Nikki Locke, Head of East Durham Creates, shares some practical examples of how they’ve tested different approaches and put the needs of their audiences first.
East Durham Creates is a programme set up to try out new ways of getting more local people involved in something creative. We’re trying new things, building on what’s already happening, learning what works – and what doesn’t – and pulling together to bring about long term change.
We have three delivery strands:
- New commissions
- Communities taking the lead
- Talent development
We’re in an area of former mining towns and villages with no cultural venues. 94,000 people live here and 73% of our population fall into the low arts engagement segments (Audience Spectrum). It’s a beautiful place full of warm, funny, talented, kind and down-to-earth people, who through no fault of their own, face socio-economic challenges and high indices of deprivation. We want to give everyone who lives here opportunities and choices around taking part in creative and cultural activities.
We are managed by Beamish and East Durham Trust working in partnership and supported by Durham County Council via East Durham Area Action Partnership and Culture and Sport Services.
1: Using action learning
Case study: 2014 launch festival
To kick start our programme in 2014 we delivered a festival with over 40 events, in 40 venues, in 30 days. It taught us a great deal, leading us to take the decision to pause, reflect and review before continuing with our programme.
Through studying our audience data, getting feedback and carefully considering our next steps we were able to develop a much more informed programme. This has undoubtedly paved the way in helping us to reach people with low levels of engagement with the arts.
Top tips when reviewing activity
- Think about what it is you want to know and develop a set of questions.
- Have conversations with everyone – don't leave anyone out and consider all feedback in equal value.
- Use what you hear and learn to build the foundations to rethink, adjust or help reaffirm what you do and why.
- Keep the people who have given their time updated – don't be afraid to pick up the phone to run an idea by someone local.
- Once you've made changes take the time to thank those who have helped and show how their comments have been responded to.
- Trust in the process and it'll lead to great results although be mindful it does take time.
2: Marketing the experience
Case study: Pirates of Crimdon Dene
In order to reach local families we created a new event to help us develop our understanding of this audience. From concept to completion we put ourselves in the shoes of who we were trying to engage, looking at other local successful events and most of all, putting their experience first. Over 2500 people attended which we are very proud of!
- Think about how you can fit into people's lives and why they would want to attend, how can you make it a really special day to remember?
- Look after the detail and it'll look after you – think the audience journey through from the moment they leave the house to when they get home at the end of the day.
- Make it easy for people to get involved: consider pricing of food, what facilities they'll need, test out the public transport route, and tell people exactly what to expect.
- Create the right atmosphere with your staff, decorations and artists. Put on something that's familiar as a hook to engage and make a masterpiece of their experience.
Download the full guide to read on:
An audience-led approach to programming and marketing (PDF)
Image courtesy of East Durham Creates. Photograph by Richard Kenworthy.