Explore how a cultural organisation can become accessible to a broad general audience by changing its overall positioning and message, rather than just by implementing targeted audience development schemes or projects.
Who and what this report is for
This report is for organisations that want to attract a broad public, and are willing to go through a process of change to achieve it. It focuses on what really makes the difference in audience development and tells you what you most need to do if you want to attract a wider audience. Although the findings were drawn from working with cultural organisations, we believe the principles can be applied to any organisation wishing to become more broadly accessible to more people.
How it came about
The report is the result of Phase 2 of the 'Not for the Likes of You' initiative, jointly commissioned in early 2003 by Arts Council England, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (formerly Re:source), the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage.
The focus of 'Not for the Likes of You' has been on how a cultural organisation can become accessible to a broad general audience by changing its overall positioning and message, rather than just by implementing targeted audience development schemes or projects (which is not to say that targeting specific groups was not part of the thinking - it was, but only where it was set in the context of a broader, more holistic approach).
For clarity of definition:
- when we talk about access (or being accessible) we mean access in its very broadest sense - not just physical access but also psychological, emotional, intellectual, cultural and financial access
- an organisation's positioning refers to the place it occupies in the minds of the public vis a vis the alternatives available to them
- the message is the way in which that positioning is expressed to potential audiences and visitors.
A team of four consultants worked on the project: two from within the arts (Maddy Morton and Mel Jennings) and two from outside the sector (Debbie Bayne and Séamus Smyth). Our biographies are given in Appendix 2.
To reach our conclusions we worked with 32 organisations from right across the cultural sector, at a variety of levels but always including - and led by - the chief executive. And the people involved told us that these two features of the project were beneficial to them - that working cross-sectorally was fascinating and showed that arts and heritage organisations have more in common than they realised, and that having chief executives involved meant the whole initiative gained in weight and momentum.
The organisations we worked with were:
(A) Organisations that have already changed their positioning and now attract a broader audience:
- City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
- Theatre & Dance Cornwall
- Eastern Orchestral Board
- Fierce Festival
- Manchester Art Gallery
- Stevenage Museum
- Tyne & Wear Museums
- West Yorkshire Playhouse
- Wolverhampton Art Gallery
(B) Organisations that want to change their positioning to attract a broader audience in future:
- Angel Row Gallery
- The Courtyard
- Hampstead Theatre
- Heart ‘n Soul
- Manchester Museum of Science and Industry
- National Museums Liverpool
- North Lincolnshire Council, Cultural Services Section
- Nottingham Playhouse
- Royal Geographical Society with IBG
- Tamasha Theatre Company
- York City Archive
(C) Organisations that don't fit the project criteria but have an interesting story to tell about access in a particular respect:
- Borderline Theatre
- Craftspace Touring
- Lawrence Batley Theatre
- Farnham Maltings
- Metropole Galleries
- Sheffield Millennium Galleries
- Peacock Theatre Woking
- Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
- Royal Shakespeare Company
- Theatre Royal Stratford East
- The Women’s Library