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28th November 2018 Bea Udeh

Ch…Ch… Ch… Changes #ADA

There is no science to how the ADA Fellows across the many cultural organisations will approach their experiments when applied to the focussed group of people that they want to reach.  Rhea Mehmet shares with us how she wants to make both internal and external in-roads. 

It’s been a funny old road so far on the Audience Diversity Academy.

It became quite clear early in the process that the way other smaller theatres and cultural institutions go about making change was not quite going to work for me.

I work at the Science Museum, which is not only a national museum but part of a group of national museums. For those of you who don’t know, the Science Museum Group includes the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, Locomotion in Shildon, county Durham and the National Railway Museum in York. Safe to say, this giant organisation works a little differently to smaller theatres or cultural venues. There are many more teams, heads of departments and people in general to communicate with and get on board with any new idea or practice.

Whilst change here feels like it can be slow at times, it is happening. We are currently in the process of overhauling our Audience Development Plan (now called the Visitor Plan). I am working to place emphasis on ensuring that diversity is at the heart of this. It will supply us with a framework which we can refer back to, should we ever struggle or come up against any resistance in regard to ensuring that we are speaking to and representing our diverse audiences.

Alongside this, I am also trying to standardise relaxed views of exhibitions as part of our marketing campaigns; and strengthen relationships with our learning team. In the past I worked at Battersea Arts Centre, who for me are front runners in access and community work. Watching them become a relaxed venue for people who might find it hard to follow the perceived conventions of theatre etiquette was an important step in the cultural world. It made me think about whether some people might feel uncomfortable in museums – and if so whether there was anything we might do to combat that.

I have since reached out to Tourette’s Action to partner with them on offering a relaxed private view of The Sun: Living With Our Star. For those who live with motor and vocal tics, setting foot inside an cultural space filled to the brim with visitors, can be an intimidating experience. Opening the museum up outside of opening hours allows them access to somewhere they may not usually feel comfortable going. Whilst we are still in the early stages of putting this event together, it is something I really hope we will be able to work with Tourette’s Action on as part of future marketing campaigns.

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