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10th August 2017 Laurie Kremer

Back to work full of ideas and feeling enthused #AMAconf

In this blog post Heather Bulfin, Arts Programme Assistant at ISLAND Arts Centre, shares her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Heather received an AMA conference bursary for people working in Museums, Galleries and Heritage.

The AMA conference was an amazing experience and I came back to work after the two days full of ideas and feeling enthused.

Tuesday 25th July

From the welcome dinner at Titanic Belfast, everything was extremely well-organised with an atmosphere of energy, positivity and collaboration (and great food!)

Wednesday 26th July

Jane Cordell was one of the speakers at the first keynote session and realising how inaccessible arts events can be for someone who is deaf. It made me think about how to make events at our arts centre more inclusive and hopefully source funding for e.g. signers / audio description which would really help.

I was really looking forward to the conference after choosing from a great variety of relevant topics. From the opening keynote in the Guardian auditorium, there was Sarah Ogle, Marketing Director at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool gave a really honest and insightful talk about what they have done which worked (like sending a Thank You postcard to customers) and what didn’t so had to change. Sarah’s creativity and commitment to her job was evident as was her sense of humour. Her talk was aptly titled ‘How to be a Marketing Superhero’.

Coffee breaks and lunchtimes were an ideal time to meet other delegates and again enjoy interesting conversations as well as making useful contacts.

The East Durham Creates project was really inspiring and I loved hearing Nikki Locke explaining how listening to what local people wanted and tailoring the programme really got people involved and enjoying the arts for the first time.

On Wednesday evening there was a really varied choice of things to do from dinners in Belfast city centre restaurants, a backstage tour of the Grand Opera House, Night at the Ulster Museum, Golden Thread Gallery tour, Summer Party at the Mac or the more traditional Belfast pub tour!

Thursday 27th July

I enjoyed a panel discussion led by Madeleine Wilson from South-East Dance in Brighton about developing new audiences. A partnership between South-East Dance and Sanctuary Supported Living enabled many people living with mental health issues to attend and enjoy dance performances for the first time. Other panellists covered the difficulties for customers from ethnic minorities, disabilities and transgender and practical steps to make our venues and activities more welcoming.

Keynote speaker Timothy Armoo was a breath of fresh air – at just 22 he is co-founder of Fanbytes, the UK’s 1st Snapchat advertising platform. He really showed the importance and opportunity of using technology to reach our audiences, especially Generation Z. While it’s easy to feel there isn’t enough time or money to do it all, Timothy explained that he is envious of those of us working in the arts since we are in such a creative environment which appeals to customers.

American Brad Carlin from Fusebox Festival was a force of nature and his topic was aptly called ‘Taking risk to drive innovation’ – check out their website to see how a festival has led to building affordable housing and much more. Brad asked us to write down one thing we would like to do in our organisations to make them better, then we walked around and swapped cards with each other.

Farewell drinks on Thursday before everyone headed for home, energised and full of ideas and inspiration!


Images credit: AMA conference 2017 © Elaine Hill Photography