Ballet audiences are earlier bookers than contemporary or world dance audiences!

Research by Audiences London shows that from September 2009 up to August 2010, the largest chunk of booking transactions for contemporary or world dance events in London occurred between 2 and 7 days ahead of the performance date (21% for contemporary dance; 16% for world dance), while ballet audiences were most likely to book between 21 and 60 days ahead of the performance date (22% of all transactions for ballet events).

Could this mean that programming for contemporary or world dance is riskier than ballet, or that audiences are more spontaneous or undecided when it comes to booking for these two artforms? Or do audiences feel they ought to book further ahead for ballet performances? And what role do marketing schedules play? What’s your view?

Source: Snapshot London 2009/10 Benchmark.

Arts Legacy Fundraising Report

Arts Quarter in partnership with Legacy Foresight have just published their report on Arts Legacy Fundraising. You may be aware that Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State, DCMS highlighted the potential of legacy giving as a fundamental source of arts funding in his plans. The report points out that legacy fundraising is still very much in its infancy with very little awareness from arts organisations in promoting legacy giving or receiving gifts in wills.

Read a summary of the report by following this link:
Legacy Fundraising in the UK Cultural Sector

Audience-focused artistic development

Here at Audiences London we’ve been talking recently about what it means for an arts organisation to adopt an audience focus at its core.

As well as making sure you know and understand your audiences, communicate with them in ways appropriate to the different audience types, are clear and appropriate in your offer and welcoming when people come through the door … what about the nature of what you programme? How do programming decisions take account of what will appeal to your target audiences and draw them into a quality artistic journey with you?

Where are the examples of co-programming or artistic development in collaboration with audiences?

Well, here are two recent examples we know of, coincidentally both from Stratford in East London.

Stratford Circus; audience focused artist development

AcroJou at Stratford Circus

AcroJou at Stratford Circus

Acrojou has been in residence at Stratford Circus, through an award granted by City Circ.  Their aim was to develop a first show for children, with Stratford Circus children’s theatre programme, The Circlets, acting as consultation group with insights into the kind of work these parents and children enjoy.

As part of its support, Stratford Circus introduced the company to local primary, Jenny Hammond School, and Acrojou spent a week getting to know the students. A key goal of the company was for the project to be responsive to its young audience rather than prescriptive: towards the end of the research, gifted and talented students aged 7 – 11 spent an afternoon with the company, who performed and tested three excerpts with the children. 

At the start of the process, Acrojou admitted to some nerves – they had never worked with children before and they were opening themselves up to audience scrutiny and inputs so early in the development process. But the experience was wholly positive, with the children contributing a wealth of ideas and incredibly useful feedback. For Stratford Circus bringing these young artists to the children was rewarding and a great way for the venue to work with and further develop a relationship with one of its local schools and a young audience. 

Acrojou say that their attitude to this kind of collaborative development is very positive and an approach that they would like to continue to use. ‘This project has allowed us not only to develop Waste Time, a new piece of work for an entirely new audience group, but also to really reinvent our creation process as a company. Having the children so involved, and involved so early in the process, was daunting but incredibly valuable, and something that we will continue to incorporate into our working process. It has shaped not only the content of the show but also the type of show that Waste Time will be; the immersive and collaborative factors emerging as key ideas in terms of what excited both us and the children.’

Theatre Royal Stratford East: Open Stage

Over at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Open Stage is asking the public what they would like to see at the venue, from which a group of 25 volunteer programmers will decide on the season programme for January to July 2012. The process is as likely to see brand new work as it is to stage revivals of much-loved shows – the entire process will be ‘up for grabs’:  the programme pattern, the timings and the length of pieces. 

To do this the theatre has begun to build a two-way dialogue with the community. Their reasons are many, but include an ambition to reach, connect and empower new audiences and the wider community; and a recognition that Open Stage extends Theatre Royal Stratford East’s founding philosophy (as the Joan Littlewood Theatre Workshop) of inspiring and being inspired by its audience, a ‘theatre of the people’.  

There’s a sector-wide perspective too: “Despite progress the UK theatre ecology is still far from matching its demographic profile and remains elitist.  Building on Arts Council England’s strategy  “Great Art for Everyone” and political thinking about the empowerment and involvement of communities in the decisions that affect them, Open Stage wants to examine ideas about audiences, art and engagement.”

So far, TRSE with Audiences London’s help has piloted ways of holding these wider conversations – through creating partnerships, collecting first-hand viewpoints from people passing the venues – over half of whom had not been to TRSE before – and testing out with them the kind of questions that will really illuminate what it is to be a theatre that is locally responsive to its audience. The full ‘mass communication’ will start in late January.

If you have other examples of audience involvement in artistic direction – whatever the art form – that you’d like to shout about, do let us know.

Creative Clusters

NESTA has published a new report called Creative Clusters and Innovation mapping the UK’s creative hotspots.

It’s an interesting study exploring the role that creative industries play in local and regional innovation and how they can spur economic development outside the creative sector.

The report is accompanied by an interactive online mapping tool which allows you to investigate the hotspots in more detail.

As well as letting you see if your area offers opportunities to learn from and collaborate with other creative businesses, we also know that some of the most avid arts-attending population segments are likely to work in the creative sector themselves … and here’s where they’re based!

This is an example of how it is sometimes interesting to consider how the arts fits into the wider creative sector. It helps us to expand our horizons and think about how the work that we produce is often the result of a whole range of inputs from different suppliers across the creative sector and beyond.

These networks of businesses often cluster together into areas and this is demonstrated in the mapping tool that NESTA has produced.

It is worth noting that this report is about ‘creative industries’, which encompasses quite a wide definition, including a number of areas of which ‘Music and the performing arts’ is just one.

The study shows that while London does take the lead in terms of creative industries there are a number of other clusters that have been identified across Britain. Also, within London there are a number of sub regional clusters.

It also identifies that while creative industries cluster together, there is also a tendency for these areas to be hotbeds for other related industries such as ‘High Tech’ and ‘Knowledge intensive businesses’.

The creative industries sector has been growing year on year and even with the downturn it is predicted to keep growing over the next 5 years.

Orchestral audiences ‘more loyal’ than other artforms

RPO and Julian Lloyd Webber at Cadogan HallWe’ve just issued a press release  letting people know what we’ve found out following a research project with 12 orchestral organisations in London. These are Barbican Centre, BBC Proms, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Cadogan Hall, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Southbank Centre.

Among the findings:

  • over the six years, 36% of the households represented went to an orchestral performance more than once, compared to just over 21% of households attending all ticketed artforms in an average year (shown in the ‘Snapshot London Benchmark’);
  • income from the events totalled £35 million, of which some 70% was generated by people who attended more than once – demonstrating the significant value of repeat attenders to the orchestral marketplace;
  • people tend to travel further for orchestral concerts (54.2% came from within 10 miles of the venue compared to 59.1% for Snapshot London Benchmark, while 17.5% came from over 50 miles away compared to 13.8% for Snapshot Benchmark);
  • orchestral audiences are also more likely to book in advance. In each of the time spans of 2-7, 8-14, 15-28 and 29-60 days ahead, orchestral audiences showed a greater tendency to book earlier than the Snapshot London Benchmark. Just 8% of households booked on the day for orchestral concerts compared to 15.7% of households for all artforms in the Benchmark.OAE's Night Shift at the Queen Elizabeth Hall - photo Joe Plommer (all rights reserved)

So there’s potential for the orchestras to improve their long-term position by converting more first- and second-time audience members into frequent attenders – and that’s what the group is moving on to.

You can take a look at the full press release on our website here.

“Putting the audience first”: a comprehensive response to the CSR

The waiting is over. The CSR announcements have ended the months of speculation and uncertainty, and the nation is breathing deeply once again, whether with a sigh of relief or a bellow of protest. Inevitably it will take some time for the impacts and implications of last Wednesday’s announcements to become clear. While we take time over the coming days and weeks to digest the news and assess what it means for our organisations and for the sector, and to plan accordingly, it has never seemed more important to factor in that other – and integral – part of the equation: our audiences. Written last month, in anticipation of last Wednesday’s CSR announcements and acknowledging that its inevitable cuts must mean that “radical change will come”, Sir Nicholas Kenyon’s article in The Independent makes a powerful case for a central guiding principle in our work: putting the audience first. For many of the organisations we work with, that principle is already key to their success – and it’s pertinent that Kenyon’s article highlights the Barbican’s two-way partnership Theatre Royal Stratford East as one of the key mechanisms in enlivening their offer, meeting and developing the needs of audiences across London and beyond.

We recently ran a workshop at TRSE (as part of our Reach programme for local authority arts officers) and heard from its Artistic Director Kerry Michael about how the theatre builds relationships with its audiences and communities. Central to his approach is the concept of ‘casting the audience’ – that is, considering the role it plays in any piece of work on the stage (and our infectiously enjoyable visit to that evening’s performance of Five Guys Names Moe confirmed the impact of that approach). TRSE is making this ethos manifest in its Open Stage programme (“this stage = your stage = open stage”), which will see the theatre programmed by the general public for six months in 2012. It’s a bold and ambitious project, and one which demands both a great deal of time and sensitivity, but based on the principle of mutual respect between audiences and the arts organisations that serve them.

Sir Nick Kenyon reiterated his message last week in a panel discussion with Ed Vaizey, Ben Bradshaw and Dave Moutrey (Director of Cornerhouse in Manchester) – you can watch an excerpt from the BBC’s Review Show here. It’s clear from the interview, and from his article, that partnerships are a vital means of delivering meaningful, quality arts experiences in straitened circumstances (see Charlotte Higgins’ article in the Guardian for more on how the National Theatre is enabling cost saving for the sector by opening up its back office services to other theatres); and beyond the obvious economies of scale, there are vast gains to be made from shared learning, openness and exchange.  These are the opportunities as well as the challenges that face the sector and its audiences in times to come – it will take sensitivity, creativity and, more prosaically, a willingness to listen to audiences, look at audience behaviour and interrogate what that really means for our organisations and for the arts in Britain in the second decade of the 21st Century. But ‘cuts’ isn’t the only c-word in the arts vocabulary at the moment: cooperation, collaboration and creativity are the core of our response.

How culture contributes to life in the Capital

London Councils have just published their ‘Playing Their Part: culture and sport’s contribution to local life in the capital’ factsheets. These are free to download and provide good success stories, useful figures and interesting details of how Londoners and London benefit from a vibrant cultural and sporting offer.