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1st November 2017 Bea Udeh

Diversifying audiences – it’s time to raise our aspirations #ADA

ADA Mentor Mel Larsen with ADA 1.0 Fellow James Thomas and ADA 2.0 Fellow Candace

Mentor and Consultant, Mel Larsen shares why she is never stuck in the middle when it comes to challenging the organisations, ADA Fellows and international clients to question, question, question and never tire of doing this.

What would it be like if we expected more in the field of diversifying audiences for the arts instead of less? So many times at seminars, conferences and marketing meetings I’ve heard people say diversifying audiences is hard.  While I understand the background to this perception I also can’t help wondering what would it be like if we stopped saying it’s hard and said something else instead?

What would it take to not just meet but exceed our targets?

What really inspires us about doing this?

What if we decided to take the lead in this area and really go for it?

Questions like these tend to lead to better results and a more enjoyable process. 

As a coach I know if we say something is going to be hard then like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it will surely be. So I encouraged my fellows on this round of Audience Diversity Academy to believe in change, believe in themselves and to think big.  Inside that context, they took on a series of small ‘experiments’ that would lead to new ideas, results and strategies and of course new audiences.

It was a pleasure to support their journey of discovery. Very often they surprised themselves with what they could achieve by taking this approach. Many surpassed their targets: from quadrupling the normal number of audiences with disability for a show, to doubling audiences for an annual community event, to creating a family afternoon for over fifty local refugees on a first-time visit, to attracting five times the number of ‘disability access buddies’ initially hoped for – it was clear they really went for it.

Their success left me wondering what would it be like if everybody decided to just go for it and do what it takes to open up our cultural spaces for all to enjoy? It all starts with choosing to win. If as a cultural sector we decide we will stop at nothing until we find out what it will take to truly diversify our audiences, then change will not be not as hard as we think.

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