(Part 1 of 2)
For the last year or so I have participated in the RSA Cultural Evidence champions network. I was particularly interested in joining off the back of work I had done evaluating a theatre in libraries project that you can read more about here if you like. (or here). If you aren’t particularly interested in education, I think the broader arguments about evaluation in the cultural sector will still be of interest. What? You don’t like evaluation either? I am shocked! Well, not that shocked.
Festivals and interesting contradictions go hand in hand, in fact, this may be critical to their fundamental appeal. One of their most compelling contradictions, for me, has been the endless dilemma between their undeniable environmental impact and the effect of the ‘green-tinted glasses’ through which it often seems tempting to view them.
Rock N Heim Camping – pixabay
Survey-based research methods are nothing particularly new to the event and festival sector; and in a forthcoming journal article (Event Management), myself and co-author James Bostock (Derby University) carry out an in depth analysis of past, current and future trends.
Yeah, we may use survey methods a lot in this field, but that doesn’t mean we’re somehow exceptionally good at it or that all the different variations of surveys can just all be lumped together and considered as ‘basically the same thing’. As a proportion, we’re doing ‘less’ surveys, but as the literature expands, there is still more and more research using surveys.
AKA: Rich has had too much coffee on a Friday and gotten heavily sidetracked.
The university I often work for (and have two degrees from) has a pretty good reputation for environmental sustainability. De Montfort University has recently become a Global Hub for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs aren’t entirely focused on carbon emissions, pollution or waste but impact on the natural environment is obviously a very big part of it.
One thing they’ve done recently is a very big push towards eliminating single use plastics on campus, specifically in the realm of disposable hot drink containers. Rather than give a 25p discount for bringing a reusable mug for your hot drink, the university now charges 25p more if you *dont* bring a reusable mug. As the new academic year starts and at events like freshers week, thousands of free reusable mugs have been given away to staff and students to help encourage this.
Wow, cool! So, how many reusable mugs have been given out? 21,000 ?!?
Here are some thoughts and findings from phase one of a project I was involved in (and remain involved in phase two). Hopefully anyone interested in libraries, arts, culture and arts education will find it useful.
“Among Ideal Friends (AIF) is a touring performance project developed by The Spark Arts for Children in partnership with Libraries in the East Midlands. Working together to deliver and transport high quality family theatre performances and workshop activities, inspired by books and stories for children, families and schools, alongside training for library staff and community volunteers.”
A Boy and A Bear in a Boat (one of the AIF shows, by Stewart Melton adapted from the book by Dave Shelton)
I worked with The Spark Arts for about a year on this and it was great to be able to vary and refine the approach to evaluation throughout. As someone primarily in the arts & events field, the role of libraries in the wider cultural sector was not something I would have previously considered myself particularly well informed about. Considering that they represent a nation-spanning, universally provided range of facilities or venues usually offering free and unlimited access to assorted cultural experiences, goods and services… in retrospect, well, that seems like an oversight! Especially given the recent and emerging debates around cultural democracy and everyday participation.
How do you get to know more about what kinds of people attended an event?
Two fairly common quantitative approaches to this question are surveys and segmentation. Regarding the latter, we’re talking specifically about geodemographic segmentation, rather than sales or marketing based segmentation.
What if someone was able to do both and compare the difference in results?
Or is this more like a Ghostbusters ‘don’t cross the streams’ kind of thing? Read on and find out.
(Note this is a longer version of an article originally published on Arts Professional : link)
Leicester Arts Festivals (LAF) is a support network consisting of twenty-four arts festivals and a number of supporting organisations, established in 2014. The festivals range in audience size from the hundreds to the hundreds of thousands, from the recently established to the decades old, and between them covering almost every art form, organisational type and event format imaginable in one of the most demographically plural cities in the UK. Amongst other activities, the network completed a year-long research project, collating baseline data and a comparative analysis of audiences from participating members. From twenty-four festivals, eighteen participated in an organisation survey and six participated in a survey of their audiences. Some interesting highlights and relevant issues for the wider festival and event community to consider are suggested below.