Blog: Thinking outside the Box Office (Part Three: Wroclaw)

So onto Wroclaw…

25th October 2014

This is an audience development project for the European Capital of Culture 2016

http://wroclaw2016.pl/en/

There are a number of experts on panels and in workshops, all focused on Audience Development.

In the marketing materials I am described as “oraz” Paul Bourne.

Which is essentially “also” Paul Bourne…

Clearly not the key draw here!

http://wroclaw2016.pl/odbyly-sie-warsztaty-z-audience-development-w-ramach-akademii-esk-2016/

The journey on the train from Warsaw is five hours. We have a single carriage – old school European train travel always reminds me of the really great play we did a few years back “Correspondence” by Clare MacDonald – a brilliant journey piece about a couple traveling through Europe and their lives;

A man and a woman board a train together. She pours coffee. He drinks brandy. She smokes for the first time in years. He smiles. Through the night, they exchange memories, stories and secrets. When the sun rises, everything has changed forever…

http://www.menagerie.uk.com/productions/archived/correspondance/

I have always loved European train travel. As predicted by my colleagues, two hours into the journey the other member of our carriage, an elderly Polish gentleman, opens up his kanapka (sandwich) – foil wrapped – and enjoys his essential food for a Polish train journey.

I make the mistake of asking the tea-lady for a complimentary tea and a biscuit “ JUST ONE item for you”…oops I was hungry…at this stage I am seriously contemplating jumping our fellow passenger for a bite of his kanpka…

We make it to rain sodden Wroclaw – dinner is in the hotel due to, well, … rain sodden Wroclaw. The next day sees us prepare for our sessions.

This time Paul Bogen is doing the opening speech – very different to mine. Paul is very much into organisational strength and clarity of mission to support vibrant and imaginative audience engagement. This is his background and as he covers all the essentials of placing the audience at the heart of what you need to do, I feel that the artist is missing somewhat in the process. However maybe I am swayed too much towards the artist and robust business frameworks are of course essential.

Paul’s big thing is arts organisations not being heavily reliant on funding as this makes organisations vulnerable and potentially lazy. Many of the organisations represented in the audience have 80% funding and so where is the incentive to drive marketing and audience development? Paul’s argument is well founded and of course fundamental to so many questions of funding; who we fund and why we fund them. Certainly arts organisations that are significantly funded need to think about their future business models and this includes how they develop audiences.

Another factor for this particular audience is the challenge of being a Capital of Culture, which can be a poisoned chalice. Being capital of culture has its potential pitfalls – not least that people become saturated with Art and Culture throughout the year, and by April no one wants to go to yet another festival or to see another bloody play.

Paul finishes his speech with a fun YouTube video showing a public engagement project by Carnegie hall – hilarious and interesting in the way it engages audience but also empowers the orchestra (a great team –building project I think). http://improveverywhere.com/2013/09/24/conduct-us/

The rest of the evening is panel discussions about the programming for 2016, the programming approach a successful cinema space and the results of a survey about 2016 and what the people of Wroclaw think of being a capital of culture. http://www.cinema-city.pl/en/Korona

What I learned from the 2016 research was that the people of Poland in general and Wroclaw in particular love festivals, love them to be outside and love them to include food… this information can certainly guide and support specific audience development.

In our workshop (Agata Etmanowitz and me) on segmentation the next day food also plays a part. Agata and I are looking at how we can divide up audiences to target marketing towards them to fit out product or extend or engage with new audiences… There has been lots of research on audience segmentation and research is important but we can also take a research-free gut-feeling towards audiences and see what we can conjure up in terms of Types. I like the grouping of people that are probably, likely and unlikely going to come to events. In all of the groups we come up with for Polish people food, plays a major part.

Key audience development includes the Audience Atlas.

http://www.arts.vic.gov.au/Research_Resources/Research_Publications/Audience_Atlas_Victoria_-_2014

I go back to my assertion that just putting on an event, printing a flyer and face-booking is not enough.

I go through our recent Hotbed Festival at the Junction and how we start thinking about the audience from the moment we start programming through to the next cycle of programming, where we listen to audiences, watch their patterns and gain their confidence.

http://www.menagerie.uk.com/6023/hotbed-2014-testing-testing-2/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Yl-RY3z7ak

My Wrap-up session is of course interactive and hopefully memorable as we take away key learning…

Placing people at the heart of programming, marketing and customer experience seems obvious, but we don’t do it enough, but  if we do it right, our audiences will educate us as much as can educate them.

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Blog: Thinking Outside the Box Office (Part Two)

Warsaw 23rd October 2014

I am in Warsaw with colleague Paul Bogen, former director of The Junction;

http://www.junction.co.uk/

We are delivering Masterclass workshops on Audience Development for Polish Cultural organisations.

We meet up with Agata and Aga from Impact Poland, which makes us Paul, Paul Aga and Agata…

Impact is an audience development agency

Since 2011, Impact promotes the audience development concept in Poland organising conferences, workshops and individually working with art organisations and institutions in Poland. We have published 2 books in Polish about audience development concept and tools including good practices from Polish organisations.

http://www.art-impact.pl/en/news/

I am first up on day one with a Key Note speech on Audience Development. I have 90 minutes to inspire and engage a room full of Polish artist and Arts Administrators…

My trick of course is to be interactive and I win my bet with Paul Bogen as I was told that I couldn’t make Poles laugh or say/do anything other than complain… I manage to get them to laugh (mostly with me…) and interact and… complaining is kept to a minimum. (although I note now a week later, that the feedback on my session was great including the line… you were a star… of course some people walked out of your session, but this is not a problem…!!!)

Despite the overall success of the session things don’t start well…

I introduce my brilliant and hilarious title to my talk with a fanfare which goes down like the proverbial lead balloon …

” yes folks my talk is called… Thinking Outside The Box Office”.. “

Brilliant!.. total silence…

Oops .. it is only two days later that Agata tells me no one knows what Box Office is… must research more next time

One minor incident (ok.. . accident) during the session as the head of a cultural organisation takes a tumble off a chair whilst balancing on it during one of my demonstrations about Instinct vs. Logic in thinking processes – oops- she instinctively hit the floor!

Well that was memorable – audience development bruises are I feel a fine lesson…

Lecture/Keynote focuses on challenging the audience over the notion that people will come to their event because “Art Matters” – not good enough.

I focus on who are our audiences/ who might be our audiences and who will never be; analysing who and why?

I adapt Aristotle…

If you want to avoid criticism

Say nothing…

Do nothing…

Be nothing…

 

To a Paul Bourne-ism…

If you want to avoid audiences

Say nothing…

Do nothing…

Be nothing…

And one PB original:

“If no one comes and sees your work… its not a performance… its a

rehearsal… and Life is not a rehearsal”

For me Audience Development is about capturing Hearts and Minds – understanding your product and organising your audience  – with great programming, great marketing and buckets of engagement opportunities – whether through education, access or inspirational activities and opportunities…

But mostly it is about an awareness that programming what you want and then assuming audiences will come to it,  is not enough…

I go through case studies; starting with The Greeks at the festival of Dionysia which saw pretty well the whole of Athens involved in Theatre contests through to:

Open Studios in Cambridge, an artists co-operative which opens up studios and houses to the public to engage with art in the artist’s home turf:

http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk/content/about-cambridge-open-studios

London’s Orchestral Marketing Consortium. Which collaborated effectively on cross – marketing initiatives through interrogating shared box office data, and combining their experience and know-how, learning how to work together effectively with collaborative approaches for growing audiences.

http://culturehive.co.uk/resources/benefits-led-marketing-and-collaborative-working-with-london-orchestras

Our Menagerie production of Stand By Your Van (where we added audiences by offering the prize of a real vehicle to audience members) in Florida http://sarasotacounty.wtsp.com/news/arts-culture/112514-chance-win-new-car-when-you-see-stand-your-van

And how we sold 100% of our tickets (one Performance member to one actor).

And some interesting thoughts on what audiences want and what audiences don’t know what they want. This is a nice article from Steve Waters in The Guardian about our Hotbed Festival and encouraging audiences to engage with new work:

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/jan/25/short-plays-hotbed-cambridge

Through to National Theatre Live as an example of bringing new audiences in (3.5 million new viewers)

http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

And on to my favourite piece of programming where Street Artist Banksy takes over The Bristol Museum – boosting the museum audience by tens of thousands:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRai9x8aD3A

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8094839.stm

Along with Apps for museums, street marketing campaigns and all that lies in between I explore and challenge the notion that it is not enough to simply programme an arts event then put it on…

What do all of these have initiative have in common… thinking outside the Box Office of course!

A day of workshops is followed up by Paul Rex Bourne warm-ups and then a classic Wrap-up and Evaluation where the audience makes promises, give statements, find objects do performances and give feedback…

 After a day and night in Warsaw (including the litre beer specials) we head to Wroclaw for thinking outside the Box Office Part Three…

 

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