At De La Warr Pavilion, Ashley McCormick is organising a more long-term approach to her experiments to nurture different audience types.
As our Mentor, Sara Devine recognised we have a long list of audiences with whom we want to build relationships. During our first meeting we talked about three possible experiments to target each audience type:
1. older audiences
2. refugee communities
3. new migrant communities and low income families.
On reflection, I realise we cannot commit the required attention and resources to three experiments and have spent quite a bit of time rethinking the impulse and the focus. Our strategy is to first engage each under-served audience; increase a sense of belonging to our venue and to build curiosity and confidence.
The plan for the second experiment was to deliver outreach activity and a building tour/exhibition visit with creative activities and opportunity for reminiscence utilising stories of the origins of the building (which had been designed by a refugee and immigrant) and Peter Blake/ Fiona Banner exhibitions as a spring board.
I began with two visits to the LINKS project which were incredibly valuable and enlightening. I have come to realise that this group, perhaps more than others, demands a slower approach, a greater sense of security and a longer view. Since their circumstances are so very fragile, they are not able to make any commitments themselves. It will take time to build trust and a mutually beneficial relationship with participants of the LINKS project, so although we are intent on developing work with them, an agile experiment is not the appropriate approach. Initial meetings with another potential partner, The School of English at Sussex Coast College, were very positive and we will develop learning experiences and resources for ESOL students and staff. However, we need to fit with the course timetable, so relationship building and resource development will, again, happen at a slower pace than the Audience Diversity Academy experiments allow.
Experiment three’s objective was to engage low income families in the Heart of Sidley, which began at a summer fayre in Sidley. I facilitated a creative activity to make lion masks and promote the outdoor screening of The Lion King. The event was useful to meet families and learn that most people are actually aware of and attend the screenings (De La Warr Pavilion was not aware of this, as outdoor screening audiences are not surveyed). Those who told us they do not attend the outdoor film screenings said the cost of public transport was the main barrier.
The creative activity was repeated on site with audiences gathering for the film screening. Although I, and one volunteer, engaged 100 children (and their families), the experiment was not productive because we did not have the capacity to record postal codes, or how people heard about the event, or execute a survey. This was a real missed opportunity as well over 1000 people attended the film screening, but the audience diversity was not measured and analysed.
Any experiment will involve entering a zone of uncertainty, to test new ways of working and benefit from genuine learning. And so it is that experiment four has emerged as we are working together to prepare to launch a new website. Several iterations of copy have revealed different ideas about the language we use to define and communicate with particular audiences. We are negotiating categories and phrasing, “Shall we use the heading ‘Young People’ or ‘Youth Voice’ to signpost our intention to develop a Youth Forum?”
Referring back to advice from our mentor Sarah, we need to put the audience first. Working with 21 year-old arts student Joshua Speer, who has been volunteering with the Learning & Participation programme since February 2016, we intend to engage young people to critique and advise the organisation.
The challenge has been to develop experiments in collaboration with colleagues because of different priorities, schedules and approaches. But this experiment is seen as beneficial to the whole organisation and will be delivered by marketing and learning teams working in collaboration.