I became a freelance consultant in 2016, and I work – mostly across the North of England – with a wonderful range of different culture and heritage organisations.
I’ve been in Audience Development for over 15 years (and the arts sector even longer). Prior to working a freelance consultant I was Regional Director, NW for The Audience Agency, Head of Business Development and Client Services for All About Audiences and Information Manager for Arts About Manchester.
For Liverpool European Capital of Culture, I was Strategic Audience Development Manager (2008-2009) for LARC (Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium). There I developed and ran Open City, a project to connect groups of under-represented local people with the major arts organisations in the city, as well as setting up a collaborative Family Friendly website for Merseyside and running a programme of engagement activities to reach families. Prior to this I also worked on Cultureshock (Manchester’s Commonwealth Games cultural programme, 2001-2002) as the Programme Administrator.
I’m an accredited Action Learning Facilitator, and Chair of The Atkinson Development Trust in Southport. This is an independent charity set up to work directly alongside the council-owned arts centre and we are focussed on devising and delivering the fundraising strategy with a particular emphasis on supporting The Atkinson’s engagement work.
Some current projects:
Manchester Folk Festival Working alongside Festival Director David Agnew, I lead on audience development and marketing for this ambitious festival in the heart of the city. Until 2017, there had never been a folk festival in Manchester, and it was thrilling to be involved from the start of this new offer which has taken its place alongside the other superb festivals which Manchester is known for.
I devised an Audience Development Strategy for the festival, including a bespoke segmentation model, which is simple but specific to our needs. And having developed the Marketing Strategy, I roll out all the tactical elements – social media marketing, print production and distribution, commissioning and populating the website, advertising, and building positive partnerships including with our main host venue and key partner, HOME Manchester. I’m delighted to be heading up the audience development and marketing again in the third year of the festival.
Red Ladder Theatre Company I’ve been working with Red Ladder for a few years already, developing strategies to support a number of their (subsequently successful) bids for funding to support exciting site-specific and touring projects. One of these is an Arts Council England Strategic Touring funded project, taking high-quality small-scale theatre into social spaces – pubs, sports clubs, community halls – in areas of low arts engagement. Essentially, they’re telling brilliant stories in places where it’s normal to exchange stories, but where people wouldn’t normally be open to going to the theatre.
I’m working with them across the 3 years of this project in several ways to deliver the audience development plan I devised for them: I’m both Audience Researcher and Marketing Advisor.
I’m undertaking qualitative and quantitative research to create a body of evidence which will both enable us to monitor as we’re going along, and make adjustments during the course of the project. Using an ethnographic approach, I’ll be attending a lot of the shows to observe and interact with audiences, which will ultimately contribute lively and compelling details to the final evaluation report.
Having defined target audiences in the Audience Development Plan, I’ve also worked with the Marketing team as an advisor to ensure this focus is maintained, and that communications are geared towards the right people to enable the project to meet the overall goals.
The University of Manchester Library wants to develop a consistent, organisation-wide understanding of audiences and align the different ways that different library services and departments describe their audiences. I am working with them to develop a shared language, identify target audiences and increase staff knowledge of audience segmentation so that the whole University of Manchester Library can have a focussed and streamlined approach for reaching them, and can better align with The University of Manchester’s social responsibility aims.
Through a process of stakeholder consultation, data gathering and analysis, and staff workshops to explore results and embed learning, I am supporting the Library to gain clarity and confidence in their audience focus.
English Folk Expo Alongside my work with Manchester Folk Festival I’m also proud to be part of the team which brings delegates from the music industry across the world to experience the best in contemporary English folk, with a view to booking artists to perform at their venue or festival. It’s the only showcase of its kind in this country, and it happens in Manchester.
English Folk Expo takes place in Manchester in tandem with Manchester Folk Festival. Delegates have access to the public-facing events in the festival as well as a programme of industry-only music and networking events. To help English Folk Expo to raise their profile in the music industry, and stimulate new bookings, I devised a social media strategy and manage the social media marketing throughout the year, building up towards the event itself. For four days each October I’m on site as a full-time team member during the event, by which point I’m a fount of knowledge on all the artists.
Some previous projects:
Box of Tricks I worked with this small theatre company to support a specific tour of a show which is, frankly, a gift to audience development! Box of Tricks produce top quality new plays on local and national stages. They successfully bid for Grants for the Arts funding to support a tour of their play Chip Shop Chips. The story is set in a chippy, and the audience, seated at dining tables, tuck into fish & chips whilst the play unfolds around them.
I wrote an audience development plan for the tour of Chip Shop Chips, to focus minds and resources on the people and the activity which best helped us achieve project goals. From this, I designed their programme of research, including an audience survey (which was so successful it gained over 50% response rate), audience profiling and mapping using Audience Spectrum and an ethnographic study for qualitative audience insight.
I conducted the ethnographic research, attending a selection of performances where I observed and interacted with the audience on their terms. Ultimately we were looking to understand the differences in how the show is received in rural versus urban areas of low provision, and really understand audiences’ motivations to attend. The findings from the research will help Box of Tricks in their next stage of their organisational development.
Manchester Museum commissioned me to run a focus group to talk to participants of the project Memories of Partition. The aim of the research was to explore their feelings about their experience and the impact the project had had on them. Memories of Partition was a project which documented the experience of local people who have a connection with the partition of India in 1947, and culminated in an exhibition (Aug 2017 – Feb 2018). Manchester Museum sought to engage a spectrum of Manchester’s South Asian communities’ members in the project, to ensure a range of different perspectives were represented.
I established clear research objectives and developed the discussion guide which would mean the conversation would provide useful learning. Since the subject was one requiring sensitive handling, this was done in close consultation to ensure their full buy-in for my approach. After leading a productive conversation, I wrote up the findings into a report which informed the team about the impact of their work. The report was also used as part of the wider evaluation which was submitted to the major funder for the project.
The Met I was happy to be approached by this lively performing arts centre in Bury to support them through a period of transition, as I’ve long been a member of their audience. The venue hosts touring theatre, has its own recording studio, and is best known for a vibrant music programme, with particular specialism in folk.
For The Met, I provided an extra pair of hands on the team whilst they were between Marketing Managers. I helped them see in a brand new website and box office system – a big job for the small team, as the two are integrated. I worked closely with the small team on marketing and audience development, supporting them to use their data make evidence-based decisions on where to focus their efforts in order to meet their organisational aims.
Psappha I have a long-term working relationship with this new music ensemble who create and perform contemporary classical music. A small and dynamic organisation, they have a home in Manchester, tour nationally and internationally and have significant influence in their sphere, as commissioners of new works, as educators and as genre experts.
I started working with Psappha when they invested in an Audience Development Plan in 2013. With a clear focus on target audiences, they’ve gone from strength to strength. Implementing that 2013 strategy included gathering audience research, and I subsequently used this to adjust and update their plan, writing a new one for them in 2015. In a new stage of organisational growth in 2017, Psappha commissioned me again to review their plan, and update it to make sure it is fit for their aims and ambitions.
This work involved pulling together audience data from their host venues to create a picture of their audiences on tour as well as at home. I used the findings to inform what they should do next – who to focus on, how to reach them and what to prioritise to make sure they’re efficient with limited resources and effective at building audiences for new music.
Sefton Libraries, Merseyside. Using postcode data from library users I produced an audience profile for all 6 of Sefton’s libraries, to describe their current users and spot best potential for development. This highlighted differences and similarities across sites and enable the libraries to have a shared language for different types of users. I followed this with two intensive training sessions to understand and apply the results, and enthuse the library staff about what they could achieve by working together. Importantly, this work underpinned a bid to ACE Libraries Fund, which was awarded £99,000.
Smaller Rooms, North. I worked with a consortium of 5 performing arts organisations on a 3 year project led by The Met. The project is creating a network of resilient small venues by developing skills and knowledge in music programming and audience development, in order to develop new and existing audiences for each venue. This involves presenting a new offer to local communities whose behaviour suggests they are risk-averse, and only interested in mainstream offer. I led on the audience development strand, providing audience insight, detailed and tailored development plans and group workshops to improve audience focus, knowledge and confidence among the project participants.
Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool. Here I devised an extensive audience development strategy to dovetail with their new Business Plan and support a large bid to Arts Council for funding to support major capital development. The Royal Court is an atypical theatre: they attract large numbers of people from areas of deprivation and low arts engagement. I provided solid guidance on how to maintain the loyalty of this audience, whilst maximising the income-earning potential of a new second space which hopes to attract a more traditional theatre audience.
Audience Finder, North West. I have considerable experience of managing long-term, complex projects and bringing together disparate organisations to work in purposeful collaboration. As the Regional Director, NW for The Audience Agency, I was North West’s lead consultant for a major national audience research programme, Audience Finder. I set up clusters of organisations in Liverpool, Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria who have worked collaboratively over several years to collect and share audience insight. I also established a national group of craft organisations who undertook research into audiences for craft. Within this project, each organisation required individual support to tailor the research to meet their own needs, whilst remaining within a fixed structure, as the bigger picture is what brings the greatest value. This balance of flexibility on the detail combined with maintaining focus on the overall goal was vital to ensure all partners and stakeholders got what they most needed from their involvement.