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Chris Grady: Ten questions from the next cultural leaders

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I’ve written a lot about Open Space Technology, a tool for creating energised and productive meetings with little/no effort. Over the last eight weeks, along with guiding my cohort of MA Arts Managers at Anglia Ruskin to understand all things Marketing, I have been suggesting different management and group operating tools.  Last week I threw the 3hr session open in Open Space to explore “What More do we need to know about marketing the arts ?”. The questions raised offer a sneak preview into the issues which are important to the next generation of cultural leaders.  I offer them as a snapshot, and for comment:

“How can you create a sense of community in a venue as a way of drawing in audiences?”; ”How much is too much information about customers?”; “How do we market the arts to show the positive impact it can have on society?”; “What is the relevance and importance of Image?”; “What are innovative ways to engage an audience?”; “How do we attract a younger audience?”; “Marketing is a strategy to attract specific groups of people – how do we deal with the exceptions?”; “How do we propagate a new type of exhibition digital interative to potential consumers?”; “How can you make everyone within an organisation be on board/buy in to the overall company mission?”; “Is all press good press for the marketing department?”.

We had too little time to tackle such weighty issues.  And for my next module which is on fundraising and development I will hold an Open Space near the start, and then shape the course to tackle each of the issues raised.  Whenever I do that, as a teacher, it keeps me alive and energised. I hope it also ensures engagement from the cohort of future colleagues.

It is a scary time for arts organisations.  We are all awaiting the reaction from our Boroughs and Local Authorities in the wake of Newcastle’s decision to cut arts in favour of essential services.  A year ago I heard on the Today programme a politician (I think from Sweden) answering the challenge of which to cut – arts or hospitals. He calmly replied that if he was to cut the arts he would have to build more hospitals I welcome someone referencing me this quote/politician because it was inspired.

I have read much in the last week haranguing the Newcastle City council.  But like all other authorities they are caught by the short and curlews.  They are required to fund better and better social services, education, policing and economic development – whilst being sucked dry of funding from the central budgets of government.  Our focus, and those of my cohort of future leaders, must be on persuading government of the value of the arts in every walk of life, and the long term social, educational, policing and economic benefits of having a strong, vibrant, inclusive, and accessible arts strategy which enriches and changes people’s lives.

Let us hope other councils (and indeed Newcastle) find a way to look to a bright future for their community, rather than accept quick cuts which bleed us dry, losing all that is great in our creative and community spirit.

I am an optimist

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