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AMA conference 2018 — Speaker Spotlight No. 2

This year we are shining a spotlight on our AMA conference 2018 — The Power of Play speakers, finding out how ‘play’ helps them in their organisations.

The second speaker under the spotlight is Helen Palmer from Creative Tourist:

What does ‘The Power of Play’ mean to you?

For me, it’s about experimenting, taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone. We can get so bogged down in the day to day and forget how lucky we are to work in such a creative sector.  Marketing, communications, audience development, cultural tourism all depend on creative thinking and building relationships with often unlikely partners. And I get to do that every day, trying to find solutions to often thorny issues through harnessing ideas that can come from lots of different sources. We’re not one of those agencies that has a pool table, retro toys and wacky chairs. What we do is pride ourselves on our collaborative working practice and encouraging partners to think differently, always remembering that audiences/visitors actually want to enjoy themselves when experiencing what a place has to collectively offer.

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken, as part of your job?

There have been a few and usually it’s actually been the job itself – getting involved in a project in its inception stages – The Lowry, Cultureshock (Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme 2002), Manchester International Festival – and being on the frontline persuading the naysayers that yes the Manchester city region can be that ambitious and will be successful. Incredibly hard work, but worth every sleepless night.

In relation to Creative Tourist, we had to transform it from a Manchester-focused publicly-funded project to a national commercial agency without subsidy.

Did that risk pay off and what did you learn from it?

After 10 years (6 years as an agency) expanding and working all over the UK and internationally. Dealing with risk builds confidence, skills and resilience. We knew that what we’d built in Manchester had relevance elsewhere – Manchester as laboratory. Whilst it’s not a case of replicating the Manchester model elsewhere – far from it – building collaborative cross-sector working is transferable.  We know the challenges and opportunities and can plan and react accordingly, whatever the size and shape of the cultural destination. We never stop doing new things, starting new partnerships, testing new ideas – it’s all about taking risks and learning from them. As a commercial agency, we have to keep innovating. That’s exciting (and occasionally scary), but gets me out of the bed in the morning.

What are you most looking forward to about AMA conference 2018?

I always enjoy an excuse to go to Liverpool, such a great city – and I say that as a proud Mancunian! At the conference, I’m looking forward to hearing about new ways of working, evidence based success stories that could be transferable to other artforms/sectors/geographical areas. I particularly enjoy presentations with transparency, sharing what went wrong as well as right – not everything is always a success and how will we learn if we can’t be honest with each other.

What do you hope delegates will get out of your session?

If delegates are completely new to cultural tourism that’s fine – the session will provide a basic understanding of what it is, and just as importantly what it isn’t. If they’re involved in an existing cultural tourism initiative, whether funded through ACE Cultural Destinations or not, that every delegate will deepen their understanding of how to make the best of their culture and tourism assets, skills, knowledge and expertise across the partnership, understand their markets and how to prioritise activity. If they’re considering getting involved in cultural tourism, they’ll learn about the absolute core requirements – the must haves – and how to plan for the inevitable bumps along the way. As well as providing practical advice, the session will also deliver plenty of opportunities for delegates to share experiences, learn from each other and ask those burning questions with seemingly elusive answers.

AMA conference 2018 — The Power of Play

24 — 26 July | ACC Liverpool

Early Bird member rate: £458 + VAT

Non-member rate: £577 + VAT

Our full list of rates and available bursaries can be found on the AMA conference 2018 web page.

AMA team in Amsterdam

On Friday 2 March, five of the AMA team attended the first ever Arts Marketing Europe conference in Amsterdam. Here’s how Verity, Lucy, Amy, Fiona and Rebecca got on…

Flying out on Thursday 1 March meant our trip started with a few delays due to the Beast from the East causing snow havoc in the UK. However, we all managed to catch our flights and made it to Amsterdam — even if it was a little later than planned.

Friday morning in Amsterdam was cold but a short walk and coffee on arrival set us in good stead for the Arts Marketing Europe conference. We were keen to start meeting other delegates and wanted to chat to as many people as possible, to find out who was there, learn about their work, discover their challenges and question the differences between arts marketing in Europe and the UK. Each of us had some interesting conversations with people from all over Europe and found there was a general consensus that lots of people look to the UK for latest trends and best practice in our sector. A nice feeling!

There were some interesting sessions at the conference and it was particularly lovely to see AMA member, Chris Condron, Head of Campaigns at Tate, delivering a session on his learning from some of their most recent campaigns. Other speakers came from organisations including Penguin Press, Dutch Design Week and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.


After a day of listening to speakers and chatting to other delegates we hosted some drinks in a nearby bar. Nearly all the delegates came along for a drink! It was great to see so many people there, lots of the European delegates were keen to find out more about the AMA and plenty of the conversations carried on into the evening.


A cancelled flight meant an unexpected extra night in Amsterdam but it gave us time to reflect as a team and chat through what we took away from the day.

Our key takeaways included:

Lucy, Head of Programme:
“Going to the inaugural Arts Marketing Europe conference in Amsterdam was a great experience. I particularly loved hearing about the publicity campaign for Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. I bought the book for my mum for Christmas, because you’re never too old to be a Rebel Girl.”

Amy, Head of Marketing — Membership:
“It was certainly a lesson learned about always bringing more spare clothes when travelling! More seriously, it was really interesting to hear from so many delegates how the UK is looked to as a leader in arts and culture, in how we are approaching and tackling issues across the sector.”

Verity, Head of Marketing — Events:
“I loved speaking to other delegates from different countries and learning about their challenges. In terms of diversifying audiences, it definitely felt like UK organisations were doing more in this area.”

The snow melted (a little) and our Amsterdam adventure came to an end on Saturday morning. Back to Britain armed with lots of ideas and some great new connections.


Fancy going to an arts marketing conference yourself? Remember to book your place for this year’s AMA conference — The Power of Play which will be in Liverpool from 24 – 26 July 2018.

Bring your team #AMAconf 2018

Every year we see hundreds of people attend AMA conference. Some delegates come with their colleagues and find real value in experiencing the conference together.

We know lots of members are regular conference attenders, but one member always brings his team with him. We caught up with Curtis Fulcher, Head of Communications at The Courtyard, Hereford to find out why he brings his team to conference every year.

AMA conference 2016: Jessica Prosser, Marketing and Sales Manager, Curtis Fulcher, Head of Communications, Abby Jones, Press OfficerAMA conference 2017: Oliver Wheatley, Marketing Officer, Jessica Prosser, Marketing & Sales Manager,“AMA conference is the main bit of training for us each year. I think it’s important we set aside the time and budget for us all to attend. I find funding to make this happen. You get so much in such a short space of time, it’s the best way for us to learn as much as possible.

It’s a great way to catch up with others in the sector who you might have engaged with throughout your career. It’s also a great way to meet new contacts.

We attend different sessions and then feedback to each other. The journey back home after conference always includes a conversation about the one thing each person is going to instigate when we get back.

The AMA conference is also a time for my team to socialise away from work. I’m not the big bad boss, I can let my hair down. Last year we ended up in a karaoke bar!”


This year’s AMA conference — The Power of Play is in Liverpool on 24-26 July.

Thinking of bringing your team? Take advantage of reduced rates when booking 2+ or 4+ together.

Groups of 2+ members: £428 + VAT each

Groups of 4+ members: £398 + VAT each

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Images courtesy of Curtis Fulcher
Image 1: AMA conference 2017: Jessica Prosser, Marketing & Sales Manager, Curtis Fulcher, Head of Communications, Oliver Wheatley, Marketing Officer
Image 2: AMA conference 2016: Jessica Prosser, Marketing and Sales Manager, Curtis Fulcher, Head of Communications, Abby Jones, Press Officer
Image 3: AMA conference 2017: Oliver Wheatley, Marketing Officer, Jessica Prosser, Marketing & Sales Manager


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