With Audiences as Partners

by NPU — 2017-09-09

IN PREVIOUS APPROACHES TO AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT, REGENERATION OR BUILDING CIVIC PRIDE, WE HAD OFTEN FAILED TO BRING LOCAL COMMUNITIES WITH US AND IT WAS CLEAR WE NEEDED TO RETHINK OUR APPROACH BY INVOLVING THE PUBLIC AS PARTNERS, DECISION MAKER AND LEADERS.

Creative People and Places

The term Audience development has emergen within the Touring department of Arts Council UK in the late 80´s. With Heather Maitland´s first publication "A guide to Audience development" in 1997 (read the full interview with here), Arts Council set a path for the evolvement of Audience development. Between 1998 and 2003, the British government has granted amount of 20 million Pounds for Audience development through the programme ´New Audiences´, with the objective to engagage the population with lower interest and participation in arts and culture. 

The purpose of the New Audiences Programme was to encourage as many people as possible to participate in and benefit from the arts in England. The programme ran between 1998 and 2003 with a total budget of £20 million.The aims of the programme were to:

• tackle barriers which stop people engaging with the arts
• increase the range and number of people participating
• create opportunities for people to become involved in the arts in different
spaces and places
• allow learning and sharing of experiences between organisations to
improve audience development 

Audience development has throughout the decades remained highly ranked agenda of the Arts Council UK, despite the variety of strategies applied due to continuous evaluation input. In 2015 the new and possibly the most risky project has been lauched - Creative People and Places. With major shift, the grants under this scheme do not apply for the institutions or artists, who wish to realise the project, but mainly to the partnership projects and networks with local grassroot organizations  working in the areas with low cultural participation. 

Creative People and Places is about more people choosing, creating and taking part in brilliant art experiences in the places where they live. Funded by Arts Council England, there are 21 independent projects based in areas where there are fewer opportunities to get involved with the arts.

Read more about the programme here. 

"It is about finding the right players in the field" said Philip Cave, the Director of Engagement and Audiences at the Arts Council UK. During the conference, he will be given the podium together with Simon Strömber from the Swedish Arts Council and Silje Eikemo Sande from the Norwegian Culture Council as moderator. The discussion will be focussed on the policy direction of cultural inclusion in the Nordic region.

Has the field with over 20 years of commitment to Audience development through the institutional work failed and we therefore need a change of strategies? Have we lost faith in the established cultural institutions , when it comes to inclusion? Philip Cave argues that Audience development remains a high priority for the institutions, however social and cultural inclusion of the population with lower participation rates succeeds better when institutions and artists work on the basis of the needs of local population. In such way, the communirt is given the possibility of participation througout the development and implementation of projects. To achieve the goal, the funding should be distributed to the local organizations and networks working in a specific locations and based on the population needs and wishes.  Thus, the public must me given the power and authority in the projects - as in the name Creative People and Places. 

"In previous approaches to audience development, regeneration or building civic pride, we had often failed to bring local communities with us and it was clear we needed to rethink our approach by involving the public as partners, decision maker and leaders."