What do we really know about our audiences? #ADA

What do we really know about our audiences? #ADA


The first blog by Katie Burse (Programming and Participation Manager) and Sophie Wright (Communications) at artsdepot as part of their Fellowship at the Audience Diversity Academy 

Creating an accurate picture

We’ve all experienced that nosey neighbour who wants to know a little bit too much, or that person on the bus who wants your whole life story in a ten minute journey. 

As we realised just how much we had to learn about who our audiences really are, and considered all the questions we need to ask in order to get to know them, we panicked. We were going to be that person, and no one wants their local venue to be that person. But how were we going to find out all the information we were missing? Venues make large numbers of assumptions about who their audiences are and we don’t want to do that. We want to try to create as accurate picture as we can. 

Inspired by Rachel Grossman’s seminar on scrappy change, we questioned what we could identify as our problem and what were the contributing conditions? 

We found that many of our contributing conditions were our own personal fears. We were afraid of asking the wrong questions, too many questions, prying and scaring off our audience as a result. We really didn’t want to risk categorising and creating a fixed idea of who our audiences were and in return creating a new set of inaccurate assumptions. 

How did we overcome our fears? 

Identifying these worries was a really helpful process. It allowed us to acknowledge our personal privilege, and how that might affect our assumptions about our audience. 

We are very aware of our responsibility to the public, providing high quality work and creating an environment in which our audiences feel safeIt is therefore equally important that our audience feels comfortable to answer the questions we were asking, as well as ensuring it is a useful and engaging process.  

We thought carefully about framing and reframing questions. How much do we really need to know? Where does it become intrusive? We looked at how changing a question changes the way someone feels about it as the recipient 

For example, rather than asking someone if they identify as disabled or not, we questioned whether we really needed to know this or not. We decided that we don’t: at this point all we need to know was whether we are meeting our audience’s access needs and if we aren’t, then we need to find a way to open that conversation further. 

Taking small steps

In 2018 I [Katie Burse] took part in A New Direction’s Small Programme and since participating I have felt the impact of the thinking across the breadth of my work. Understanding and accepting that not everything has to happen at once and nor can it has allowed us to keep making steps in the right direction through manageable change. Continuous small steps allow thinking to embed in the organisation and create greater impact in the long run. 

So for now we’re taking small steps, questioning our assumptions and privilege to try and create the most genuine picture of our audience that we can. 

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Katie Burse (Programming and Participation Manager) and Sophie Wright (Communications) at artsdepot


Resource type: Articles | Published: 2020