Skip to main content Skip to site map (in footer)

Arts Nation, North

  • Date: 14 August 2012
  • Artform: All
  • Area: North
woman pointing

View all project themes
View all Arts Nation case studies

Three northern audience development agencies and the three North Area ACE regional offices undertook a pioneering collaborative approach to exploring new ways of building engagement and participation. This enabled the testing of innovative methodologies across three regions with opportunities for peer review and a more larger and more robust sample.

Legacies from the project included the two toolkits and increased audience development and marketing capacity.

Following an intensive period of toolkit development three projects were established to test them. The projects include different artforms, venue types and geographic areas. These trial projects are on-going and findings from them will inform the final versions of the toolkits.

Community exchange (in progress)

The Bowes Museum, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival and The Maltings Theatre & Cinema are testing 'community' findings from the Family and community focused toolkit. Audience North East is providing a programme of support for these organisations.

Rural touring for priority segments

Rural Arts in Thirsk, North Yorkshire works with volunteer promoters in rural villages to programme arts events through its ONTour programme. &Co The Cultural Marketing House has trained volunteer promoters to understand and engage with audiences and in particular two target groups; Dinner and a show and Family and Community Focused.

On your doorstep (in progress)

All About Audiences is working with two Warrington venues on a joint campaign. The key aim is to position and raise awareness of Warrington's Cultural Quarter to attract the Dinner and a show segment to Pyramid and Parr Hall and Warrington Museum and Art Gallery.

At the Grundy Gallery Blackpool, All About Audiences is working on a campaign that focuses on reducing the risk of the 'unknown' for the Dinner and a show segment. It is a digital campaign to fit the high level of internet usage by this segment.

At the Lowry, All About Audiences is working to attract the Dinner and a show segment who do not attend dance. The aim is to attract the segment through a mailing list campaign with a ticket and restaurant offer that reduces financial risk and adds a wider social dimension to the visit.


Two toolkits Dinner and a show and Family and community focused will be produced in late autumn 2011 for national distribution.

Community findings from the Family and community focused toolkit have been tested by three cultural organisations in the North East.

Producers at rural touring venues in Yorkshire now better understand and engage with audiences and in particular two target groups; Dinner and a show and Family and community focused.

Venues in Warrington, Blackpool and Manchester are using new approaches to engage and retain Dinner and a show audiences and have enhanced their in-house skills to do so.

Key learning

Recruiting for the focus groups proved quite a challenging task for all three agencies. It was overcome through hard work but in the future a range of commercial as well as in-house solutions should be considered.

Dinner and a show

  • the segment seeks a memorable and special experience from the arts
  • the whole experience is important and the segment expect quality
  • the social experience is important
  • where risk of the unknown is concerned price is important
  • they expect honest information
  • word of mouth is influential from people whose opinion they trust
  • online is important as this segment tend to access the internet daily
  • their awareness and understanding of the arts is likely to be low
  • good access is important for many

Family and community focused

There are four main reasons why Family and community focused engage with arts activities:

  • social motivation
  • supporting the local community
  • spending time with children
  • spending time without children - an infrequent activity affected by lack of time resulting in heightened need for activity to be 'special'

There are four primary drivers/barriers which affect the segment's willingness to engage with arts activities:

  • art forms, programme, activity
  • price; total cost of activity is an overriding consideration for this segment
  • timing ; understanding routines, transport and safety issues
  • place; preference for outdoor activities and information about facilities

There are four secondary drivers/barriers which affect the segment's willingness to engage with arts activities:

  • promotion - pester power, influencers in the community, awareness and use of range of promotional materials, importance of word of mouth
  • people - good customer service, knowledgeable staff, family friendly staff
  • processes - range of booking methods accessed, ability to book in advance
  • physical evidence - low cost/high quality mementoes, dislike of cashing in on a captive audience

Learning from the partnership

  • audience development agencies can take on large-scale projects more effectively as collaborative teams with a wider skill-set
  • testing audience views and behaviours across a wide geographic area gives greater confidence in the findings
  • the investment of time expended on the Arts Nation pilot project has not been fully reflected in the project budget therefore the real cost of working in this way has not been accurately established