Theatron @ EU Conference Audiences: 2020

In October 2012, Theatron was invited to present its network and objectives at the EU conference “European Audiences: 2020 and beyond.” As audience development is becoming an integral part of arts funding, here’s an overview of our contribution and of the key themes of the conference.

Why a European Conference on Audience Development?

Jargon Buster: Audience development has become increasingly fashionable as a concept for  policy makers and much debated in the cultural sector itself. A wide range of terminology and jargon abounds and terms such as “access to culture”, “cultural education”, “cultural inclusion”, “arts marketing” are used indiscriminately to describe very different ideas and trends. In October 2013, the European Commission organised a large international get together to exchange ideas and information about the concept with cultural operators, projects and practice.

The aim of the conference was to gather input from experts and practitioners on audience development in order to inform the new Creative Europe Framework Programme.

The Role of Theatron

Theatron was invited to present its concept and objectives as part of the best practice showcase of the conference. The case study was included in the Best Practice Book (download here as pdf; page 54)

Theatron at Audience Development‘We need to know more about our current and potential audiences, and engage with them, so that we can attract and retain them’, he says. This is why he is leading a European project looking at how to create lasting relationships with audiences. It is promoting co-productions of new works (seven are planned across seven countries) in which community engagement is a central element. ‘If theatre is to fulfil its role as a space for reflecting life through an artistic prism, removed from everyday reality, then it has to do more than marketing, and engage audiences in the entire creative process, in programming, artistic creation, and communication.’

Michael Mansdotter, Director, Odense Theatre on behalf of Theatron

In addition, Theatron Director Lars Seeberg was invited to join the discussion on “Hosting the Audience” (see full video below):

Lars Seeberg“The houses will have to change. They have to change their structures, their organisation in order for people who knowabout marketing and education to get together with the artists and really discuss: Why are you doing this? Who do you think you reach? and How should we then respond?”

Lars Seeberg, Theatron Director, interviewed at the Conference

Empowering – Engaging – Hosting Audiences

The conference focussed on three themes:

  1. Empowering the audience : Shared choice?
  2. Engaging the audience: Shared experience? Diversifying the audience: Shared access?
  3. Hosting the audience: Cultural institutions under the microscope.

Empowering the Audience

The cultural institution must accept the reality that it is no longer the solo gate-keeper to people’s tastes. Being and remaining relevant may require involving the public more closely in programming, in content decisions and in opportunities for feedback.

Find out more about this theme on the conference website

Engaging the Audience

Providing audiences with opportunities for dialogue is becoming more and more essential. This can involve discussion and interaction with the artists themselves as well as with the hosting organisations, journalists and in other fora. Another interesting trend is a growing tendency to move beyond the audience as simply a passive spectator towards being an active participant in the creative process itself.

 Find out more about this theme on the conference website

Hosting the audience

Cultural institutions need to adopt new approaches, develop new skills and work in new partnerships to rise to the challenge of audience development. They should become welcoming places not just for core audiences, but for the broader community which should feel a sense of pride and loyalty towards the institution.

 Find out more about this theme on the conference website

Conclusions and Outlook

Conference ConclusionsThe conference confirmed that this new emphasis on audience development could be the beginning of a great cultural movement and civic participation that starts with audiences, not in closed rooms. “The new role of arts managers should be to create reputable experiences and to invite people to a journey together” and “something is going on in Europe … do you feel the new wind blowing?” concluded Mary McCarthy and Chris Torch respectively, the conference moderators.

People are hungry for social engagement and connecting in communities. Cultural organisations and audiences should move forward confidently together, and these conversations with audiences will ensure the long-term sustainability of the cultural sector.

Download the Conference Conclusions (pdf)

 

 

 

 

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