The much maligned YTS training scheme provided Dianne Greig with her route to becoming Senior Partner at Culture Sparks

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For the past nine years at Culture Sparks I’ve been interrogating all types of sector data and intelligence to create development and capacity building strategies with members and clients. My consultancies can range from short-term box office sales analysis with a venue through to more involved projects that integrate the many aspects of strategic audience development. Digital technologies and social media are a strong focus – here I combine science with art. Critiquing online conversations, measuring their impact, producing benchmark metrics and influencing strategies means finding creative ways to visualise often complex data that may on the surface appear meaningless. There’s no standing still: to keep abreast of developments and trends in the sector I have to tune in to the latest programming, dialogue, trends and opportunities on a daily basis.

Marketing hundreds of traditional and contemporary opera, dance, drama, musical theatre and children’s productions and projects in my various roles at Scottish Opera and the Theatre Royal brought many new experiences. I feel privileged to have been part of the company’s contemporary take on Wagner’s Ring Cycle – an epic rare release that drew countless commendations and boos from the die-hard traditionalists. There were other extremes: Alfred Schnittke’s opera ‘Life with an Idiot’ shocked (check out the synopsis sometime!) and Inbal Pinto’s ‘Boobies’ entranced. Jane Horrocks peeing on stage in Mark Rylance’s Hare Krishna-esque Macbeth caused a furore. From world premieres to community concerts, every performance came in for close scrutiny from the press, audiences, funders and investors, as did its accompanying promotional material. There’s no denying that marketing the work of a national company, in tandem with a large receiving venue, makes for pressured days but I still miss having a box office terminal at the edge of my desk, and watching ticket sales rise in response to marketing decisions. I also made lifelong connections with some unique individuals. An eclectic 12 years – I loved it.

Always the knowledge junkie, over recent years my study/professional development has included areas such as business admin, marketing, management development, research, mentoring and social sciences; but it was through the much maligned Youth Training Scheme (YTS) that I entered the arts. I was a recruit of a renamed and repackaged programme in the early nineties and found myself as a marketing trainee at Scottish Ballet. Criticised as being exploitative, as pay was in line with unemployment benefit, I am still appreciative of this experiential learning opportunity. This was back in the heyday of the (jammed) fax machine, before email and when telephones rang all day. Between rehearsals the dancers could be found hanging out in the cigarette smoke-filled green room or perched expectantly on the desks in our office when the reviews came out. We kept mailing leaflets in a dark dungeon called George’s back passage (the thought of the place still gives me shivers). I have great memories from the Ballet – it was the first place I experienced being part of a close team where humour was the order of the day.

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