Following the success of a regional audience research project, which involved hundreds of families across the North East, a new public campaign is launching to encourage more families to experience and enjoy the wide range of cultural experiences on offer in the North East.
Family Explorers (www.familyexplorers.co.uk), is an exciting and effective way for families in interact and engage with the cultural sector and get more out of the fantastic offer in place across a broad range of cultural forms – from children’s books, film, theatre and music, to heritage, contemporary art, science and dance. The initiative follows years of research by cultural sector partners to better understand the needs of family audiences.
Following a number of NGCV pilot projects, the Family Explorers learning and research project was launched in June 2012. Chaired by Seven Stories (The National Centre for Children’s Books), the regional partnership included all ten NGCV partners, as well as other cultural organisations (Beamish, Bowes Museum, Customs House, Preston Park Museum and Gardens, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, The Forge, and Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives) and key supporters, including the Cultural Ambassadors Network, Bridge North East, Arts Council England, Audiences North East and Juice Festival/NewcastleGateshead Initiative.
The Family Explorers research aimed to understand if a more embracing way of communicating and engaging with families would lead to a change in their willingness to try new cultural experiences and to engage in a broad range of activities across the different cultural forms. The partners wanted to know whether the introduction of new communication practices by the cultural partners would result in stronger relationships with families in the North East.
Taking place from June 2012 - March 2014, Family Explorers worked in partnership with 18 Primary Schools in the North East who helped recruit the 229-strong family focus group that shaped the conclusions and recommendations of the project.
A series of family workshops delivered by facilitators from the cultural organisations helped assess families’ openness to risk and introduced them to the range of cultural venues and activities on offer. Over the course of a year, the Family Explorers visited venues, providing detailed feedback on their experiences to each other via social media.
Families had access to a range of collective communication tools to help them access and learn about the cultural venues, encourage them to visit new ones and importantly share their experience with other families. A weekly e-newsletter shared upcoming cultural activities and events that they could attend and a private Facebook group allowed families to post feedback and recommendations for other families involved in the project.
The conclusion of the research phase of the Family Explorers project resulted in some very interesting results. One of the most significant findings was that families involved in the project had increased ‘cultural confidence’ and now felt comfortable trying new experiences across a range of venues. The weekly e-newsletter and Facebook group were perceived to be very useful tools in planning and sharing cultural experiences. The opportunity for families to communicate with one another and share reviews and experiences, as well as provide recommendations, was valued very highly.
In July 2014, Family Explorers re-launched as Family Explorers North East with the families involved in the research phase and from 9th October will be inviting all families across the North East to join the initiative. This public project will be putting the research findings into practice.
Family Explorers North East has its own website, www.familyexplorers.co.uk, where families can sign up to the weekly e-newsletter and the public Facebook group - the two platforms identified in the research project as the most effective in communicating with families.
The network of partners includes 13 cultural organisations operating 24 venues in the North East. This group of partners is also a designated Local Arts Network, as part of the national Family Arts Campaign, continuing this role from the research phase. The national campaign runs the Family Arts Festival, this year taking place from 17th October to 2nd November 2014, which promotes family friendly activities across the UK. North East partners are sharing their events and activities throughout the festival period. The national campaign also aims to increase levels of cultural engagement by families. As part of its membership of the national campaign, all cultural venues involved in Family Explorers North East have achieved the national Family Arts Standards in recognition of their commitment to providing excellent family experiences.
Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories and Chair of Family Explorers North East said: “This is a very exciting time for everyone involved in the project. After years of research we’re now rolling out Family Explorers to the public and inviting them to come and enjoy our venues and share their experiences.
“Families really value recommendations and that’s a very important learning from the research project. We want families to be ambassadors for the cultural sector and shout about the things they’ve enjoyed, and importantly, the things we can improve. It’s important that families have a platform to talk to one another and somewhere they can find events and experiences just for them. We want Family Explorers to be that place.”
For more information about Family Explorers North East, visit the website here
For more information about the 2012-14 Family Explorers research project and its findings, click here
A list of partners involved in the Family Explorers North East network is below, with links to their individual websites: