AP has always shared the best practice on audience development with the sector, says Liz Hill.
About ten years ago ‘new audiences’ were the buzz words of the sector. Between 1998 and 2003 Arts Council England funded a £20m New Audiences scheme which supported audience development initiatives across England. The programme had 14 funding strands, each aiming to address specific audience development issues. It generated a wealth of case studies illustrating experimental approaches to audience development – some very successful and some less so, but all of value for what we could learn from them. Various publications, toolkits and protocols were developed in an attempt to embed that learning into the wider sector.
Ten years on, the main feature in this issue of AP, In search of new audiences, reminds us that audience development work didn’t come to an end when this scheme finished, but is going on quietly behind the scenes across the UK. Some of it, like the work described by Andrew McIntyre , is based on sophisticated ground-breaking analysis and has the potential to provide deep insight for the whole sector. Other initiatives, such as at the Grove Theatre, where income tripled when box office data was used to target new attenders, are simple and inexpensive, but nonetheless very effective. The importance of sharing the outcomes of these types of interventions cannot be underestimated: there is no longer any spare cash for wheel reinvention (one of very few benefits of the cuts). So here at AP we will continue to share examples of good practice, and point you towards others who are doing the same. Coming soon, the Arts Marketing Association is preparing to create a structured repository for some of the most valuable audience development resources that have been created over the years; by collaborating with them over the coming months, we’re hoping that this week’s feature, and other gems from our extensive archive, will have an even wider impact.