A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I went up to Leicester for the annual Arts Marketing Association (AMA) conference. The AMA is the professional body for those working in (surprisingly) arts marketing and there were around 500 delegates there from all forms of the arts – theatres, dance companies, the visual arts etc. Aside from the Key Note presentations and Seminars the conference is a great way to network and socialise with colleagues not just from classical music but from other fields.
The conference this year was called Exploring artistic excellence and public engagement, and indeed one of the major themes running through the sessions was how we can get close to our audiences and make our organisations more porous and transparent – moving away from grand institutions that put on ‘art’ and expect audiences to come, and instead becoming audience focussed, engaging with audiences, having a dialogue with them and putting them at the heart of what we do. It sounds obvious really, but sometimes it does take a few days away at an event like this to give yourself the space to think about big ideas like this. There were several excellent speakers at the event. Diane Ragsdale, of the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation in the USA gave an inspirational keynote speech urging arts organisations to adapt to the changing landscape of society around them, while speakers from You Tube/Google and Innocent Smoothies gave exciting examples of how to communicate to your audiences.
The conference was held at a very apt venue – the Curve theatre in Leicester. It opened just last year and is a stunning building. Its relevance to the conference is that it has been conceived as a completely new type of theatre. For a start its huge glass walls enable you to see right into the building into the foyers. On top of this the walls around the stage areas can rise up, enabling you to see not just into the foyers but across the stages too. In addition there are no ‘wings’ or backstage areas. Actors enter backstage by walking across the foyer areas. (which must make for some interesting encounters) The idea of all this of course is to demystify the theatre, to make the building transparent and unthreatening to those who ordinarily wouldn’t go inside. It’s a brave experiment and such a contrast with many theatres where by walking past you get no sense of what goes on inside.
Natasha and I returned from the conference feeling refreshed, inspired and with a very long list of ideas to put into practice! Hopefully you’ll notice some of them over the coming year…
William Norris, Marketing Director