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Want new audiences? Look to schools, urges report

York Theatre Royal. Photo: De Matos Ryan York Theatre Royal was one of the organisations used as a case study. Photo: De Matos Ryan
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Cultural organisations should do more to integrate with schools and better reflect their local communities, according to a new Europe-wide study of audience development activity.

The study, undertaken by a consortium led by Italian culture body Fondazione Fitzcarraldo with Culture Action Europe, ECCOM and Intercult, looked at 30 arts organisations from 17 countries as case studies, including the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, York Theatre Royal and The Point in Eastleigh.

Among its eight recommendations for adapting cultural policy to be centred more on audiences, the report advises organisations to forge links with schools and universities, noting that art education is a “key precondition” for audience development programmes.

Since 2009 York Theatre Royal has run TakeOver, a project for 12 to 26-year-olds which gives participants full control over the creation of a festival.

Venues should also take a longer term view of audience development than is currently taken, according to the study, and it should be a process that embraces the whole organisation.

Many of the organisations used as case studies referred to a need for improved co-ordination between departments, particularly between the artistic direction and the programming, marketing and education departments.

The report suggests that this lack of co-ordination partly stems from the need for more training.

It explains: “Some skills and competences are particularly lacking: data analysis, marketing, participatory project management, mediation, digital and social media management, evaluation, team working and lateral thinking.”

As well as the final report, the research project has created a number of freely available guides to help cultural organisations.

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