First steps to making change and diversifying audiences #ADA

First steps to making change and diversifying audiences #ADA


James Randell, Front of House Manager and  and Sasha Dabrota, Academy of Music and Theatre Arts, Falmouth University take the first steps to diversifying their audiences. Part of their joint fellowship at the Audience Diversity Academy.

James Randell, the Front of House Manager and myself are joint fellows on the AMA’s Audience Diversity Academy. We have decided that our focus of our time at the ADA is prioritising audience development of the Academy of Music and Theatre Arts function as Falmouth University’s live performing arts venue.

We programme and receive dance, theatre, comedy and music to enhance the experience of students on our nine undergraduate courses. The attendance from our theatre and dance subject areas is encouraging and this has both been sustained and developed recently. However on reflection and through audience research, our music students are significantly unengaged with the programme. Being a fellow, has if you like forced us to focus our attention, and give this our dedicated time and attention with support from our mentor. Which is needed. We recognise that we probably only have one attempt at resolving this, having attempted to address this unsuccessfully in the past.  

There are a number of things that we are going to develop in response to our first mentoring session.

Quick Fix. The move to online and the need to engage with our priority audiences in different ways, has actually presented us with an opportunity. We have diversified our public performance programme to include Artists Talks which are free for students. These involve an academic ‘in conversation’ with an artist for a fixed fee. To date these have not featured musicians.

On reflection and through discussion with our mentor, we have decided that we need to approach resolving this in a needs-led way, that is mutually beneficial to both the course’s needs and those of the programme. Moving forward, we think a quick fix to engage, unengaged students, will be to invite them to propose an artist that they would like to talk to, which aligns to their research interest, but could also feature in as live performance in the programme in the future. This would meet both the needs of the academics and those of the programme, without diluting either. 

Secondly we are going to carry out some strategic consultation with critical members of the music department who we feel will give us in-house insights which we might not be aware of in terms of the resistance to engage.  Finally we recognise that our staff and our colleagues should be ambassadors for the programme, enthusing and encouraging students to engage. However this understanding, philosophy or culture is not a shared one, which needs resolving. Possibly through the more effective use and development of the programme’s advisory board, which is comprised of staff representing each course. Again on reflection its purpose needs strategic consideration.

Sasha Dobrota, Lecturer Cultural Management & Production, Falmouth University

Sarah is currently responsible for the co-delivery the BA Music, Theatre & Entertainment Management, within the Academy for Music and Theatre Arts, at Falmouth University. The modules she teaches include: The Impact of the Cultural Sector; Business Innovation in Music, Theatre & Entertainment; Collaborative Project Management; Event Management; Professional Practice; & Applied Project Management. 

Previously, Sarah worked as a freelance Creative Producer & Project Manager.  Since moving to Cornwall in 2008, she has successfully secured bringing 800k into Cornwall through a variety of trusts and agencies. 

James Randell, Front of House Manager, Academy of Music and Theatre Arts, Falmouth University

James has worked as a project manager and producer for over nine years. In his role at Falmouth University he is responsible for delivering the Academy of Music and Theatre Arts year-round performance programme across all areas of Front of House, Production, Event Management and Marketing. James also manages the Box Office and Ticketing services for AMATA. This involves supporting the learning and development of students on the AMATA course portfolio. 

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Audience Development & Strategy
Resource type: Articles | Published: 2021