Building relationships with people new to the arts: some tips and approaches

Building relationships with people new to the arts: some tips and approaches

By Eleanor Turney
Creative People and Places Network


Eleanor Turney captures some advice from the Creative People and Places network about tips and approaches to engaging new audiences.

1. What questions are you asking?

"I tend not to say, would you like to start volunteering in the arts? Rather, I would say, would you like to see this place being more creative? What kind of events have you been to and liked? Would you like to see more things like that here? If you’re building towards the same future, then people get behind that." Helen Ball, Creative Barking and Dagenham

2. Get out and about

"The thing we see as important is personal invitations – demystifying what we do and making it a bit more accessible. One of the things we do is called Community Conversations, and that’s about staff members going to community groups – neighbourhood association meetings, over 55s groups, lunch clubs, a home educators group, the WI... those sorts of groups. We’re making sure that we’re regularly on as speakers at those." Helen Willmott, Made in Corby

3. Think about language

"I think there is a fundamental issue with referring to low engaged groups as 'hard to reach'. It suggests that the 'problem' is with them, somehow - when really the problem is with us (as an arts sector) not providing what that market segment wants (product, place, time, positioning, etc)." Jan Lennox, Creative People and Places Hounslow

4. Get into schools

"One thing we’ve found really great in terms of reaching families, is book bags at schools. Primary schools send kids home with their homework in their book bags, and that’s also how schools communicate with parents. Schools have complete control over what goes in them. If you ring up and explain what you’re doing, it can be very fruitful. They don’t let just anybody do that, and by getting a flyer into a book bag it kind of has the endorsement of the school, from the parents’ point of view." Helen Willmott, Made in Corby

5. New approaches

"Communities are generally not 'hard to reach’, rather traditional models of engagement are less effective and need to be replaced by new approaches. Good planning and understanding how the community currently operates are important steps in effective engagement." Andy Parkinson, Consilium (evaluator for bait)

6. What silent message is your marketing sending?

"When we create our marketing materials, we don’t try and make them look really expensive. For most things we go to a cheap copy shop to get them done, and we design them in-house. It’s about where you think your self-worth is, I suppose; this is something that goes around the CPP group a lot. If something’s in a glossy brochure, some people don’t think that’s for them, because they don’t feel like they’re a glossy brochure person." Helen Willmott, Made in Corby

7. Emphasise that stuff is fun!

"Lots of people do not engage with the arts and don’t have a habit of actively searching for the cultural offer in the area. BUT, everyone likes having a great day out with friends and family – with a great atmosphere, great food, lots of fun, an opportunity to socialise and spend time together. So the ‘fun’ element is what we should be developing, offering high-quality arts in the setting that people are used to. It’s a fun day out and should include all the attributes of a day out, such as: easy parking/accessible space/space for buggies/toilets/great food/etc. If these elements are right, people will enjoy the act that is put in front of them – and it can be a high quality arts experience that they will enjoy." Elena Shampanova, Market Place

Download the full guide to read on:
Building relationships with people new to the arts (PDF)

Creative People and Places is an Arts Council England funding programme which focuses on parts of the country where involvement in creativity and culture is significantly below the national average. More.

Browse by learning pillars
Increasing Reach Outreach & Collaboration
Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2017