Audience development agencies start to feel the impact of funding cuts

The work of Audiences South, which has provided arts and cultural organisations across the South of England with audience development support for over forty years, is to be taken on by its London-based equivalent, Audiences London.

Audiences South, which announced its closure earlier in the year, was a business unit of Hampshire County Council, and for some years had funded the organisation above and beyond its service level agreement to support its work across the south of England. Earlier this year the Council took the decision that under the current economic climate this subsidy was no longer viable. Two members of Audience South’s staff will now be working on a regular basis for Audiences London, including liaising with client organisations in the South East and connecting them to Audiences London’s services.
Audience South was part of the UK-wide network of audience development agencies. Announcements of other closures and mergers are likely to follow, as the agencies have been frontline victims of funding cuts: in particular, none of the agencies previously receiving regular funding from Arts Council England have been included as National Portfolio Organisations (AP235) . Yorkshire-based cultural marketing agency &Co has already warned that change is on its way. Following staff departures, the agency is now working with a small team of associate consultants to deliver its audience development services , and in an effort to reduce overheads, &Co will be moving out of its Leeds premises at the end of September. Services delivered through its digyorkshire.com listings website are being scaled back, and &Co is in talks with potential partners regarding the future of the site, saying “Whilst we remain optimistic about the future of the website, which has just seen its most successful year in terms of visitor numbers and income, we are also acutely aware that to carry on the website in its current format in the short term future with the resources available would inevitably lead to a drastic reduction in its quality”. The organisation describes the move as one that will “allow &Co the time and space it needs in order to put transition plans into place”.