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.