This year we are shining a spotlight on our AMA conference 2018 — The Power of Play speakers, finding out how ‘play’ helps them in their organisations.
The second speaker under the spotlight is Helen Palmer from Creative Tourist:
What does ‘The Power of Play’ mean to you?
For me, it’s about experimenting, taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone. We can get so bogged down in the day to day and forget how lucky we are to work in such a creative sector. Marketing, communications, audience development, cultural tourism all depend on creative thinking and building relationships with often unlikely partners. And I get to do that every day, trying to find solutions to often thorny issues through harnessing ideas that can come from lots of different sources. We’re not one of those agencies that has a pool table, retro toys and wacky chairs. What we do is pride ourselves on our collaborative working practice and encouraging partners to think differently, always remembering that audiences/visitors actually want to enjoy themselves when experiencing what a place has to collectively offer.
What is the biggest risk you have ever taken, as part of your job?
There have been a few and usually it’s actually been the job itself – getting involved in a project in its inception stages – The Lowry, Cultureshock (Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme 2002), Manchester International Festival – and being on the frontline persuading the naysayers that yes the Manchester city region can be that ambitious and will be successful. Incredibly hard work, but worth every sleepless night.
In relation to Creative Tourist, we had to transform it from a Manchester-focused publicly-funded project to a national commercial agency without subsidy.
Did that risk pay off and what did you learn from it?
After 10 years (6 years as an agency) expanding and working all over the UK and internationally. Dealing with risk builds confidence, skills and resilience. We knew that what we’d built in Manchester had relevance elsewhere – Manchester as laboratory. Whilst it’s not a case of replicating the Manchester model elsewhere – far from it – building collaborative cross-sector working is transferable. We know the challenges and opportunities and can plan and react accordingly, whatever the size and shape of the cultural destination. We never stop doing new things, starting new partnerships, testing new ideas – it’s all about taking risks and learning from them. As a commercial agency, we have to keep innovating. That’s exciting (and occasionally scary), but gets me out of the bed in the morning.
What are you most looking forward to about AMA conference 2018?
I always enjoy an excuse to go to Liverpool, such a great city – and I say that as a proud Mancunian! At the conference, I’m looking forward to hearing about new ways of working, evidence based success stories that could be transferable to other artforms/sectors/geographical areas. I particularly enjoy presentations with transparency, sharing what went wrong as well as right – not everything is always a success and how will we learn if we can’t be honest with each other.
What do you hope delegates will get out of your session?
If delegates are completely new to cultural tourism that’s fine – the session will provide a basic understanding of what it is, and just as importantly what it isn’t. If they’re involved in an existing cultural tourism initiative, whether funded through ACE Cultural Destinations or not, that every delegate will deepen their understanding of how to make the best of their culture and tourism assets, skills, knowledge and expertise across the partnership, understand their markets and how to prioritise activity. If they’re considering getting involved in cultural tourism, they’ll learn about the absolute core requirements – the must haves – and how to plan for the inevitable bumps along the way. As well as providing practical advice, the session will also deliver plenty of opportunities for delegates to share experiences, learn from each other and ask those burning questions with seemingly elusive answers.
24 — 26 July | ACC Liverpool
Early Bird member rate: £458 + VAT
Non-member rate: £577 + VAT
Our full list of rates and available bursaries can be found on the AMA conference 2018 web page.