What kind of Arts Council do we need?

As Peter Brook once remarked, theatre is now, and always has been, in crisis. Whatever the nature of the continuing existential threat that Brook Identified the truth is that theatre in Ireland (as in many other parts of the world) is facing a sustained economic and ideological challenge that will change how we conceive of, create, and experience theatre.

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Culturally Creative or Creatively Cultural? What the hell are we talking about?!

I’m sorry, you say I’m doing what?

For artists, arts policy makers, politicians, strategists, consultants, entrepreneurs, CEOs and, well, mostly artists “the world is in a terrible state of chassis”, as Sean O’Casey wrote. (“Chassis” meaning “chaos’ for those of us not familiar with his work). Time was you could talk about Arts and Culture (nearly always with capital letters) and everybody – including you – knew what you meant. It’s why the Irish Arts Act lists what can be considered as art with great confidence and only included cinema in its second iteration. It made life easy for the funding agencies that were brought into existence to protect and develop The Arts (because we all knew what art was) and allowed us to quietly divide the society between the cultured (those who appreciated The Arts) and the uncultured (those who did not).  Alas, all has changed, a terrible beauty has been born, as Yeats would say.

We now have to contend with arts, culture (no capital letters), heritage, co-creation, prosumers (yes its a word), creative, industry, imagination, creative industries, culture and cultural industries, Culture 3.0, and of course the ongoing manichean struggle between intrinsic and instrumental value.  It ain’t easy.

So, with the Irish Government’s  first ever cultural policy – Culture2025 – in the pipeline I thought I’d try to tease out some of the key terms that are going to get thrown around in the forthcoming debate. It’s important that we all agree on the meaning of the words we use in this debate and how they relate to each other or we’re in danger of leaving the table with very different expectations. Agreeing on the meaning of what we’re saying is the first step toward strategic alignment – that magical state where everybody works together toward the same goal.

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So why aren’t they coming to see my work? Audience development and the Law of Diffusion

We hate to admit that some stuff is simply beyond our control. We also don’t like thinking that what we do is elitest, or of genuine interest to very few people. The unfortunate – mathematical – truth is that so long as what we do is deemed or perceived to be new, complex or innovative, (a word much misused in the arts in my opinion) then we will only ever attract a small number of people. Why is that?
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What Google Adwords tells us about our Audience

People who use Google Search already know what they’re looking for. So how many people are looking for theatre? I was working on a digital marketing strategy for a client recently and we decided to ask Google Keyword Planner how many people search for theatre in Ireland. If we knew that we’d get a sense of the level of interest in theatre among the Google using population – which is a lot of people. So here’s the monthly average figures: 720 people a month search for theatre, 590 search for drama and 120 search for plays. You can look at this in two ways: a) not a lot of people are searching for theatre, or b) people don’t use that generic term when they search because they have a much clearer sense of what they want. So we asked some more questions….. Continue reading What Google Adwords tells us about our Audience

Customers and End Users

So here’s the thing.  No matter what you’re making, be it art, drugs or breakfast cereal you can thing of your audience in terms of Customers and End Users. The simplest way of illustrating the difference is with nappies. The parents are the customers, but the babies are the end-users. So although your end users may vastly outnumber your customers – it’s the customers who are paying for what you do and its their needs and expectations that need to be met. Sure, the babies have to be comfortable and kept dry but beyond that its the parents that we need to keep onside.

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