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Experimenting with family workshops to increase take-up #ADA

Emilie McGroaty and Tom Spurgin are Audience Diversity Academy Joint Fellows with big plans to take over their virtual world by storm in small segments.

We are conducting an experiment as part of a large-scale audience diversity project called The Virtual Orchestra, which aims to make orchestral music accessible to people with no, low or lapsed engagement with it. The Virtual Orchestra is a four-year, £600,000 project which ran in Bedford earlier this year, is still running in Leicester, and will visit Canterbury and Basingstoke in 2019. 


The problem 

From analysing the data that we captured from the family workshops that we ran in Bedford early this year, we could see that they were well attended but weren’t hitting our priority audiences, either in terms of audience segmentation or priority wards within the area. We found that most attendees were already engaged in other cultural activities in and around Bedford, and thus concluded that our offer and the campaign surrounding it was not well-tailored to our priority audience: people with no, low or lapsed engagement with the arts. 


The experiment 

Following a conversation we had with our ADA Mentor Sara Devine, we created an experiment that split our family workshop audience into two groups: those that had no or very little engagement with arts & culture (priority families) and families who were already engaged with arts & culture in some way (engaged families). We decided that the two groups needed two different offers that reflected the varying barriers to entry of the different groups.We wanted to grow our target family audience whilst continuing to meet the needs of our engaged families. 


Target families offer 

  • Free and unticketed 
  • Held offsite in a known location e.g. community centre 
  • Offering non arts-based incentives like free food and drinks 
  • Use of community gatekeepers to access this audience 


Engaged families offer 

  • Tickets cost £3 per person and could be purchased in advance via the Philharmonia’s website or on the day at the installation 
  • Held at the main site of the installation in Leicester city centre 
  • No additional incentives offered 
  • Contact with families made through traditional marketing and advertising campaigns

Results so far 

The first target family workshop that we ran in a priority ward (St Matthew’s, LE1 2) was attended by 35 people, in comparison to an average family workshop size of four in Bedford. Not only are the numbers useful for reinforcing our methodology but there are some inspiring stories too. One child that attended a target family workshop at her local community centre re-engaged with the project by visiting the main virtual orchestra installation the next day in the city centre. Furthermore, one of the gatekeepers for the community re-engaged by bringing a group of 30 to the main installation. It’s still early days but the results so far have been encouraging