Royal Lyceum Theatre Company Ltd & The Edrington Group Ltd
Education & learning | Equality, diversity & inclusion | International Engagement | Older people | Tourism
An iconic Scottish partnership
Described as ‘a wry comedy about a man who sets out to buy a beach but ends up losing his heart to a village’, this ground-breaking musical adaptation of Bill Forsyth’s iconic Scottish film, Local Hero, was co-produced by Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and London’s Old Vic, and enjoyed its world premiere in Edinburgh in March 2019, followed by a sell-out six-week run.
Local Hero was an opportunity for The Lyceum to create world-class theatre in the heart of Scotland. The show reached 32,900 audience members during its six-week run in Edinburgh and engaged with thousands more through press and social media. In a highly collaborative partnership with The Edrington Group, creative aspirations were perfectly balanced with commercial needs, allowing both partners to reach new audiences. The show opens in London’s Old Vic in June 2020.
Local Hero is an iconic brand in its own right and the calibre of the creative team behind the new adaptation – screenwriter Bill Forsyth; the Lyceum’s Creative Director David Greig; Scottish-born songwriter, guitarist and record producer Mark Knopfler; director John Crowley; set designer Scott Pask; and lighting designer Paule Constable – ensured it was a perfectly produced product. The project took nearly four years to progress from concept to fruition and required each producing theatre to contribute an initial £350,000. The Lyceum was able to provide an additional £100,000, secured through business sponsorship from The Edrington Group and match funding by CBFS, as well as a further £100,000 delivered through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Grant.
Realising early on that whisky was going to play a critical role in the show, the Lyceum created a list of potential whisky sponsors and asked their board for support in making introductions. With an existing connection between the Lyceum’s Chair and the Robertson Trust, an introduction was made to the CEO of the Edrington Group.
The synergy between the show and the two whisky brands was immediately apparent – The Macallan is a prestige product and the show offered an opportunity to engage with an appreciative theatre audience; The Famous Grouse is as iconic a feature of Scotland as Local Hero itself. As a business, Edrington has remained firmly commited to Scotland, retaining its headquarters in Glasgow, a company ethos well aligned well to that of the Local Hero brand.
The highly collaborative partnership that emerged ensured that the sensitivities of the creative team and the benefits to the business were always finely balanced. The Macallan was mentioned by name in the script while The Famous Grouse – Edrington’s best-selling blended whisky – featured on a wide range of promotional materials and through social media. The large cut out of Local Hero’s iconic phone box with ‘the Grouse’ perched on top, instead of the traditional seagull, also became hugely popular as a ‘selfie’ opportunity while the Famous Grouse stand at the show allowed whisky enthusiasts to sample new products.
As a Creative Scotland RFO, the Lyceum has had to increase its fundraising activity and income generation, meaning that sponsorship is central to the objectives of every production. Demonstrating a commitment to working in partnership and to approaching sponsorship in a creative and collaborative way not only worked for Local Hero, but sends out a positive message to other arts organisations. It also puts the Lyceum in a very strong position to attract future sponsors having admirably demonstrated its ability to handle a production and partnership of this scale.
The sponsorship package allowed the theatre to fully meet the costs of the project without compromising on creativity and also to extend the show’s offering. CBFS match funding enabled the Lyceum to purchase a projector, allowing a beautiful Famous Grouse animation to be played on the iron safety curtain for the duration of the interval. The animation provided a clear visual link between the production and the sponsor and was well received by audiences who warmed to the brand connection. Not only of promotional benefit to the business sponsor, this projector can now be used in further partnerships as it negates the need for individual sponsor vinyls and expensive rigging. Additionally, CBFS match funding allowed the Lyceum to create a theatrical offshoot – Harbour – devised, scripted and performed by the theatre’s own Over 60s group with support from the Creative Learning Team. Performed as part of the Luminate Festival, it extended impact and reach beyond the show itself.
In terms of audience reach, 54% were first-time Lyceum attendees and 56% came from outside the City of Edinburgh, a significant departure from the typical Lyceum audience. Additionally, and largely thanks to effective broadcast and press interviews as well as increased level of marketing and social media presence, the Lyceum was able to reach a more diverse audience too. A total of 353 people with a disability attended, 280 of them bringing a personal attendant, while 437 higher education students came along and 59 young people bought tickets using a Young Scot card. 10 visitors were registers as unemployed and, significantly, 326 people accessed the production through the Lyceum’s Secret Seats promotion – offering a small number of seats for each performance at £10 on the day.