On ticketing: a note of caution
Chartist demonstration Kennington Common 10th April 1848 (later a fenced area)
I’ve recently had several discussions about ticketing events, some paid for, some not. I understand why, sometimes, this is necessary but I remain cautious about the practice and I explain below briefly why that it is
Somewhere on my CV is the term ‘trade union organiser’ before I moved on to more elevated roles but I do have ample experience of organising events, meetings and demonstrations. On occasion I do ticket these and (where an organising cost is involved) I might charge a very modest fee.
There are two real reasons for doing that. Firstly because if you are working in a not for profit environment (which I usually would be) making a loss on an event is not a great idea. Secondly because ticketing an event (free or otherwise) does make it a bit more likely that people will turn up and thereby provides some degree of certainty of numbers against the size of venue.
All that said looking much more broadly ticketing has an unfortunate historical pedigree.
The London Corresponding Society formed at the end of the eighteenth century to support the French Revolution declared it would have ‘members unlimited’. That in itself was revolutionary talk and the Government pursued the LCS for it relentlessly.
It was illegal to hold a gathering of more than 50 people- something that bedevilled the Chartists in the 1830s. The exception was if people were gathered to petition Parliament. That itself was covered by the 1661 Tumultuous Petitioning Act.
Mass Chartist open air meetings from the late 1830s in practice swept this restriction on gatherings away.
Needless to say the authorities did not let this lie.
They started to enclose (rail off) spaces where mass meetings were held. For example Kennington Common where the Chartists met on 10th April 1848 was, and remains, placed behind railings.
Secondly political meetings were moved indoors and attendance was by ticket. This had the effect of controlling who attended.
The trend towards controlled public space and meetings has continued on ever since (see the work of Iain Sinclair on the increasingly privatised spaces of London).
A more recent trend, usually involving the internet, has been to sell tickets in advance for events with few (or often none) available on the door.
Test cricket matches in London for example fall in that category. I am so old that I can remember the days when you can turn up at Lords for the Saturday of a Test and get in on the gate. You will not be able to do that now. I buy my tickets on-line in the previous autumn.
The impact is to, yes, fill the ground but also to seriously limit the range of those who attend to people like myself who have the time and money to go on-line 9 months before an event to get a ticket.
So without banging on further I accept there are reasons for ticketing events (to cover costs, to manage it effectively) but there are significant downsides to that and I’d suggest that it should where possible be either limited or avoided.