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Sponsored post: The Value of Ice Cream #AMAconf

Tessitura Network were headline sponsors of AMA conference 2017 and keenly engaged with The Value of Everything theme. Here, the Networks’s Brooke Gallagher tells us what she expects from her arts and cultural experiences and how thinking about ice cream isn’t a bad place to start.

I’ve been working in arts and culture for half of my life now. Fifty percent of my years. That is terrifying. And if you regard selling ice cream as art (which I most certainly do – I worked in posh ice creaming), then we are getting closer to two thirds. If you count performing in shows as work – and once I reached a certain level of ‘seniority’ at Fame (my musical theatre training school) I did get paid for all the school holiday shows we did so I’m counting that as work – then we’re now up to three quarters. Did I mention I got paid five Australian dollars more per show when I was the rear end of the cow in Fame’s school holiday production of Jack and the Beanstalk? I was working.

Growing up, not only in the arts but also in the world in general, my taste in things like ice cream and music theatre have changed and matured*. I’m no longer happy with a basic home brand imitation of vanilla – I want to see those little black flecks that prove how delicious it is. I don’t eat pre-sliced white bread any more – I’ll take the seeded rye sourdough thank you very much.

I have also developed in terms of what I expect from my cultural experiences. I don’t settle for basic home brand imitation vanilla any more. I want my experiences to be meaningful and valuable; I need them to make an impact on my thinking and my emotions. I’ve had the incredible luck to work for a variety of excellent arts organisations of different flavours and sizes throughout my career; from running operations for theSpaceUK at EdFringe to managing the brilliant box office team at the beautiful Richmond Theatre and more recently working cross-departmentally with Tessitura at the artistically unparalleled National Theatre. Throughout this journey I’ve worked with an array of business tools and what I’m happy to work with (or put up with) has also changed and grown.

“Tessitura has helped us in almost all aspects of our day-to-day work in the theatre. Our education team’s work is organised, our development team’s output is maximised, our ticketing operation is straightforward, and dynamic, and our data can be easily reported on in a multitude of ways.”
Sophie Beattie, The Old Vic

I want to work with passionate people in a thriving arts community. That’s how I ended up at the Tessitura Network. Every single person I work with is 100% committed to excellence. You can see it in the unparalleled technical support we provide. You can see it in the way we work with cultural organisations to implement Tessitura to fit your business processes (not force you to work ‘our way’). And you can see it in our annual learning and community conference where over 1800 people come together to talk marketing, ticketing and fundraising while also running 5k at the crack of dawn, popping off to a local baseball game and sharing their musical talents with the rest of the us at the final evening party.

I’m extremely proud of where I’ve ended up and of what we at the Tessitura Network do on a daily basis. We don’t settle for ‘good enough’ and – I’ll be honest – sometimes that is hard. Sometimes that is tiring. But that is why we’re here. Do you have a partner that works with you for your business critical systems like ticketing, marketing and fundraising? Or do you have a supplier who walks away at 5.01pm and tells you ‘Take it or leave it’? At the Tessitura Network, we’re always here for you.

Get in touch.

*If you do not believe Grease 2 is the best musical movie of all time it is most definitely you whose taste in this particular area hasn’t matured. Yes it is.


Fresh Experiments in Diversity #ADA

So the second Audience Diversity Academy (ADA) is now well underway and I am keen to see what gets created by the fellows on this programme. The programme encourages arts organisations to trial new ‘quick and dirty’ approaches to further diversify their audiences. These can then be developed into longer-term strategies. My mentees ‘experiments’ include:

• a social media campaign to start a conversation with young people about art

• creating an inter-departmental team to work on developing access for audiences with disabilities

• a film festival encouraging members to screen a diverse programme

I’ve been involved in a lot of Diversity focused conversations with the AMA lately from chairing the CultureHive Sharing Day livestreamed to 10 UK cities,which included speakers Janine Irons MBE on her experience of the last ADA and the talented Grime Poet Debris Stevenson sharing tips on ‘being a Ninja’. Plus Diversity was a key topic at the recent AMA annual conference which was fantastic, if you missed it, you SO missed out – get your Early-Bird tickets for next year now!).

One comment has really stuck in my mind lately. Paul Fordham of Way Art West who spoke at the conference, has been successful in attracting large Somali audiences and is frequently mystified as to why venues are not keen to work with this under-served market. He says that, “the trouble with a lot of diversity work is that it is approached as though it is missionary work”. I tend to agree. This is not ‘conversion’, largesse or sharing an assumed cultural superiority. For me diversifying audiences is about fully serving the cultural market.

Diversifying audiences is a great opportunity for the arts, but why are we still banging on about it after decades of research and initiatives? A common theme crops up with work on diversifying audiences: people get very worried about making mistakes and causing offence. This concern should not stop important progress: the truth is we’ve all got a lot to learn about true diversity, inclusion and equality. You only have to glance at the news and social media threads to know that.

Few people are experts in attracting and sustaining audiences from right across the 9 ‘protected characteristics’ – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity – and lets add socio-economic status to that list, I’m not suggesting that people within these audience ‘segments’ are all the same of course: deeper psychographics are far more useful in the long term but these characteristics are useful in terms of measuring the kind of diversity that can too often slip off the agenda.

What the Audience Diversity Academy demonstrates is that you don’t need to be an expert to get started, you just need to care enough to make a difference and then be willing to learn and grow as you go along (…and having a CEO that is committed to Diversity is critical for real and lasting change of course).

You may not be part of the ADA but no-one can say they can’t access any support or guidance. There is a TON of good guidance and resources available, not least from the AMA’s very own CultureHive. If you want to target BAME audiences, young people, and audiences with disability and many more, it really is a treasure trove of case studies and it’s all FREE. If you haven’t yet tried it, what are you waiting for? Get started!

Mel Larsen is a Marketing Consultant, Small Business Coach and AMA Board Member.

Taking on a challenge #ADA

ADA 2.0 Fellow, Kirsty Young, explains how she is putting in the agile experiment hours now to lay new welcoming ground for offsite audiences, as her gallery organisation is in the middle of a building expansion and renovation project.

There probably couldn’t have been a more challenging, yet appropriate time for me to be a fellow of the Audience Diversity Academy. I enjoy a challenge and I applied for it knowing full well what lay ahead.

My place of work – Site Gallery in Sheffield – has been around in various forms for almost 40 years. It is Sheffield’s leading contemporary art gallery, supporting artists specialising in moving image, new media and performance. Pioneering emerging art practices and ideas, the gallery works in partnership with local, regional and international collaborators to nurture artistic talent and support the development of contemporary art.

2017 is a year for significant change and development for us – the gallery closed to the public in March of this year, for 12-month expansion project. This expansion will see the gallery treble in size and is due to reopen in 2018.

Being closed is in some ways a challenge in itself; in addition to that, trebling in size equals ambitious targets for increasing audience numbers once we reopen. We are committed to achieving this target whilst also diversifying our audiences at the same time. We’re currently updating our Audience Development Plan to reflect this, using the Audience Agency’s Spectrum Segmentation system for the first time.

This context is providing vital opportunities for research and I will able to feed my learning from experiments I’m undertaking directly into this process. For example, I am working closely with our Participation Team, which is leading a programme of offsite activity for young people in Sheffield while we are closed, to run agile, simple experiments that we can learn from quickly. So far I’ve had one failed (well, abandoned) experiment and one that I consider to be a success, which I am going to re-try on a bigger scale in the next couple of months. I’m actually as happy with failed experiments as I am with successful ones – good job really!

The start of the journey. #ADA

Clare Sydney from HOME is a Fellow on the Audience Diversity Academy 2.0 and here shares with us her parenting tips for growing a new audience from data to people to teams.

If audience development was measured in life stages, I guess you could say that at just over two years old, here at HOME in Manchester we’re on our feet, but perhaps still toddling!

Another way of looking at it is that even after this relatively short lifespan, the wealth of audience data we have at our fingertips means that, theoretically at least, we should actually be well into wise old age by now! By evaluating specific events and through the Audience Finder programme, we’ve been able to build a detailed picture of who our audience are. Much more importantly, however, we can also clearly see who we’re not reaching and engaging and begin to develop strategies to rectify this.

Our audience data tells us many positive stories. Amongst other good news, our audience is truly multi-generational (although we definitely want to build our 14-25 audience, more on this in the next blog). Our audience is drawn from across the North West, is full of people who feel comfortable and confident enough to visit alone and we’re seeing a rising number of frequent bookers. But, in common with many venues across the country, the less positive side of the story is that proportion of BAME visitors to HOME, in particular Asian people, really doesn’t reflect the demographic profile of our city.

We’re conducting two audience diversity experiments at HOME. Both are focused on achieving organization-wide audience development objectives and the shared priorities of the marketing and film programming teams. For the first experiment, we have worked closely together to map an audience journey through our film programme, specifically targeting Manchester’s south Asian population.

The programme started with our weekend of films marking Partition in June, runs through a series of special events over the summer and will take us up to our major Not Just Bollywood season in the Autumn, and, hopefully, beyond.

It’s still relatively early days, but the results so far have been really encouraging. In the run up to Partition, we worked with a seventeen Asian community organisations, networks and groups to directly engage with information gatekeepers and those who could advocate directly with their communities and members about the weekend. We offered a range of free ‘taster’ tickets for first time visitors to several of the screenings. This was supported by a marketing & distribution campaign focused on target postcode areas and Asian media. The programming maintained our focus on independent, niche film-making, and included two Q&A’s with Director Anup Singh. Despite the fact that there was All the screenings and events exceeded audience targets and 35% of respondents to post-event questionnaires identified as Asian – a huge increase on our average quarterly Audience Finder result of 2-3%.

We followed up this successful weekend later last month with Sunday screening of Little Zizou, the exuberant Indian comedy, with a Q&A with director Sooni Taraporevala. The screening was promoted to all the networks we’d already built a relationship with, focusing on the comedy and music in the film and having collated contact data from the Partition event bookers we were now also able to communicate directly with many of them about the screening. The screening was a sell-out success. 26% of advance bookers had also attended a Partition event and 47% of post-screening questionnaire respondents identified as Asian, a fantastic result just two steps in to the project!

Our contact strategy continues, with regular update emails to the networks and groups to keep them up to speed with what’s coming up next and hand to hand distribution of a targeted flyer at the Manchester Mela. The marketing and film teams are now working closely together on the campaign for Not Just Bollywood, and will continue to build on the encouraging results the project has delivered so far.

Cultivating audiences for Touch Tours #ADA


To summarise ADA 2.0 Fellow, Candace Chan, from Royal Court Theatre would like to share with you their new touch tour video.

The Royal Court Theatre offers free touch tours and Audio Described (AD) performances for most of the shows we put on. Before the experiment, we’ve been relying on our small, existing database of access bookers and haven’t done much on audience development. On top of that we’ve got a video on our website introducing the touch tours which is very dated and no longer reflects the work we do.

The Experiment
We set ourselves the target of getting at least 10 people to book for the AD performance of Anatomy of a Suicide, and to attend the free touch tour before the show. We also wanted to use the opportunity to create a high quality video accessible to both blind and visually impaired people and other patrons, to spread the word about our access offering.

The Challenge
Just because a show is Audio Described doesn’t mean it will appeal to the regular theatregoers, let alone new audiences unfamiliar with the Royal Court. Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide has a complex form and a sensitive subject, and is a challenging piece even for our regular attendees.
On a personal level, I have only been with the Royal Court for six months at the time and didn’t know a lot about access marketing. I had to do a lot of research to familiarise myself with the conventions and terminologies around access.

The Strategy
I adopted a two-pronged approach: getting the word out and getting to know the stakeholders in the industry. We work very closely with Vocaleyes who provides our Audio Description. Vocaleyes has a good relationship with a lot of AD users who rely on their online theatre listing. I also reached out to different publications, charity organisations and borough-based sensory teams with ticket discounts.
Getting in touch with access officers working at different arts organisations, and charities working with blind or visually impaired people has opened many doors, and gave me lots of new ideas. The wonderful Access team from SOLT and Miranda, Access Officer of Almeida Theatre have given me a lot of help in particular.

The Outcome
We had a really great turnout of around 15 people to the touch tour, and a few AD users who decided to only come for the performance. It was a great experience for them as the entire cast attended the touch tour, and the attendees were able to explore the set and the many interesting props used in the play.

The Learning
We’ve learnt a few things that will inform our audience development work in the future:
Plan in good time: it takes time for the word to get out, and access patrons in particular need more time to plan their trip.

Connect: it was great to speak to people who shared the same passion and understood the difficulties in getting access bookers. Rather than competing with each other, we can actually benefit from sharing resources and working towards the same goal together.

Get direct feedback from the patrons: I learnt a lot from speaking to just two patrons after the touch tour. For instance, I learnt that not all of them knew we offer AD performances for most productions; and that they don’t always get to meet the full cast at touch tours and when it happens it adds to the experience greatly.


Crossing Borders – easier said than done in Shakespeare’s County #ADA

ADA 2.0 Fellow Notza Howell-Jones reflects on the empowering stance taken by her organisation to re-vamp its programming this year, by taking calculated risks and align with new impromptu relationships.

In a bid to broaden its audience the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has been shaking things up at the 64th Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry festival, the UK’s longest running poetry festival. Programming this year has been the most diverse, the most current and the most experimental in terms of pushing the boundaries for our existing, very loyal, audience.

From Shakespeare and the Islamic World, to Kurdish Poetry, Greek storytelling and Native American writing the festival took in discussions and art from across the globe. On the Thursday evening of the festival a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered (me included), to join Inua Ellams for ‘An Evening with an Immigrant’. The show promised to be a ridiculous, fantastic, poignant immigrant story, and did not disappoint. Hearing an uncompromisingly personal story about the frustrations, aggravations and injustices of being a refugee fleeing an unsafe Nigeria helped me see past headlines and prejudices and challenged some of my naive views about solutions to the refugee crisis. The informal, comfortable, conversational set up of the show, as well as fact that Inua broke down on three occasions telling the story deepened my understanding and my sympathy and galvanised me to be more proactive in my efforts to help. I’m now currently helping to organise a visit for 50 refugees to Mary Arden’s Farm, the home of Shakespeare’s Mother – a tiny gesture in a gulf of struggle – but something.

Inua said that poetry saved him – not figuratively or emotionally (maybe it did that too), but by landing him a sell out show at the National Theatre and some very influential mentors there who fought for him in court and prevented him from being deported. I’m glad Inua came to Stratford and shook things up, I’m glad that he told us all uncomfortable truths about our government and our immigration system, but  I’m sad that those without his talent might not be so lucky.

The audience listened mesmerised, in the palm of Inua’s hand, but some were noisier than others. The usual crowd limited their support to sharp intakes of breath at shocking moments and rapturous applause at the end of each poem, the new crowd, some of them recently arrived immigrants were more vocal, sometimes discussing the show between themselves. The clash of cultures and expectations was palpable, but useful and though provoking and needs to form part of our thinking when we are reaching new audiences.  Commissioning new, exciting and risky artists is important in so many ways, and whilst engaging new audiences can be an inexact science, the more we all come together and learn about and celebrate our differences, the bigger and more engaged our audiences will be.

Seeds of new ideas #AMAconf

Kelly-Anne Collins, General Manager at Dance Resource Base, gives us a glimpse into her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Kelly-Anne a lucky recipient of an AMA conference bursary.

Dance Resource Base is a small organisation. Our training budgets are tight and marketing and communications are only one aspect of my work. Making the decision to take 2 days out of the office to attend the Arts Marketing Association’s annual UK-wide conference required serious consideration. This year, it was being held at home in Belfast so maybe we could make it happen. Luckily, the decision was made possible thanks to being awarded one of the Audience NI bursaries to attend.

I like going to training and conferences. I’m always looking for seeds of new ideas that might help us work smarter and I’m usually pleased when I come away with a few new sparks of thought that might provide a new way of working or thinking about how we work. The ability to get away from the immediate demands on my desk allows me to give some time to being open to and inspired by others, and to focus on the bigger picture. What is it that we are trying to do and what do we want to achieve?

So when you come away from just one session with feedback on your organisational rebrand from 30 or so of the best arts marketing minds in the country, you definitely feel that the time invested was worth it.

Thanks to Ali Hanan’s Stand Out Branding session on Day 1, and Dance Resource Base being the local case study she selected as an example for an exercise, we got some great feedback on the ‘Why?’ of our organisation. Why might people care about what we do, have a meaningful, connected relationship with us and really want us to be around? The icing on the cake is that we are looking at rebranding and hoped this session would give us the advice and inspiration that we received.

We were reminded that our brand needs to articulate what the lives of our members would be like, not only if we weren’t here, but also without dancing in their lives. We are here to put dancing in more people’s lives and who better than our members to tell us what a life would be like without dance. Ali encouraged us not to shy away from a brand that reflects the emotions that people feel for dance and feel when they dance. That meaningful connection with us will grow and people will care about what we do when we, as an organisation, understand how they feel and represent that to the world.


AMA conference 2017 © Elaine Hill Photography

All in all a great experience #AMAconf

In this re-cap video Olivia Carr, Press & Marketing Officer at Tron Theatre shares what she most enjoyed about AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Olivia was one of over thirty AMA conference bursary recipients.

Opening a discourse with local communities #ADA

New Adventures & Re:Bourne regularly works with local, young people to create curtain raiser performances, which is then shared on stage with an audience before they watch a New Adventures show. The young people are then able to watch the show for free! (Photo: Vivienne Bailey)

From internationally touring dance theatre company and charity, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures & Re:Bourne, Nick Kyprianou (Audience Engagement Coordinator) and Louise Allen (General Manager, Re:Bourne) talk about their plans as part of the Audience Diversity Academy.

With nearly 330,000 people watching Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures’ productions live in 2016/17 at the heart of our plans going forward is how we can engage with a more diverse range of people who have never seen one of our shows before. Since the beginning of the company’s history in 1987 (with this year marking the 30th anniversary of New Adventures) audiences have always been at the forefront of Bourne’s mind when creating new work.

Last year we had a first-time attendance rate, on average, of 32% so we’re finding that we are still attracting new audiences. But, we want to work harder to engage with those particularly from a BAME background. Just taking part in the Audience Diversity Academy has already got the ball rolling and gathered excitement from across the company into how we can reach more people.

At the end of this year we will be embarking on a nationwide tour of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, an award-winning production that takes the classic fairy-tale and puts it in the London Blitz of World War Two. Last seen in 2010 tickets are already selling fast. As part of our audience engagement plans to diversify our audiences we have been in conversation with the 19 presenting venues on the tour to have 30 complimentary tickets at each theatre to use for our purposes. These tickets will also be used to seat people involved in our participation activity that will accompany the tour.

Exploring the use of these tickets as part of the ADA we are looking to run a pilot Audience Ambassador programme in two cities that we know have an ethnically diverse population. We are still at the beginning of this experiment so can’t divulge too much but we’re hoping to reach out to gate keepers in the local community to find out how we can engage authentically with a BAME audience. The end goal is to then offer 30 people in each of the two cities a free ticket to see Cinderella with the hope that they will then return to a future production at that venue. We understand that working in partnership with the presenting venue is key so hopefully this will create a long-term relationship for the venue with this audience too. We recognise that as a touring company it is a challenge to build these relationships with audiences, as we only visit most venues for one week each year, but potentially by working in partnership with the presenting venues we should be able to overcome this barrier.

Watch this space, as I’m sure we’ll have even more to report on in our next blog post!

If only time was as agile… #ADA

ADA 2.0 Fellow, Rebecca Farkas from Meadow Arts is liking this agile way of approaching her ideas and experiments.  She is liking it alot!

The first part of the Audience Diversity Academy time period has been a whirlwind at Meadow Arts, with our main exhibition for this year opening at two venues in June. This has left less time than I would have liked for ADA, but we have overcome that hurdle now and started to get things moving beyond the theoretical.

My initial session with my mentor, Rachel Grossman, was enlightening. We had a transatlantic Skype conversation (Rachel is based in America) and got to know each other a little bit. Rachel is quite frank and funny, as well as being really astute and able to see around an issue.

We talked about audiences Meadow Arts would like to reach and I explained that we are a rural organisation, bringing contemporary visual art to people and places where access to this kind of work is limited. We work hard to engage with children and young people and would like to improve what we do in this area, but Rachel advised that this might not be a good set of people to experiment with, as they do not have direct control over the activities they undertake.

We do have a higher proportion of older people living in the areas we work across: the rural West Midlands counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire are our home counties. There is a low proportion of ethnic minorities in the population of this area but it has lots of people living with long-term health conditions and disabilities. We know that the transport system in rural areas is not very good and there is a problem with rural isolation, which has a particular impact on older people.

Meadow Arts has older visitors making up part of its audience, particularly in our work with partner venues in the heritage sector, like National Trust. I think that we have never concentrated specifically on this demographic and we take them for granted, to an extent.

The idea for an experiment has come from the work that theatres and performing arts have been doing with ‘relaxed performances’. This is when the lighting or sound levels might be different and it is not necessary to be so quiet as audiences need to be in a mainstream performance. Relaxed performances sometimes cater for people with specific needs, for example being dementia or autism friendly.

I liked the idea that something that is challenging to a certain section of an audience, could be adjusted to make it inclusive. I was thinking about the public engagement we do through curator’s tours. Here a curator takes a group of people around the exhibition and discusses the work of the artists involved and the curatorial themes of the exhibition. How about making this a bit more casual and a lot more inclusive: a relaxed curator’s tour?

The idea is to make it something that a visitor could come to on their own and know that there would be other people to talk to – and that you don’t have to know all about contemporary art to take part. There could be a chat session afterwards, where everyone could share a cup of tea in the café, maybe a bit of cake too!

The Agile Planning online training session was useful: new terms like ‘scrappy working’ came up in this way of quick planning, quick results and quick feedback. It is good to remember that we gain so much from feedback and it is worth testing out ideas that are not a complete, finished outcome. “Avoid the ‘ta-da’ moment,” of unveiling a huge final thing, we were told: this is not about the ‘big reveal’ but the agile ideas that can be tried out and adjusted.

So on to the doing of things… we are just getting started!

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