About this theme

New project partnerships and collaborations were an important feature of the Art Nation pilot programme. They were often instrumental in achieving the scale and diversity that helped make the arts offer more visible to communities not engaged in the arts.

Related case studies

  • Machine Dance - West Midlands
    Collaboration with private sector setting events in unexpected settings
  • Time banking - London
    Building engagement through volunteering
  • Arts Nation, North - North East, North West, Yorkshire
    New toolkits for reaching Dinner and a show and Family and community focused
  • Craft Club - a national campaign for craft National
    Volunteers share their passion for craft

Commercial partnerships

Arts companies are increasingly discovering the value of linking with commercial partners. The Arts Nation programme included a number of pilots where commercial companies were involved.

Shopping is now the predominant leisure activity. Several Arts Nation pilot projects explored the potential of shopping centres as a gateway into the arts for new audiences and participants. They discovered that successfully negotiating a blend of arts and commercial aims is challenging but crucial to success.

In Capital culture the aims of arts and education partners were successfully blended with those of shopping centres. Initially, Motionhouse was not so successful as the aims of a commercial partner tended to dominate. However, both parties re-negotiated their relationship and Machine Dance 2 will be performed in November 2011.

Using commercial brands and products to help position a cultural offer can work  well. In More reasons to visit  a target group with strong consumerist tastes was tempted for the first time into the new Worksop library with offers and products from leading brands.

Regional and local partnerships

Arts Nation included several examples of different types and scales of successful partnership which proved popular with partners and effective in delivering a bigger or fresher offer.

Working cooperatively as well as competitively can bring added benefits. In London, competing London orchestras discovered that cooperating in order to sustain and grow the market for orchestral concerts is an approach worth exploring further and  could become an important element of a permanent, long-term audience development strategy for all partners.

Partnerships with opportunities for active participation were particularly successful in attracting audiences new to an artform or to the arts in general.

From author events organised by The Reading Agency and an invitation to 'knit 1' at Craft Clubs to sleepovers, swing dances and 24-hour print making marathons at Museums at night events, participation and informal learning were highly popular with a wide range of people of all ages.

National partnerships

Arts Nation pilots demonstrated that national partnerships can enable a step change in the scale of events and services that can be offered.

Through collaboration, Museums at night was able to achieve a big splash in the national and regional media for its campaign.

The challenge for both of these projects was the extent to which regional difference diluted the strength of the national offer and the potential costs of overcoming this challenge.

Two Arts Nation pilot projects also worked at a national level offering opportunities for participation. They were effective because each partnership included a delivery partner to provide the arts skills whilst the other concentrated on reaching the audience.

The challenge of regional dilution of the national offer and the potential cost of overcoming it has, for the Craft Club, been met through partnering with the National Federation of Women's Institutes to recruit and train volunteers whilst, local libraries, bookshops, authors and publishers kept the Author events in libraries on the road.


Openness to partnership and collaboration are long established in the DNA of most cultural organisations.

Operating at a national level, arts and cultural organisations demonstrated the potential benefits of partnership but they were also realistic about the extra time and resources that national partnership-building requires in order to overcome regional differences.

Fresh partnerships formed through the Arts Nation pilot were largely successful. However, there is also good reason to explore the potential of existing regional and local cultural or cross-sector partnerships to interpret and deliver national initiatives specific to local needs.

Arts and cultural organisations can overcome issues of cost and extend their reach to new audiences by partnering with mass-membership organisations from other sectors.