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The Unusual Suspects

1st October 2014

A project that aims to better understand arts and culture audiences in the North East is underway following a significant funding win by NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV).

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Centre for Life, Dance City, Live Theatre, Northern Stage, Sage Gateshead, Seven Stories, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Tyneside Cinema are all involved in The Unusual Subjects – a major piece of work that aims to explore the how audience data could help the sector increase engagement opportunities for existing and new audiences and arts and cultural venues in the North East.

Working in partnership with cultural strategy and research agency Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and software development agency Tariff Street, NGCV secured £184,325 of funding from The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts to develop the year-long project. The £7 million fund from Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta was introduced to support collaboration between arts projects, technology providers and researchers to explore the potential of increasing audience engagement or finding new business models.

Mark Dobson, Chief Executive of Tyneside Cinema and Chair of the NGCV Audience Development Group said: “One of the great strengths of NGCV is our ability to work together, to share ideas and learn from one another. The Unusual Suspects project will pool our understanding of cultural audiences in the North East, which will go on to inform how we communicate with them and increase attendance across the sector.

“Our aim is to develop a more meaningful relationship with our stakeholders and encourage them to seek out and enjoy more cultural experiences.”

Traditional arts marketing is often challenged as only speaking to engaged audiences or ‘the usual suspects’. NGCV organisations involved in The Unusual Suspects hope to develop a more detailed understanding of arts audiences, particularly those who engage infrequently, in order to better understand their behaviours and triggers.  

NGCV, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and Tariff Street are currently in the process of creating a ‘Data Commonwealth’, a brand new shared database across NGCV that existing audiences will be invited to join.

Mark Dobson explained: “We’re currently cleansing and de-duplicating our individual venue databases so the audience data can be pooled into one ‘Data Commonwealth’. From here we can test the most effective ways to re-engage lapsed or infrequent attendees and begin a journey with them that we hope will result in better engagement.

“It’s also very important that we look at ways we can sign-post our audiences to other venues and encourage people to enjoy all aspects of the cultural sector in NewcastleGateshead and the North East.

“We continue to receive a huge amount of support from Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and Tariff Street and I’d like to thank them on behalf of everyone at NGCV for the invaluable knowledge and support.”

The Unusual Suspects sits alongside other NGCV audience research projects including Family Explorers North East, which aims to support families in engaging with arts and culture and help them access and get the most from the broad spectrum of experiences on offer.  They are also encouraged to act as ambassadors and share their views and experiences with others.

Further information:

For more details about The Unusual Subjects: click here

For more information about The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts: click here

For more information on the projects and findings from funded projects nationally: click here

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