang Goes the Theory booklets for our audience to take away. These combine photos of the presenters with ideas for hands-on science experiments that can be done at home. They have been designed to be signed by the presenters, which increases the perceived value of the booklets so that they become a valuable souvenir to take away from the event. This also means that very few are thrown away.

What suppliers are you using?

Our event production company is Andy Cheeseman Productions, which has been on-board since inception. We also use Amazing Tents, Just Right Marquees, Speedy Hire and Utopium lighting and rigging amongst others.

For the past couple of years, we have been using a Saddlespan marquee holding 300 seated for our main live show as well as an Arco 10 metre x 10 metre structure for our hands-on interactive area. This year we have tripled the size of our interactive area and are using three 11 metre x 12 metre hexagon marquees. The demand for the live show has been so great that this year we have been producing the show in 600 plus theatres. This has proved challenging, as it requires finding suitable theatres with large enough spaces in close proximity to house the interactive area.

How important is the roadshow to the BBC’s marketing strategy and how does it fit in?

The Bang Goes the Theory roadshow is produced by BBC Learning. Its main role is to engage the audience with science and so its core purpose is not around marketing, however, it does still play a role in marketing the BBC, BBC One and, in particular, the Bang Goes the Theory brand. Our research shows that those coming to the event increase their perception of BBC One as an entertaining, inspiring and young channel and the audience associates the channel more with science programming. The roadshow also drives audiences to the TV show and website.