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20th December 2016 Bea Udeh

“Welcome” #ADA

Thanh Sinden, Strategic Audience Development Manager at Culture Conventry, is on a mission to provide a place of sanctuary for her audiences.

Being a fellow of the AMA Audience Diversity Academy and talking to my mentor, Monica Montgomery, has been an empowering experience for me. I have faced challenges to carrying out the Equality and Diversity Action plan and getting my audience experiments underway.

Since I’ve joined the academy my experiments have been around engaging with new communities and refugees to our city and growing a disability audience for our Nature Notes exhibition.

I worked with the Curator for Nature Notes to focus on the disability audience seeing a great opportunity to widening the appeal of this exhibition with a series of access tools that not only aided participation with the exhibition but also serves as a statement of intention of our organisational commitment to creating greater access. We worked with children with autism and visually impaired audience to embed access and inclusion in the exhibition. I promoted the exhibition to various disability networks on social media and groups we worked with. We tweaked things within the exhibition as we went along and as we attracted a bigger disability audience it gave us more access issues to think about and address. This agile approach showed that within an exhibition that’s already been installed there are things that can be changed to enable a better visitor experience. We had a weekly target of 800 visitors. The actual weekly average was 1211. Within this we did a survey and found that 20% of visitors stated they were disabled. This survey was a snapshot of visitors to the exhibition at the beginning over a two week period. Interestingly the survey data and observational staff data showed contrasting results in how many people with access needs visited and used the access aids. However, this number is more than double our benchmark of 8% disabled visitors to the museum.
Working in partnership with Coventry Migrant and Refugee Centre, Curatorial and Learning teams we did a ‘Welcome Tour’ with a group of Syrian families. I very much wanted this to be about a warm welcome to our spaces and to state our intention that they are an audience we want visiting our venues. This went very well. Two of the group’s translators said that they have been in the city for two years helping refugees resettle and integrate. Until my invitation to the centre to engage with refugees to bring the new group they were helping to resettle to visit us, they did not know where we were and what was inside our buildings. The newly arrived families expressed their thanks for welcoming them and would love to take their children to visit now that they know what’s available.
Following on from this I am setting up a partnership agreement that we support the CRMC as part of integration support for people new to the city we’ll be doing ‘welcome tours’ and family workshops with Syrian families. This links in with a wider mission of Coventry as a City of Sanctuary and Peace and Reconciliation. As major cultural providers and visitor attractions we play an important part in promoting the values of our city.