Diversifying Audiences

Queens Theatre 2, Thu 5th Oct, 11:30am, 1 Hour Facilitator: Jamie Lewis 1st Provocateur: Assoc Prof. Hilary Glow 2nd Provocateur: Dr Anne Kershaw

A Deakin University research team conducted an impact evaluation of Asia TOPA: the triennial of Asian performing arts, held in Melbourne earlier this year, with a focus on attracting non-attendees - of diversifying audiences, and have since developed a new audience development model. This discussion and workshop outlines the research model and discusses the profound challenges facing arts organisations seeking to attract new and diverse audiences. Participants will reflect on their own organisations and practices in order to determine whether they avoid, reluctantly adapt, or embrace the changes needed to successfully diversify arts audiences.

Key Points (Updated Live)

  • Participatory session, focused on how to diversify our audiences through research models, forthcoming publication at Deakin. Asia TOPA became a case study for this research. Focus is on creating a model to allow organisations to diversify their audience. Deep engagement with the consortium orgs and partner orgs, interviews, focus groups, case studies etc.

  • Organisational shift to develop new audiences, huge emphasis on diversity. It’s a change process that challenges organisations. What’s the change that is required and what is the resistance? Why is there a resistance?

  • Marketing departments being a key to connection with audience engagement. But it is also a combination of programming, communication and education. Programming by itself cannot be a proxy for audience development. There needs to be deep conversation between programming and marketing in collaborative spirit.

  • An understanding of the context in which the organisation is set. Small communities, and theatre companies in those communities cannot specialise within one group. The companies are often connected right into the community. Using the local diverse groups to help organisations to understand how to deliver a diversified programming model.

  • Key strategies: being specific in what that audience is and not using general language; having diversity within your staff who draw in different knowledge and skills, which helps to understand how to best adapt programming for a wider audience; nuanced and targeted research; Building relationships with the specific audience that you want to bring in.

  • An organisation taking on the drive towards diversity and not just one department. It’s an organisational responsibility, not just a marketing or educational issue.

  • Organisations having a commitment to evaluation, research and development do better than those who don’t. It is important to go into communities for these evaluations.

  • What is the incentive for organisations to change? A universal understanding that audience for the performing arts are falling. Motivations for organisations are the public value requirements, box office and cultural shifts.

  • How to understand the complexity of audiences? Being very specific with what the audience’s backgrounds/history/context are, and how that affects their interactions with our organisations. Understanding the demographics in an in-depth way; the cross cutting of culture, race and language.

  • Capacity for organisations to change; small organisations can adapt to this model, due to limited resources and needing to be specific with resource expenditure. How much are the leaders of our organisations willing to listen and step aside for people who understand the communities that the organisation is operating?

  • Public publication of Asia TOPA evaluation: goes in February 2018 with release date after that, which will contain the report, research collection and case studies.