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Seeds of new ideas #AMAconf

Kelly-Anne Collins, General Manager at Dance Resource Base, gives us a glimpse into her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Kelly-Anne a lucky recipient of an AMA conference bursary.

Dance Resource Base is a small organisation. Our training budgets are tight and marketing and communications are only one aspect of my work. Making the decision to take 2 days out of the office to attend the Arts Marketing Association’s annual UK-wide conference required serious consideration. This year, it was being held at home in Belfast so maybe we could make it happen. Luckily, the decision was made possible thanks to being awarded one of the Audience NI bursaries to attend.

I like going to training and conferences. I’m always looking for seeds of new ideas that might help us work smarter and I’m usually pleased when I come away with a few new sparks of thought that might provide a new way of working or thinking about how we work. The ability to get away from the immediate demands on my desk allows me to give some time to being open to and inspired by others, and to focus on the bigger picture. What is it that we are trying to do and what do we want to achieve?

So when you come away from just one session with feedback on your organisational rebrand from 30 or so of the best arts marketing minds in the country, you definitely feel that the time invested was worth it.

Thanks to Ali Hanan’s Stand Out Branding session on Day 1, and Dance Resource Base being the local case study she selected as an example for an exercise, we got some great feedback on the ‘Why?’ of our organisation. Why might people care about what we do, have a meaningful, connected relationship with us and really want us to be around? The icing on the cake is that we are looking at rebranding and hoped this session would give us the advice and inspiration that we received.

We were reminded that our brand needs to articulate what the lives of our members would be like, not only if we weren’t here, but also without dancing in their lives. We are here to put dancing in more people’s lives and who better than our members to tell us what a life would be like without dance. Ali encouraged us not to shy away from a brand that reflects the emotions that people feel for dance and feel when they dance. That meaningful connection with us will grow and people will care about what we do when we, as an organisation, understand how they feel and represent that to the world.


AMA conference 2017 © Elaine Hill Photography

All in all a great experience #AMAconf

In this re-cap video Olivia Carr, Press & Marketing Officer at Tron Theatre shares what she most enjoyed about AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Olivia was one of over thirty AMA conference bursary recipients.

We all have stories to tell #AMAconf

Kimberley O’Hara, Marketing Officer at Theatre Hullabaloo gives us a glimpse into her AMA conference 2017 experience in Belfast. Kimberley was a bursary recipient for people in the early stages of their career.

AMA conference, my first time and what an adventure.

Amazing would be a good word to sum it up.

From the venue… Belfast…. The Titanic Museum (Stunning), Belfast Waterfront (ideal) to the fantastic Destination Dinners (with a grown-up lemonade, of course) from start to finish – what an experience.

Two jam-packed days of programmes, sessions and speakers that has taught me so much. I will never forget the passion of Debris Stevenson or the brilliance of Jane Cordell and absolutely loved the style of Brad Carlin, whose creativity and energy just shone through.

Meeting so many passionate people over three days, felt as if we were part of one big team. All willing to learn and share ideas.

If I had to pick just one thing that I’ve taken away with me, and that’s a really difficult thing to do, it’s the value and power of storytelling – we should share our stories more, they help us connect with each other and our audiences. More importantly, we all have stories to tell and I’m excited to try new ideas and create engaging and meaningful content.

Thank you for the opportunity AMA and I really hope there’s a next time.

A great sense of commonality #AMAconf

Hugh Benson, Marketing Trainee at Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras, received a bursary to attend AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. In this blog post, he talks about his experience of being a conference newbie.

When I thought of the idea of going to my first professional conference, I was slightly mystified. I knew it would be a good thing to do – new to the arts marketing profession, I was looking for stimulation, guidance and, dare I say it, a dash of inspiration. But what does one actually do at a conference?

External input didn’t really help. Family, friends and some fellow (and respected) professionals replied nebulously along the lines of there being lots of talks, about something called professional ‘networking’ and a mandatory joke about biscuits and tea. So my expectations were about as cloudy as the skies above Belfast as we came in to land.

As soon as I got to the AMA conference, however, everything became clear. This was a place where we came to learn and importantly to feel incorporated as part of a profession. I was struck by the feeling that this event offered a forum for the arts marketing profession and constituted a cross section of everyone working within it. Delegates came from all over the UK and across the spectrum of arts organisations, and there were lots of them! There was also a great sense of commonality between people which was telling in a world in which we all live such individualised lives.

The talks I went to were of two types. The first I would categorise as technical, with talks ranging across many subjects including: data protection and GDPR compliance; how to create engaging self-generated video content; introducing Snapchat to your organisation; and optimising video use across social media channels. These were highly useful and engaging talks and packed to the brim with new information. The second was about how to live a fulfilling professional life and how to interact positively with your surrounding environment. We learnt about how to ‘Go Ninja’, to develop the spirit though pursuing fulfilling activities in our personal lives and help this to enhance our working lives; we learnt about how to become part of the ‘sharing economy’ and maximise resources as well as productivity; and finally about the value of authenticity, staying true to ourselves as individuals and organisations.

Thankfully, attending the AMA conference showed me I was part of a profession where the spirit was alive and authenticity was cherished. Until next year!

Push, stretch, challenge, create and think #AMAconf

In this blog post Laura Rodwell, Communications & Marketing Manager at the Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, tells us about her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Laura received an AMA bursary to attend the conference at a discounted rate.

I’ve been the Communications & Marketing Manager at the Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield for almost five years now. I’ve achieved a lot here, but as with any small organisation it’s hard to take time away from the day to day churn and focus exclusively on strategy and the big picture. My manager and I recognised that there was a real need for me to be able to do this to help drive the organisation forward. I applied for the AMA conference bursary for this reason – I wanted a chance to step back and spend a few days learning, networking, sharing, reflecting and being inspired. As our training budgets are small and our marketing budget has been reduced in recent years, the organisation wouldn’t have been able to afford to send me to the conference without the bursary.

I found a lot of the smaller sessions I attended useful and inspirational. If I had to pick a favourite it would be the Audience Manifesto session with the Royal Exchange – as someone who lives in Manchester I’ve been watching this project with interest and hearing from someone who’s not a marketeer and thinks completely differently about the relationship venues have to audiences was challenging and thought provoking – definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind going forward!

My favourite speaker was Amy Lamé whose keynote was about authenticity. For writing this blog I went back and checked my notebook from the conference – from some sessions I have pages and pages of notes, but for her session I’ve literally just written her name. Nothing she said was a tangible action point I could write down but the speech will be the one that stays with me the longest – she was an incredibly passionate and articulate woman who has obviously had an amazing life and career through refusing to compromise on who she is – her session was not so much an arts marketing lesson as a life lesson.

I don’t have one particular favourite moment from the conference – I just had a wonderful three days. From arriving on Tuesday and taking the afternoon to explore a city I’ve never been to before (including going to the docks where my granddad served his apprenticeship), to doing the discounted Titanic Museum tour that AMA recommended (I’m a bit of a Titanic geek so this was amazing), to the gorgeous welcome meal, the wide selection of inspirational seminars and sessions I attended on all kinds of subjects, to meeting some really great people who I would never have met otherwise. It was all really enjoyable.

I can be quite shy in new situations and the thought of formal ‘networking’ sends shivers down my spine, but everyone was in the same boat as me and so friendly! If people were there that knew each other they were happy to include you, others, who like me, were alone were very friendly, and everyone had at least one thing in common – their job. I knew about six or seven people who were going to the conference but actually I only spent a small portion of my time with them and the rest of the time talking to new and interesting people I’d never met before.

The key thing I’ve taken away from being at the conference is the importance of taking time out to reflect and to challenge yourself. Every time I have a conversation with someone in our sector the key thing I always hear is that there’s not enough time, that work-life balance can be poor, and I feel this way myself. But it’s so important to not just do the same thing over and over again, because it works or it’s easy or you don’t have to think about it, but to push, stretch, challenge, create and think! I’ve come away from the conference with two or three big ideas about things we can do better or differently as an organisation, and hundreds of little ideas I’d like to try, but of course I have to make the time to develop these ideas into fruition.

If I could sum up my AMA conference experience in one word it would be: inspirational.


Refresh, Reconnect and Rethink #AMAconf

In this re-cap video Georgette Donoghue, Marketing and Sales Director at The Stephen Joseph Theatre, shares what she most enjoyed about AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Georgette was one of over thirty AMA conference bursary recipients.


Image credit: AMA conference 2017 © Elaine Hill Photography


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




From AMA conference newbie to fully-fledged convert #AMAconf

Julia Heys, Marketing Executive at VisitAberdeenshire, gives us a glimpse into her experience at AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. Julia was a lucky recipient of an AMA conference bursary for people working in Museums, Galleries and Heritage.

I am, or I should say was, the ‘AMA conference newbie’. But I can now say I am a fully-fledged convert. These were probably the two most inspiring days I have spent in the marketing world since I began my career three years ago.

On recommendation from colleagues in Aberdeen, I was encouraged to apply for a bursary. This meant that, for the first time, Aberdeen Festivals and Visit Aberdeenshire could be represented at a national arts marketing conference.

Attending the AMA conference opened my eyes to the wider arts marketing profession and spending two days with fellow professionals was invaluable to my upskilling. The conference was filled with motivating moments – one that sticks in my mind was recognising myself as a marketing superhero! And listening to a live poetry recital from one of the most talented individuals I have ever seen.

My advice to any conference newbie would be to embrace all networking and social sessions. It’s here that you will meet and build relationships with people in your very shoes. This was vital time to share experiences, take-in hints and tips for the best ways to spend marketing budgets and make some great new friends along the way. And if you’re very lucky, this will all take place in an amazing venue – I didn’t expect to be having a meal in a recreation of the Titanic’s famous ballroom!

A key learning I have taken away from the conference is to remain inspired by my profession and by the arts. I look forward to becoming an AMA regular in the coming years.






Golden nuggets of marketing wisdom #AMAconf

Corey Bullock, Creative Programming & Marketing Assistant at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, was one of four lucky recipients of The Arts Council of Wales bursaries to attend AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. In this blog post and video diary Corey shares what he enjoyed the most.

Thanks to receiving a bursary from Arts Council of Wales, this year I was attending the AMA conference for the first time as a wide eyed new member to the AMA. Many words come to mind when I think about my experience in Belfast, but if I had to narrow it down to just one single word, it would be Strength. Through meeting and engaging with fellow arts marketers from around the country I have strengthened bonds between great arts venues. By attending intriguing and insightful sessions lead by inspiring peers, by delving into new studies and research and by snapping up those golden nuggets of marketing wisdom, I feel I have learned new ways to give strength to my own campaigns and working practices.

Having gone alongside my marketing manager and revelling in new ideas together we have strengthened our bond as friends as well as colleagues and made us a stronger marketing team. And all the glimpses into exceptional theatre and arts events through the eyes of the people that make them happen, they have made my passion for this industry even stronger. I have returned to Cardiff from my first AMA conference as a stronger asset to the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and would encourage anyone who has not yet been to a conference before to set their sights on Liverpool 2018. The AMA conference is the arts worlds gym for your marketing muscles.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3






Be more Kunoichi and become a Marketing Superhero #AMAconf

Arts Producer and Consultant, Susan Hay, received an AMA freelancers bursary to attend AMA conference 2017 in Belfast. She shares her Eureka moments in this blog post and video diary.

I just got back from AMA conference 2017 in Belfast — a fast paced, informative and friendly event.

Not being a marketer, I hoped to find the holy grail of connecting with audiences to build the company’s profile and encourage people to try out shows. Networking kicked off immediately as we gathered in the impressive foyer of Titanic museum before being taken to a replica of the Titanic’s dining room for food – a great photo opportunity for Titanic fans!


I had several Eureka moments:

  • Don’t use one voice to talk to audiences – they experience things differently (from Sarah Ogle’s – How to be a Marketing Superhero session)
  • AMA Culturehive resources are invaluable to plan your marketing strategy
  • You can be more creative if you have the evidence to back up your decisions
  • Data protection doesn’t have to be scary
  • Use YouTube properly – think about the function, structure, personality, subject and set for any video to engage audiences – make your channel unique and entertaining
  • Use Vid IQ for YouTube so you can see who has shared your content (even if they haven’t signed up)
  • Subtitling in YouTube is great – but check for typos before posting!
  • Use humour and have fun
  • Ask a young person for advice on the best angles for selfies
  • To edit video on your phone – you need to download the software first!
  • There’s always another way to do things – keep trying and see what works.
  • Don’t be afraid to get it wrong.
  • Be more Kunoichi and become a Marketing Superhero.

Looking forward to next year.








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