Monday, October 22, 2007

Entertainment Venue: Hull Arena

Hull Arena is the largest indoor entertainment venue in the City of Kingston Upon Hull, it is situated very close to the City Centre. It was opened in September 1988 as the Humberside Arena, and has recently been refurbished, so that it has a seated capacity of 2,000, it is owned by Hull City Council and is a part of Hull Leisure Group(Hull City Council, 2007).

The outside of Hull Arena
The venue consists of an Olympic sized ice rink, surrounded by tiered seating, executive bar, café, and gift shop (Hull Arena, 2007a). The arena is a recreation venue that offers both leisure pursuits and entertainment. In terms of leisure the core product is ice skating (it is a regional centre of excellence for ice sports), but in terms of entertainment Hull Arena offers much more, including spectator sports such as ice hockey and boxing, as well as being a live music and stage venue (Neylon, 2007). As a live music venue, Hull Arena attracts well known bands of international acclaim including The Kaiser Chiefs, Faithless, Keane, McFly and Robbie Williams(Hull City Council, 2007). As a stage venue it has played host to an array of different performances including World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the Lipizzaner Stallions. Hull Arena also offers special ‘disco’ skating nights hosted by a resident DJ and is a venue that may be hired out for private parties – it is also used extensively by local schools as an ice-skating venue (Hull Arena, 2007b).
The Ice Rink
The diagram below is designed to demonstrate the different levels of entertainment product that Hull Arena has, from both the perspective of home of the Hull Stingray's (top half) and as a live music venue (bottom half). the core products in the centre are the key reasons why visitors seeking entertainment come to Hull Arena, the second level in blue denotes products that will have an impact upon the entertainment experience but are most likely not the main reason for visiting the arena, and at the tertiary level are support products which are produced by, or present at the arena which may have impacted upon the decision to visit the arena, or the time spent there, but are not at the centre of the entertainment experience.

The levels of product at Hull Arena

Hull Arena is the home of Hull Stingrays who are a professional ice hockey team and a part of the Elite Ice Hockey League (Hull Stingrays, 2007), Hull Stingrays origins (like the arena) go back to 1988 when Humberside Seahawks were formed, who after a chequered league and financial history finally became Hull Stingrays in 2003 (Strachan, 2007). Hull Stingrays are a major stakeholder in the arena and play all of their home fixtures from there, as well as training at the arena during scheduled hours on weekdays, fans may watch them train free of charge from the café, but during training periods the ice rink and tiered seating is closed to members of the general public.

Hull Stingrays practicing (click below to see video footage)

The majority of the arena’s 250,000 visitors per year come from within the Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire conurbation, as well as surrounding areas across the River Humber, out of this number it is estimated that 170,000 visitors per year are teenagers, although research by the arena has uncovered visitors aged from 2 to 102 (Hull City Council, 2007).
Hull Arena markets itself in a number of ways, including online, posters and 40,000 leaflets which are produced and distributed within the catchment area each year (Hull City Council, 2007), the leaflets are also an income generating mechanism as other companies are offered advertising space upon them. Being the home to an Elite Ice Hockey League team also attracts interest from the Broadcast Media, in particular local radio, and Sky Television who broadcast several games per season on one of the Sky Sports channels (Strachan, 2007). This publicity helps to attract a greater fan base from a city that has traditionally been associated with both football (Hull City FC) and Rugby League (Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers).

The DJ booth above the ice rink which is used on 'disco' nights

Hull Arena. (2007a) Guide to ice skating. (leaflet)
Hull Arena. (2007b) Hull Arena. (leaflet)
Hull City Council. (2007) Hull Arena. [Internet] Hull, HCC. URL available from: <,83223&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL> [Accessed 22nd October, 2007].
Hull Stingrays. (2007) Hull Stingrays Ice Hockey Club. [Internet] Hull, Hull Stingrays. URL available from: <> [Accessed 22nd October, 2007].
Neylon, C. (2007) Interview with Carol Neylon, Hull Arena Operations Manager, 28th September, 2007.
Strachan, R. (2007) Interview with Rick Strachan, Hull Stingrays Coach, 28th September, 2007.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Edutainment needs to be VARK

Edutainment is entertainment that is designed to promote knowledge, awareness and learning, examples of edutainment include: museums; art galleries; exhibitions; zoos; aquariums and planetariums. The purpose of edutainment is to promote knowledge amongst audience members, so that they learn from the experience. There have been numerous studies about the way people take in information and learn from it. One such study is VARK developed by Dr. Neil Fleming. VARK stands for Visual, Aural, Read / Write and Kinaesthetic. Each of these are categories that depict how information may be best presented to promote learning. According to the VARK website Visual means information that is presented in graphical form including posters, diagrams, graphs and charts; aural is the spoken word, and can include listening to information from a person or in a pre-recorded format; read / write is the use of written words to convey information; and kinaesthetic is the use of ‘real things’ such as demonstrations, videos and actual practice. Most people either knowingly or not have a preference for the way by which they take in information and learn from it, some people will have a specific VARK category, whilst others are known as ‘multimodal’ which means that they may share preferences from two or more categories.

In order to appeal to all members of their audiences, edutainment venues need to provide information in all VARK formats. Otherwise the messages that the venues are trying to convey may be lost on certain members of their audience. Museums have a stereotypical image amongst some people as being ‘stuffy’ and ‘boring’ due to perceptions (possibly from childhood) that all they contain are exhibits in glass cases. This may still be the case with some museums, but many modern museums now go much further than this to convey their messages to members of their audience in a number of different formats. This doesn’t apply just to museums, but to all different kinds of edutainment venues (and to edutainment as a whole), at ‘The Deep’ in Hull, (which is an aquarium) there is a rich diversity in the way that information is presented, including: graphical timelines (visual); pre-recorded spoken stories (aural); detailed written information about exhibits (read / write); as well as the tanks themselves that have the fish and other sea creatures swimming in them (kinaesthetic). The images below demonstrate VARK in practice at several edutainment venues.

A visitor watches the fish swimming in tanks at The Deep in Hull (kinaesthetic)

At the National Railway Museum in York, a guide explains about how the Japanese Bullet Train was brought to the museum (aural).

Words on a display at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds (Read / Write)
Why not take the VARK test for yourself at after completing the test, consider the results, and reflect upon your own experiences of edutainment, and which types of exhibit appeal to you the most.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Events, Products and Entertainment

Events Management, Entertainment Management – they do sound rather alike even though they are different subjects. It would be foolish to deny the fact that there is commonality between both subjects, indeed when looking at events such as a music festival or a football match, the driver behind the event is the entertainment which is on offer. The driver behind entertainment centred events is known as the primary product. A product is ‘anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use or consumption that might satisfy a want or need. It includes physical objects, services, persons, places, organisations and ideas’ (Kotler et al, 1999, p.11). The primary product is the main product that is on offer, the majority of entertainment primary products are intangible in that they are not something that can be held, but are more likely to be experiences. There are also secondary and tertiary levels of product. At entertainment centered events, secondary levels of product may include: support acts at music concerts; smaller stages at music festivals; and half time entertainment at football matches. Tertiary products include support facilities and materials such as: seating; toilets; catering facilities; signage; programmes; security; the website and car parking. You will note that tertiary products at entertainment centered events are both tangible and intangible.

Entertainment is the primary product of many kinds of event, although not all events. A wedding is an event but the core product is the ceremony itself, of course weddings may include entertainment products also – typically from DJs (and Dad dancing!).

At entertainment centered events both Events Management and Entertainment Management are concerned with all three levels of product and this is where cross-over between the subjects exists. It would be as foolish for Event Managers not to be concerned with the management of entertainers at events, as it would be for Entertainment Managers not to be concerned with signage and seating for entertainment events. Getting all levels of product to match audience expectations and needs is part of the recipe for a successful entertainment event, after all it is no good having a stage crammed with world-class entertainers, if the audience are not comfortable, or couldn’t find the venue in the first place. The diagram below shows all three levels of product for a football match.

Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J. and Wong, V. (1999) Principles of marketing. 2nd European Edition. New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Firing the Imagination

One can only guess how, where and when it may have happened, but it was probably a lightning strike upon a tree in Africa around 200,000 years ago that caused the first fire to be seen by the earliest relatives of modern man. It may have taken thousands more years, but eventually at some point in pre-history, man began to understand how fire worked so that it’s power could be harnessed and used for cooking, warmth….and entertainment. Some anthropologists believe that the mesmeric dance of flames captivated those who would huddle around fires in the darkness, moulding man’s early thinking skills and helping to develop imagination. At some point in pre-history man’s ability to communicate developed into spoken languages, and when this happened the story-teller was born. Stories may have been about everyday life and occurrences, but the firing of the imagination would certainly have helped to create fictitious accounts. Man sat around fires for thousands of years, in fact this was still the practice in most British homes right up until the twentieth century, when the radio, and then the television became the focal point of entertainment in the home.

If we look today at the way indigenous people live in remote parts of the world, the practice of sitting around fires and listening to stories being told still happens as it has done for thousands of years – this is their entertainment and the thing that is looked forward to after a day performing regular work tasks such as hunting, gathering food and wood, building homes and cooking. As well as this, tribal rituals such as singing and dancing allow us to see where the very origins of modern day entertainment began all those many years ago.
The 5th of November 2006 at the Bramley Bonfire in Leeds, where people go back to their roots and stand around a bonfire, mesmerised by the flames.