Original full posting to the AEN frontpage by Rich Hadley
The aftershocks of the financial crisis continue to restructure the cultural landscape as profoundly as the political. Spending cutbacks across Europe force cultural ministries and funding agencies to examine priorities and needs. And in the push to find savings, it’s the ‘non-producing’ organisations, the support agencies, that seem under most pressure.
In Britain, Europe’s most comprehensive audience development support network had all of its core funding cut by Arts Council England earlier this year. Having pioneered the strategic delivery of audience engagement and intelligence gathering programmes over the last twenty years, the English audience development agencies now find themselves first to the guillotine.
Colleagues and old friends from around Europe watch events across the English Channel with unease, mindful that European cultural decision-makers take a keen interest in London - and not just its Fashion Week.
So what does the bonfire of the agencies mean for audience development in the UK?
Amid much gloom, high profile audience development agencies have or are about to close. Meanwhile uncertainty surrounds the future of the agencies’ national coordinating body Audiences UK with the departure of its Chief Executive David Brownlee.
Most intriguing of all is the plan to create a self-financing, not for profit, national audience development organization called Audiences Plus by April 2013. The idea is to ‘merge’ Manchester-based All About Audiences with other audience development agencies like Audiences London to ‘deliver excellence’ in services across arts, museums, libraries, film and heritage throughout England. It’s an ambitious vision and though the plans are said to be ‘embryonic’ at this stage, there’s no doubting the resolve of two of the key players, CEOs Ivan Wadeson, from All About Audiences and Anne Torreggiani, from Audiences London.
'Services will be modelled on the most successful ones currently on offer in some regions but adapted to encompass the best elements of others. Importantly, the needs of our clients and users will shape their evolution’ said Anne Torreggiani.
‘It’s good news for organisations in London, as Audiences Plus will ensure the future of ground-breaking initiatives like Snapshot London - that have evolved here, but will also bring the best of other audience development opportunities from across the country’ she added.
The upcoming Audiences Central symposium – Jolt - in Birmingham taking place later in October could turn out to be a landmark event, swansong for the old order, but perhaps the herald of a new beginning.
With both Ivan Wadeson and Anne Torreggiani participating in the conversation, European audience development professionals with an eye to the fashions might pick up a few pointers for their own new funding season.
Book for Audiences Central Symposium Jolt October 20 Birmingham. Still places available for European delegates.
Photo: London Fashion Week
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