Museums and Heritage Show 2011

Museums and Heritage Show 2011My first gig back at Audiences London (after 9 months on maternity leave…) was at this year’s Museums and Heritage Show at Earl’s Court.  AL was again invited to curate one of the seminar series (making it our third year at the show).  So amongst the giant blow-up frankenstein monsters, a multitude of audio guide providers, interpretation experts and cabinet makers and a frenzy around social media… we offered a tranquil space to think about visitors.

Sarah Boiling and Sangeeta Sathe of South London Gallery talked about the virtues of sustained audience monitoring in the context of the visual arts benchmarking project. Quickly followed up by a focus on segmentation, the driving force for a collaborative project and campaign byLondon’s orchestras to attract those less knowledgeable about classical music.  We then took a quick trip into the world of tourism with highlights from Susanna Mann from the Royal Collection on Group Tour Organisers and Operators.  Another royal connection followed as Helen Ball talked about the FUSE project developed with the Royal Parks to engage young people with the arts organisations surrounding the park. And finally a romp through any other kinds of relationships that organisations had developed a sustained…

Relationship building themes of the day for me were… know your visitors; hand over the reins to your visitors – give them the opportunity to develop ideas and run the show once in a while; collaborate and the return on investment can last for years; and finally keep evolving, don’t stand still… and you’ll  have more engagement, income and happier visitors!

Theatre of Sound

Last week I went to three cultural events which all used the theatricality of sound to various effect.

First up was a trip to The Rose Theatre, Kingston where I caught the end of Filter’s Twelfth Night tour.

The programme notes describe this production as a:

‘radical and riotous interpretation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night [which] reflects the anarchic energy running throughout the play. With a stage covered in cables, synthesisers, microphones, instruments and amplifiers, Filter creates the world of the play through sound, making the whole experience more akin to a rock concert than classical theatre.’

It was striking to see an audience comprised in the main by two extremes of the age spectrum. There seemed to be equal numbers of young people (of both school, university and graduate/young professional age) and older people (past retirement) with a few children and middle-aged adults mixed in for good measure. I’m guessing the key selling point for the younger audience was that they were studying, or had recently studied Shakespeare or perhaps had heard about Filter’s innovative work before. While I suspect that many of the older audience members were loyal attenders who would have been attracted by anything associated with the RSC (this production was originally commissioned for the Complete Works festival in 06/07).

The other thing that was striking was how the production seem to polarise audience reaction – more so than any other I can remember seeing. As it says in the show programme:

‘ The company are developing a cult status (the Lyric Hammersmith is said to have received more letters of celebration and more letters of complaint than ever before after their Three Sisters). But then experiment is, by its very nature, challenging – and to divide audiences is a great deal better than to leave them numbly non-committal.’

Some people walked out during the show, and I heard others sounding off in the foyer afterwards that they had not liked it one bit. But it seemed the majority had a brilliant time – and it was really great to see so many people deriving such visceral enjoyment from The Bard in 2010.

To return to the programme notes – ‘Filter’s unique collaborative language explores the interaction between sound and music … in a desire to make theatre that truly awakens the imaginative senses of an audience…’  And love it or hate it, you had to acknowledge that the company really did get to the essence of the characters and the spirit of the story, by making  ‘audiences actively participate’ – at point some of us found ourselves involved in a game of ‘Butthead’, dancing a conga line around the theatre, downing shots of tequila and munching on pizza!  

Next up was a visit to Theatre 503 to see Auricular which The Londonist described as a ‘testament to the power of theatrical radio’. This was the latest in a series of ‘immersive audio adventures’, where radio drama was performed live on stage for a theatre audience in ‘an interesting fusion of dramatic media to explore the potential of our aural imagination’. It was fascinating to see a range of scripts brought to life with added visual elements, and to be able to watch the sound effects being made before our very eyes – things that would usually be hidden from view becoming exposed.

And then I rounded things off with One Day – a collaboration between London Sinfonietta and Matthew Herbert, which formed part of the London Jazz Festival. On entering the Royal Festival Hall, we were all handed a copy of the Guardian from 25 September 2010 – the inspiration for this new work. The stage was a hubub of activity throughout the evening – with Matthew mixing samples on a sound desk in front of the Sinfonietta players, a singer, a compere, a foley artist, food being prepared and cooked in a kitchen area, film projections on the back wall, volunteers building and inhabiting a brick house, and a jazz quartet up in the Royal Box. We were encouraged to do the crossword, reference and read various articles in the paper, and use our copies to make paper aeroplanes. At various points we were invited to help make the music  by rubbing our credit cards together (to make a percussive sound) in a piece inspired by an article about finance, and to jangle our house keys (for a piece influenced by an article about property) and then at the end of the evening we all joined in the finale, making music by tearing, blowing, banging and waving our copies of the Guardian. The floor was awash with paper as we left the auditorium… I didn’t envy the poor ushers who had to clear up after us!

 

Youth Workers Resource Pack

I came across Southwark Arts Forum’s Youth Workers Resource Pack today – full of useful links and contacts for anyone looking to engage young people. With the move to Big Society on the horizon this will definitely be something on the to fund list.

Take a look here it’s free to download

Digital trends amongst children

Apparently …

  • Half of 5-16 year olds have Internet access in their own room (49%)
  • Six in ten children now have their own PC or laptop (59%)
  • The proportion of children social networking online has doubled since last year

Statistics produced by CHILDWISE, a research agency specialising in children and young people.  If you’re interested, their trend data report drawing on data from 1997-2009 is available to buy from www.childwise.co.uk

West End theatre prices

The Telegraph theatre column’s been having a debate about West End theatre ticket prices and access, in the context of Jez Butterworth’s play ‘Jerusalem’.

Teens don’t blog.

Pew Internet has published a report showing that young people are in decline when using blogs, while their interaction with social networking sites (like Facebook and Myspace) is on the up. Check out the findings here. The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

In a hurry? Fear not! Mashable have covered the report in a quick and short article which you can find right here. And while it focuses on American teens, it’s still a useful insight into the ever-changing shifts with teen behaviour!

A steer for your volunteers

With the current levels of youth unemployment volunteering is becoming a neccessary way of gaining experience at work, particularly in the arts.   We’re getting more requests about good practice when it comes to working with volunteers, and definitely advise being prepared.   Anyone starting up or managing a scheme should take a look at the Management of Volunteers: National Occupational Standards 2008. Not the catchiest of titles but a great resource.  It’s a big document but is clearly divided into sections and provides great checklists on each theme, including managing projects, handling expenses, organsing events and perhaps most useful dealing with any problems along the way.  Anyone with a deeper interest can also attend management of volunteers training and qualifications, up to NVQ level 5.

And if you’ve got good examples of volunteer schemes in your organisation, and would be willing to share as a case study I’d love to hear them.