“You’ll never regret taking a scarf.”
Sounds weird, but that’d be the advice I’d have given myself a year ago when I started this job. That’s because I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 12 months in chilly church halls, rainy parks and draughty university buildings (it’s all glamour working in theatre y’know!)
Having spent five years working on all sorts of productions as part of the marketing team here; 2016 saw me taking a hop, skip and jump across to a new role where warm clothing, a sense of humour and a willingness to sometimes get it wrong are all essential.
So what’s ‘audience development’ then? Put simply, it’s all about growing and broadening our audiences and encouraging people from all walks of life to engage in some way with what The Lowry does.
And it starts with trying to figure out why people might NOT want to engage.
I spend a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of what it is that puts people off coming to somewhere like The Lowry, or watching a particular type of show. So that means going out and talking to people over a cuppa, sending out surveys, delving into databases – all in the name of figuring out what the barriers are for people. Then comes the fun bit: working out what we can do to overcome those barriers.
Let’s take dance as an example. The Lowry presents a huge programme of dance with everything from ballet to contemporary to hip hop. However, a lot of people who may consider themselves regular theatregoers, may never have given dance a thought. But as lots of us can confidently say, when we do get over our anxieties and go watch some dance, we can be absolutely blown away and converted overnight.
So we’re putting some initiatives in place to hopefully encourage more people to give dance a try.
You’ve always wanted to see a ballet but it’s far too expensive?
You’ve only ever watched plays or musicals at the theatre and are a bit reluctant to commit time and money to trying out dance. And how do you even know what type of dance you might like?
Come to Dance: Sampled where you can see eight different dance styles in one evening, for £15!
You feel like dance can be all a bit intellectual and high art-y?
We’re producing a host of videos, podcasts and blogs, stripping away all the complicated insider language and showing that you don’t need a PhD to enjoy dance.
Then the final part of the puzzle is evaluating and monitoring the success of these initiatives, learning from that, and trying something new next time if we need to.
For someone like me who’s passionate about getting more people into theatres and galleries, fascinated by what makes people tick, and always keen for a cuppa and a chat, it’s really the perfect job!