Strategic Touring Funds – how to create an audience development strategy

I’ve been working intensely with the impressive Philharmonia Orchestra, to create an audience development strategy underpinning their consortium bid to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund. The tour project, i-Orchestra, is built around the multi-media/ digital installations Re-Rite and Universe of Sound, soon to appear in Birmingham.

We won’t hear for another month or so whether the bid has been successful; but we felt we had already learned so much about how to create a solid, thought-through and workable strategy with partners in a tour situation, that we ought to share what we learned so far. You can see the slides I presented at the Touring Exhibitions Group’s Marketplace in Cardiff last month on Slideshare, here. Or you can contact me for the full notes of the presentation.

Here’s an excerpt:

What we learned

  • The importance of research and importance of collaboration.
  • Don’t make assumptions about the population you’re touring to – do the research. Find out about the mix of people there from statistics and analysis.
  • ONS (Census 2011); Area Profile Reports; Arts Audiences Insights; Mosaic/ Acorn … we looked at them all to get a feel. In places we’ve looked at very local, small, contained communities – a few streets. In others, the whole market town.
  • But also TALK TO PEOPLE!  Don’t rely just on talking – you risk getting a prejudiced impression or one driven (even unconsciously) by a certain agenda. But it’s really valuable to add in the human, experienced impression of the people you want to work with. There can be surprises: eg a very deprived neighbourhood has recently created its own local action group to address local issue, including working with artists …
  • Audience development relies on relationships. Relationships take time. Relationships with audiences but also with local partners.
  • Recognise the value of what local partners can contribute. As part of a bid (match funding) but also in negotiating tour contracts, what each will take responsibility for achieving and delivering. This is more than marketing.
  • Share skills, knowledge, contacts – assume you’re all in it for the long term. Part of setting AD aims is to think about the long, slow build of relationships.