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12th August 2013 Sara Lock

AMA conference – a personal view

Keren Nicol, Senior Marketing and Press Officer at Citizens Theatre, describes her experience at this year’s AMA conference.

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Photo by Leo Cinicolo

This was my 3rd AMA conference and definitely my favourite, and not just because Sheffield was treated to the hottest summer in several years. I came away inspired, positive and upbeat and feeling like I could start putting lots of the ideas that were sparked by the various seminars and keynote speakers into practice.

I have been working at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow for six months, and in that time have grown to love the theatre’s commitment to the people of our local area and our city. Work that really engages our community is a particular priority at the Citizens over the next 5 years as we prepare for a major re-development of our historic building and our local community in Glasgow’s Gorbals, and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The theme of the conference – forward thinking marketing and public engagement in the cultural sector – was perfectly suited to my organisation and my role within it.

My favourite case study came from York Theatre Royal, whose tear-jerking presentation on the York Mystery Plays of 2012 proved only a warm-up for an emotional presentation on the new Liverpool Everyman which had me sniffing away and faking hay fever symptoms. It was truly inspiring to see these amazing stories from two organisations who have recently been, or are currently on, similar journeys to our own and the respect and affection shown towards their audiences. I was also struck by the message that came through many of the presentations of the importance of relinquishing control and allowing your community and audiences to programme, play, interact, create and maybe even interrupt your plans. I think that many of us will find that idea a difficult one to accept, and I’m still thinking of ways to put this into practice in our own company, but it’s an idea that I really love.

Having managed to cover pretty much the whole conference between us my colleague and I managed to fill the 5-hour train journey back to Glasgow hatching elaborate plans and dreams. We both agreed that the ideas presented and generated at AMA conferences always go way beyond the marketing department’s role and that staff from many other areas of our company would benefit from hearing some of the presentations made.

And, as ever, the social side of the conference was also a real highlight. From meeting up with co-producers we usually only communicate with by e-mail and getting to know colleagues better, to admiring the impressive (apparently unplanned) wardrobe co-ordination of the Barbican’s marketing team and joining in the excellent Twitter banter, the AMA conference is always a great opportunity to build and grow your professional network.

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