Louise Allen (General Manager, Re:Bourne) and Nick Kyprianou (Audience Engagement Coordinator) are Fellows of the Audience Diversity Academy. This blog reflects on how continually developing their strategy as an organisation will lead to more people from diverse audiences being aware of their work.
We are nearing the end of our Audience Diversity Academy course and with any training or professional development programme you can get hung up on how big your achievements are. At New Adventures I very much still see us at the beginning of our plans to develop and diversify our live audiences, but since June I feel that we’ve achieved a lot.
Before June the possibilities as to how we could engage with and develop different types of audiences hadn’t been explored. We hadn’t reached out to our venue partners to see what they were already doing in terms of audience engagement and development. I had no idea of the potential of what could be achieved through just simply persevering and embedding the topic of audience engagement into our day to day conversations.
As an organisation, audience engagement is now talked about across the business and in particular how we can reach different audiences. With an average of 41% of our audience members at each presenting venue, in 2016/17, being a first time attender watching dance, we can see that our work is attractive, and therefore accessible, to those who have never been to the theatre and/or seen dance before. This is a figure to be celebrated but also discussed to see how we can reach even more people, and in particular those from lesser engaged parts of the community. Through our work over the last few months we can piece together how this may be possible as we work with different venues to bring together our expertise and reach out to local communities, with the overall goal of meeting more people from BAME communities.
Three things that I have learnt since June that I believe are paramount when hoping to achieve these kinds of targets are:
- Don’t Assume – when reaching out to different cultures and backgrounds do your research and become culturally aware. Talk to the people you want to reach out to. Don’t assume why they don’t want to engage with you.
- Ask Questions – this is self-explanatory, if you’re unsure of something ask. If you want something to happen ask. You’ll never know until you ask!
- Remain Open – progress may be slow and results may come in unexpected waves, you need to remain open to this. Working with people isn’t like working with machines, you can’t get what you want instantaneously. Patience, openness and understand is key.
As our time as fellows of the Audience Diversity Academy 2.0 draws to a close we may not have produced quantifiable results just yet but we are proud of having the support and therefore courage to start this process and believe that in a year’s time there may be some more concrete results. Whether they’re good or bad we’ll have to see, however we know that whatever the outcomes we’ll be able to learn from them and understand that steps, no matter how small they may be, are good steps as long as they’re in the right direction.