Behind the Scenes: To the moon and back – the collaboration of arts organisations to reach new heights

Behind the Scenes: To the moon and back – the collaboration of arts organisations to reach new heights

By Laura Mulhern


In the second of three blogs looking behind the scenes at a major project across Dorset, arts marketer and AMA member Laura Mulhern explores the importance of collaboration and partnerships.

In my previous post we looked at how cultural events such as Dorset Moon featuring Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon can act as a catalyst to bridge the gap between arts organisations and the tourism industry, providing a mutual benefit to both.

But what else makes a project of this nature so notable is the collaboration aspect behind the scenes. Commissioned by The Arts Development Company, three established and very distinctive art festivals Inside Out Dorset produced by Activate, b-side and Arts by the Sea Bournemouth came together for the first time this year to produce a significant addition to Dorset’s summer arts offer.

Where it all started

Known collectively as the Dorset Festival Consortium, the three biennial festivals came up with the idea of touring an artwork across the county over a short timeframe, to create greater impact and develop their audiences during their non-festival years.

And so, with the support of funding from Arts Council England and the European Regional Development Fund through The Arts Development Culture+ programme they were able to realise this idea in 2019.

Luke Jerram, the artist behind the Museum of the Moon was known to b-side through work that he proposed for the Maritime Mix Cultural Olympiad by the Sea back in 2012 and he was subsequently commissioned by b-side for his work Lullaby; an illuminated bicycle project for their 2014 festival.

Luke then became a friend of b-side and took part in their Visitor Panel, part of their ‘Quality of Experience’ project for Arts Council South West. b-side have kept a critical eye on Luke’s development since and knew about the Museum of the Moonthrough this continuing interest.

Luke’s artistic achievements have been recognised around the world and with the 50thanniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on the same month as their programme plans, it was fitting that the three festivals would bring this inspiring work to Dorset for the first time this year.

“Given the ability of the artwork to enthral and inspire, the flexibility of the piece for indoor and outdoor spaces - and the 2019 anniversary of the Moon landing this was the perfect choice”

Andrea Francis, Arts by the Sea Bournemouth

Luke Jerram Museum of the Moon

Genuine collaboration

Working together in this unique way has meant each festival can achieve more together than on their own.

In comparison to the other two festivals the current Arts by the Sea team in Bournemouth for example is relatively new, so working with experienced partners in the region has been invaluable for them.

“We have all benefitted from the sharing of knowledge, and the festivals have been able to achieve something with a wider reach and greater impact than we could have done alone. It’s been interesting to work on a project focussed around Cultural Tourism and the linking together of those sectors.”

Andrea Francis, Arts by the Sea Bournemouth

Kate Wood, Executive and Artistic Director of Activate and Inside Out Dorset:

“This project has offered a real opportunity to share resources and skills and reach new audiences and it is the first time we have jointly marketed a programme together – and specifically to encourage more people to visit the county as a ‘cultural tourist’”

Avoiding 'design by committee'

With any collaborative process there is always a danger of ‘design by committee’. Can it really work in practice?

Activate is the lead partner on the Consortium, however, all partners make equal decisions on all aspects of the programme. The production work is also shared with Activate producing the events in Bournemouth and Sherborne and b-side is producing the event in Weymouth.

All three partners benefitted from each other’s knowledge and experience in different areas throughout the process, from programming, to event logistics, marketing, audience development and artist development.

The supporting programme as part of the collaboration

The supporting programme is also an integral collaborative element of Dorset Moon.

Supporting artists to develop their artistic practice and supporting the development of new work has always been an important aspect to all three festivals in their usual programming, so it was integral part to this collaborative process too.

b-side devised a CPD training programme in Outdoor Arts, which was aimed at artists and producers wanting to move their practice from indoors to outdoors and was delivered in a modular workshop style by all three festivals. It created a significant opportunity for artists to learn skills enabling to develop their work for an outdoor arena.

It resulted in several pitches by artists not normally working in the public sphere. From these the Consortium then selected several new projects to develop, mentor and financially support to produce new work for the Dorset Moon programme; 5 of the 7 new commissions that were created were by artists who came on the course. Read more about each artist commission here.

Pledge by Carrie Mason


Activate also introduced some stand-alone activity to the programme including A Small Dream by R+D Studio and a new piece called Wind and Unwind for Sherborne Abbey by composer Helen Ottoway.

A woman looking down, her right arm stretched across her forehead, her left parallel across her chest

A Small Dream by R+D Studio featuring HEMABHARATHY PALANI

What will success look like for this collaboration?

The Arts Development Company and the Dorset Festival Consortium are targeted to reach a 12,000-audience number across the tour and to instigate lasting links with the tourism sector but to all partners involved, success to them is wider reaching than this.

“It is important that significant, memorable events like this happen in Dorset that give residents and visitors a sense of place through the careful selection of site and artistic work.  We want residents to be inspired to create art, to go and see art and we want visitors to keep coming back and telling other people what a fabulous place Dorset is!”

Kate Wood


We got the Moon – what’s next?

All three festivals have seen the benefit of this collaboration and are keen to work on more projects together. Providing a joined-up offer and maximising opportunities through co-commissioning and co-presenting has now become a priority for them after the Dorset Moon project.

Laura Mulhern, July 2019






Find out more about Dorset Moon at

Resource type: Research | Published: 2019