Top tips for planning a 'Fantastic for Families Event'

Fantastic for Families is a year-round arts listings website and national promotional campaign to families, run by the Family Arts Campaign. It provides an easy way for groups to communicate their commitment to families and connect with new family audiences, with targeted event feeds to a wider range of third-party partners including the likes of Netmums Local, Hoop and many more.

Below are some tips to help you get started. Even if you're not planning on creating a specifically family-focused event, these can be a great way to ensure that you are make your normal events approachable and enjoyable for families.

Invite families to an event from your regular programme

You may have an event that isn’t specifically programmed for families but that could be appealing to them.

Consider the content, length and timing of your event, and communicate this to families so that they know what to expect. Check out the Family Arts Content Communication toolkit.

Then let families know that it’s relevant to them by including it in the Fantastic for Families listings and marking it with the campaign logo. It's free to sign up, and the listings will be automatically shared with a range of family-aimed websites like Netmums and Hoop. Make sure they are prepared by making plenty of information about the event available prior to their visit.

Looking for ideas? See how Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra introduced families with children to classical music.

Behind the scenes – family tours or open rehearsals

Many families have never ventured inside a concert hall or may be unaware of the music being made within their community, so giving them a chance to visit and experience some of the things that people don’t usually get to see can be a great way of getting families across the threshold.

You could consider setting up a meet and greet with different members of your group, giving families an insight into how a performance is actually put together and presented.

Or perhaps, with the permission of the performers, you could hold an open rehearsal, and let families see the work in progress – this can provide a fascinating insight into the creative process and encourage attendance at the performance itself. This can be most effective if there is some engagement with the families at the open rehearsal in addition to the music itself. This could include explaining what they are seeing in front of them – what is the director/conductor trying to get from this rehearsal? What is special about the performance?  What is special about the group?

Alternative venues

If your venue can’t host a specific activity or you are a touring music group, you could look for other venues to run smaller scale activity – particularly in venues where families are likely to meet for example: libraries, community centres, parks and other community space

Taking a small group of performers to give an introductory session to the music your group makes in one of these other venues will encourage families to come and see you in the future and may even inspire some future musicians too. Why not offer special incentives to families who attend as a result of having been at one of these introductory sessions – a free programme and a free drink, or a discounted ticket.

Looking for ideas? See the huge range of venues used by Bach to Baby.

Pre-event family talks – setting the scene

Even if your event is not primarily aimed at a family audience, it doesn’t mean to say that families won’t come, and one way to attract more families can be to offer a pre-event talk.

This can give families insight into the event they are about to see, it can enrich the artistic experience for families and give them things to look out for during the performance – a particular instrument playing at a specific moment, a returning tune, or an understanding of what exactly the conductor is asking for.

Perhaps it might also include contextualising the event itself; something about the composer/artist and why they wrote or produced this particular piece originally, what was happening in the world at the time that might have influenced their thinking.

This could work even better as a Q&A session if the composer/artist is available to take part!

Looking for ideas? Check out the Hoo Haa festival at Colston Hall, and the work of the BBC Philharmonic.

Family workshops/taster sessions

Another way of encouraging families to attend your events is to offer workshops and taster sessions – for instance a come and sing day or a from scratch session when people can try out new instruments. These can be themed along with your upcoming concerts or be free-standing – whichever works best for you!

Again, consider whether you can provide attendees of these sessions with an incentive to attend events in the future.

Looking for ideas? Check out the English National Ballet, Bristol Choral Society and the Seagrave Singers.

Some things to think about…

Think about the timings of these events – do they fit around families’ needs?

Think about access and facilities for families – have you told families what is available?

Give families as much information as you can about what you are doing – do they need to bring special equipment (e.g. pens/pencils), wear particular clothing or shoes (e.g. no high heels if walking on the stage!)?

We hope that you will be able to join in with the Fantastic for Families initiative.

Happy event planning!