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£400K research project launched to help theatres broaden audiences

The research team from the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre, who will look at the crossover between contemporary music, theatre and visual arts audiences The research team from the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre, who will look at the crossover between contemporary music, theatre and visual arts audiences
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A new two-and-a-half-year research project has been commissioned to gain a deeper understanding of audiences in the contemporary arts.

The £428,000 study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will look at the crossover between contemporary music, theatre and visual arts audiences.

Partners in the project are the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Bush Theatre in London, Bluecoat creative hub in Liverpool, and contemporary arts centre Spike Island in Bristol.

It will culminate in a handbook of audience development strategies that could be used by organisations when considering future programming or marketing with the aim of attracting new and wider audiences.

The project is being led by led by Stephanie Pitts from the University of Sheffield’s music department, working with arts organisations across the UK.

The Sheffield-led research team will be working with partners in the arts to recruit a large number of arts organisations to gain a detailed insight into their audiences and build a network of contemporary arts organisations across the country.

The research is investigating what value the contemporary arts have to the people who engage with them, and it will look to define contemporary arts audiences and the challenges organisations face in encouraging people to engage with new or experimental art works.

Pitts said: “With many local councils cutting funding and contributions through the National Lottery in the UK down by around £55 million last year, supporting arts organisations to recruit and retain their audiences is a timely concern to which we’re glad to be able to contribute through our research.”

She added: “Our project is looking to help contemporary artists in two ways: The first phase of the study will investigate the attitudes and experiences of existing and potential audiences at contemporary arts venues. The second phase will put these findings into action by working with arts organisations to help them attract new audiences.”

The study is carried out by the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre in collaboration with Newcastle University.

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