Views from October 2011

  1. Chris Bailey 25 Oct

    &Co Trustee Chris Bailey reports back from JOLT Conference

Chris Bailey

&Co Trustee Chris Bailey reports back from JOLT Conference

25 October 2011

“I was JOLTed!” states Chris Bailey, in his feedback from the recent conference exploring developments in the arts and audience engagement hosted by Audiences Central.  Chris’s thought-provoking blog continues...

“Shocks to the system are not exactly a rarity these days but here were 70 arts marketing professionals for the West Midlands and across Europe apparently asking for more. Here’s the Rotterdam Philharmonic arguing that the audience is all, while the Norwegian Performing Arts Network thinks that puts the artist in shackles, and there is DEMOS (the Belgian community arts group, not the left-ish think tank) wanting to find out if mac sees itself as part of the council’s social services.

The full record of the day, which will be posted online, may reveal more nuance, but this delegate was impressed that there is still, after three decades of arts marketing/audience development effort little sign of a comfortable consensus. Our provokers were Audiences Central, whose annual symposium this was, and the Audiences Europe Network for whom this was part of an organisational development programme. Our venue was the gloriously refurbished mac, which has come to virtually embody engagement with Birmingham’s communities. As ever, the ‘deep and lasting impact’ of cultural engagement for which mac aims seems a distant prospect if the goal is defined only as meeting an articulated demand, or as the jargon has it, ‘completing the customer circle’.

News from the digital frontier was encouraging, with the heavily oversubscribed pilot scheme from NESTA and ACE being followed up with a tiered programme of funding aimed at addressing varying levels of capability. And the results show that the arts can achieve their objectives and excel here provided that we work out how to handle the intermediaries, such as content distributors and venues. Those who understand audiences for touring companies will feel they have been here before. Being aware of all the layers confronting a participant is a constant challenge, though, as Dorothy Wilson, mac’s Chief Executive, reminded us, it is not the audience development agency’s audience, or even the arts centre’s, it is the artist’s. We are only there to make sure that relationship develops.”

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