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The Office is Closed

I’ve just received an email telling me that ‘the office will be closed from 23rd December to 4th January’ … and there’s nothing unusual in that. It’s a small organisation and everyone wants to enjoy Christmas. It’s also difficult to work over this period (should you want to) so it seems fair enough.

But not everyone stops working at Christmas. After all, we expect our utilities, emergency services, news readers or internet service providers to be there when we need them. In fact in 2009, according to Skype (as reported by The Guardian), 5.8 million Britons were working on Christmas Day, 23 million on Christmas Eve and 19 million on New Year’s Eve.

A few years ago, I remember a consultant telling me that he found it impossible to do sensible work with organisations from the middle of December through to the middle of January. At the time I thought him rather a Scrooge (we were one of the organisations he was trying to work with), but now I do that sort of thing myself I can see his point. Why has everyone disappeared when I want to talk to them?!

You shall go to the ball

There are plenty of people in the arts who are working over the festive period. Children’s shows, pantomimes, New Year’s Eve parties … and there are those who don’t want to celebrate Christmas. For these people, well-wishers saying ‘I hope you will be having a well-earned festive break’ will seem just plain annoying (and how do these people I’ve never met know it’s ‘well-earned’?).

When we were at Sadlers Wells for the AMA Digital Day at the end of November we could see what we imagined to be the last parts of the Cinderella set being delivered to the Stage Door. Sadlers Wells have performances on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day so that audiences can see Matthew Bourne's beautiful piece at a festive time. So someone there is working over the 'holiday'.

Which seems like a good excuse to show you their trailer:



In our always-on world we could, if we wanted, stay in touch with everyone all day everyday throughout the holidays. Will you be Tweeting, updating your Facebook profile, blogging, responding to emails? Is this work?

Time and a half

There may not be a multitude of arts marketers working at this festive time, given that marketing tends to be about the promotion before an event. However, marketing may only be part of your job description. And maybe you've come in early because of that badly selling event that's coming up soon? Or on the other hand, perhaps you're especially excited about a project you have in January. Are you are sitting in the office right now waiting to sell a ticket, update the website, Tweet about an event or lock up? Do let us know by commenting below.

There are many articles and studies around about stress at work which vary greatly in quality and rigour. For me, many miss the main point, which is that it isn't about long or unsocial working hours as such, it's more to do with choice and control, a point made very well by Andrea Broughton at the Institute of Employment Studies. In her research she notes that stress is not just the result of heavy workload and long working hours, but also 'lack of control and autonomy at work, poor relationships with colleagues, poor support at work and the impact of organisational change.' This will surely be a problem in the next couple of years as cuts hit hard and there is even greater pressure on us all to perform.

Let's hope we can keep doing the work because we want to do it, whether on Christmas Day or any other time.

Are you irritated that everyone stops working or do you think we should take more time off? If you're one of those working over the Festive Season, maybe you'd like to share your experiences by commenting below.

In the meantime, here's a group of people working hard back in the harsh winter of 1963. It's a short BFI film which was Oscar nominated and includes a wonderful soundtrack by Johnny Hawksworth? and Daphne Oram based on Sandy Nelson's 'Teen Beat'.


Have a great festive season .. you've earned it.

Jonathan Goodacre

Re-inventing the Happy Wall

A couple of weeks ago a friend was telling me about the people in her organisation who seemed to know her job better than she did. Every now and again they would say: ‘I think we should be on the front page of this’, ‘we should have a poster here’ ‘it would be easier to search for events on the website if we did this’.

We’re not talking line manager, but colleagues in the office, the Board, staff spouses and random members of the public.

We’ve all been there and depending on our character we respond in different ways. I’m the sort of person that becomes defensive at that sort of criticism but I’m not sure a knee-jerk reaction is so useful (now I’m sitting here in my rational collected way I can say this). After all, it’s great that people are interested and have an opinion. What was that thing we learned on the first day of the first year of the first seminar/degree/lecture/book – about marketing being the responsibility of the whole organisation?

One of the things that struck me about the AMA’s Digital Day (30th November, 2010) is that we now have an unprecedented capacity to use good evidence for the basis of everything we do. Fifteen years ago we couldn’t have known which pages of the seasonal brochure our customer was looking at without doing some clever qualitative research. Now we can see where they go on our websites, where they came from, how long they spend there, what they did as a result, whether they come back again and a whole range of other interesting behaviour as Dave Chaffey showed in hispresentation on Google Analytics and Jenni Lloyd demonstrated in ‘Measuring Conversation and Community’.

Of course there is still a place for the kind of research that Hasan Bakhshi, Director, Creative Industries, NESTA, produced when investigating the impact of NT Live.

And there was also the research of Loic Tallon, Director of Pocket Proof into the impact of handheld media which used some good old fashioned survey techniques, the results of which were published in a book (‘Digital Technologies and the Museum Experience’) made out of paper.

But let’s go back to the original point. My friend (mentioned in the first paragraph) decided to create a ‘Happy Wall’ of her successes to help deal with her colleagues’ suggestions; cuttings from papers, thank you letters, statistics showing box office sales. These were put together on a noticeboard in a prominent position in the office. Every time anyone walked past they could see what a ‘good job’ was being done.

Imagine my delight when, a few days later, Amy Clarke from the Royal Shakespeare Company at the AMA Digital Day introduced us to her ‘online happy wall’. Actually, it was a ‘wordle’. A wordle enables you to generate word clouds according to the frequency of words generated in a given piece of text.

In this case Amy had compiled responses put together following the first preview of ‘Matilda, A Musical’ where they had asked people to feedback to the RSC via Facebook and Twitter. The result was this:

RSC WordleYou can see it in situ here. It has a certain beauty hasn’t it? Though it is a useful tool too.

Maybe it could be put outside the theatre or on the website, but of course it should be available internally. As Amy said, if the director wants to know what people think – here it is – an instantaneous audience review cloud.


Jonathan Goodacre

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