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Education Culture & Sport
Highland Council - Caithness
Vision of Caithness
6 Reaching out to the Community of Individuals
7.1 Individuals' Needs
7.1.1 Arts attenders and participants are people, individuals with needs and wants. The population can never be static, because people flow, moving through their lives and changing their behaviour and interests as they mature. The local population in Caithness appears to be particularly talented. They see potential to be exploited by increasing the local outlets to creativity and enabling more people to develop their skills and talents, especially in music, the visual arts, theatre and. dance
7.1.2 People are strongly influenced by their formative years and can be seen to reflect the time and circumstances in which they grew up. For example, the people born in the 1940s and 1950s who experienced their teenage years in the 1960s are frequently bracketed together, and are now in late middle age after the substantial changes of the post 1979 years. They are very different from the previous generations born in the 1920s and 1930s who grew up through the Second World War and its aftermath. It is important therefore to think of people in the context of their 'cohort' - the people and time they have lived through.
7.1.3 Every year new people are born - and some die. So, every year, a new group of three-year-olds is ready for a pre-school arts experience in a play group, discovering their creativity and fun with painting and sculpting, making sounds and role playing, enjoying the input of others and their creativity. For example, just thinking about theatre alone, every school year, therefore, new young people arrive so that:
primary school children need plays for under 9's both to watch and perform
theatre in education can be used in the primary school classroom as a powerful teaching tool
9-12 year olds need an exciting visit to the theatre - pantomime, spectacle
12-14 year olds should see some live theatre
adolescents gain personal confidence from drama and dance workshops
students should see their set texts performed.
7.1.4 Every year people move on through their lives and through lifestyle changes:
single young people are looking for safe places to go out and meet people
couples are looking for events to enjoy being at together that stimulate and entertain
the young family with children under 9 is looking for exciting events to stimulate their children
the family with teenage children is seeking the entertainment they can all go out to together.
older singles want stimulating performances that relax, divert, entertain, and give them something to talk about
the parents whose children are now students or working are looking for new experiences they can enjoy without child care responsibilities
the older couple seek both artistic and intellectual stimulation and nostalgic entertainment.
7.1.5 The provision of arts and entertainment can therefore never be static. It too must flow, and change is inevitable. Provision has a variety of issues to address. Afternoon concerts and theatre performances can be aimed at both older people and families, especially at the weekends, remembering that many grandparents take children to arts events. The requirements of satisfying disability can meet the needs of many older people. Daytime performances can meet the needs of shift workers, the unemployed, the elderly. Later evening performances can meet the needs of young workers, parents going out after later bedtimes for children.
7.1.6 The arts have a huge and positive role to play in peoples lives, in the quality of life they experience, in building confidence and self esteem, in education through social experience, in creating opportunities for self expression, for understanding, appreciation and enjoyment. This is alongside the economic impact of the arts and the benefits in terms of tourism, image and profile for Caithness. Without a holistic approach to arts provision and delivery, however, many of the benefits can be too easily lost.
7.2 The Needs of Young People
7.2.1 For some years the most often quoted focus of attention has been on provision for young people, both to stimulate creativity and to engage them with the rest of society. Ironically, this focus is peaking at a time when the elderly, the 60+, are now exceeding the numbers of young people under 25. Both of these groups on the one hand have specific needs and on the other share some characteristics, especially the need for local provision and out-of-home opportunities, and their greater reliance on public transport.
7.2.2 There are conflicting views on whether there should be separate provision or shared provision. It does seem realistic to provide facilities that can be used by different groups at different times without a conflict of 'ownership' or a style of operation that puts off any group. The great interest in continuing education and life-long learning may mean that while young people seek 'out of school/college' opportunities, the elderly are more willing to accept provision in schools and colleges. The key to success is a holistic view of what is being provided for whom and where. This issue has already been discussed in some detail with regard to venue provision in Thurso. It is recommended that provision in Caithness should be made on an inclusive basis, with facilities that can be used by different groups at different times.
7.2.3 Much provision for young people is usually made on a commercial basis, as is shown in the licensed premises and nightclubs of Wick and Thurso. This can lead to uneven provision, and be subject to the market-led decisions of operators and landlords. Again there are conflicting views as to whether this is an area in which local authorities should intervene; encouragement can be given to promoters and operators to consider locating to meet local needs.
7.3 Public performances and social inclusion
7.3.1 Perhaps the biggest challenge to meeting the needs of the community are the issues around 'social inclusion' - which has been described as achieving 'representative audiences'. Some argue that the way the arts have been presented for the last fifty years has conditioned some people to either view them pejoratively or to feel excluded. For these reasons it is exceptionally difficult to assess how people feel about arts provision and their engagement with it. One piece of research to identify attitudes and behaviours is another way of measuring the results of current arts policies on the population. Neglect of funding or provision determines the answers we get today. Further, social inclusion must take account of the need to develop facilities within the communities in which people live.
7.3.2 Given this last point, any development for Wick and Thurso must be balanced by complementary provision of support for arts activity throughout Caithness. The separate communities sustain local groups and societies as well as sharing facilities with the larger groups who tend to perform in the towns. For many communities and villages these provide a natural focus for local performances of a wide range of artforms and activities. Licensing, fire regulations and the Disability Discrimination Act place an increased burden on such halls to ensure equality of access and to provide a safe environment for performers, participants and attenders.
7.3.3 There is no real alternative to ensuring that local halls of whatever origin and ownership are adequately equipped, provided public access/use is guaranteed. A comprehensive detailed physical survey/review needs to be undertaken to identify how far appropriate facilities are available to each community according to population and needs. Such a survey should develop schemes to assist local halls and local groups with equipment and improvements to buildings, especially to meet the needs of the Disability Discrimination Act and to assist with participation in arts activities. Local groups and societies use the facilities in the community for both practice and presentation, and some host visiting companies and artists. Encouraging the arts in the local communities helps build a sense of place, improves access and encourages more people to be involved. It is recommended that the Highland Council support a development programme led by local partners to ensure a scheme to improve facilities in the communities by setting up an equipment bank and a fund for improvements to community halls. (A detailed checklist of such improvements is provided in Appendix 6.) This could be the subject of a Lottery application, if the criteria of the Arts Council permit this in 2004 or in the future.
7.3.4 It is worth observing that this is particularly important for music. While many people learn music and musical instruments at school, most do not continue academically or train for the conservatoires, but do continue to play. Some people become involved in music by other routes, from other traditions, including rock/pop/disco, and from other cultures. There is a common core where the boundaries of education and training, and development of a creative skill and enjoyment of a hobby blur together. Given the large proportion of music making in Caithness, and the need to provide continuing education and develop creativity beyond formal education, this could be a special opportunity for Caithness. This is to provide continuing education/training in music, open to all, with opportunities for local amateurs and encouraging the especially talented, with master-classes and workshops and support for local groups and ensembles. This may need a specific centre that could provide rehearsal and practice facilities, and encourage music making by all groups and cultures resident in Caithness. Much modern music making relies on electronics and the centre could be equipped to enable people to mix and make music and sample recordings. It could provide a 'home' for ensembles from all traditions of music making (traditional and contemporary) and a cross-roads for music development.
7.4 Marketing and social inclusion
7.4.1 It is clear that, since the advent of the 1944 Education Act, the likelihood of the UK population engaging in arts and entertainment events and activities is a product particularly of three recognised factors:
· terminal education age (the longer spent in education and the higher the qualifications, the more likely frequent attendance at the arts), · salary levels (the higher the disposable income the higher the proportion attending and the frequency of attendance): and
· age itself (attenders over 45 predominate).
While these are crude socio-economic factors, they are in themselves excluding. Younger people will not necessarily want to be seen at or attending events and activities largely enjoyed and 'owned' by older people. Events attended by people with higher incomes, regardless of dress codes, inevitably acquire a certain social ambience. Events enjoyed by people with further education qualifications tend to be described and discussed in vocabulary and terms that are both alienating and incomprehensible to some. This can be revealed in the simplest ways: the quoted review says The Scotsman liked it, a turn-off for the Daily Record reader. This impinges on both the propensity to attend and the frequency of attendance.
7.4.2 This phenomenon has been graphically described by one Scots researcher as 'not for the likes of us', the self-excluding process by which people 'read' who an event is 'for' and decide not to consider it as of interest to them. Buildings themselves are a great challenge, because they almost inevitably take on an image and personality which equates with their core supporting community of attenders, often regardless of the marketing efforts of the organisation. Age, lifestyle, interests can be revealed simply at the level of the character of drinks on offer in the bar. Some argue therefore that provision for the arts needs to be in community based buildings where such preconceptions are unlikely to be built up. The challenge is always that this tends to mean lower quality experiences from facilities that are not 'fit-for-purpose', unless the activities are specifically conceived for the space/location.
7.4.3 The groups less represented at arts events and activities include:
7.4.4 In most circumstances these under-represented groups can only be reached by being specifically targeted and, so, having their interest engaged. This usually involves not only specific schemes directly relating to them, but also special pricing (discounts and concessions) and assistance with costs (including travel). This has to be handled carefully. If one makes something accessible to an economically inactive person, this may not be helpful if they are then unable to afford to continue their involvement. Throughout the UK, however, there are outstanding examples of approaches to presenting and promoting the arts that tackle and overcome these issues of social exclusion.
7.4.5 In order to adopt an approach which is broadly 'inclusive', the first step is clearly to 'match messages to markets' to ensure that marketing does not only 'preach to the converted' but is accessible and understandable by the majority of potential attenders. It is clear that the current 'ownership' of the arts by specific people and groups of people in Caithness may mean that not everyone in the community perceives the opportunities available to them. Fundamentally this must involve informative and persuasive communication, and is as much about vocabulary, jargon, and the reading age of the public as it is about content. Many people are simply unfamiliar with art forms and events and need to be fully briefed in layperson's terms to engage with them. It is equally important, however, to ensure that messages reach their intended targets, because either prejudice or pre-conceived attitudes may mean that people neither look for, nor pay any attention to, things that they believe themselves not to be interested in, but have much to offer them.
7.4.6 Positive recruitment is therefore the most direct and effective means of building audiences and participants. One-to-one marketing in the form of 'word-of-mouth', persuading friends to accompany, bringing along new people, have long been proven to be the surest way of building audiences. Talking to people works: three very effective approaches could be essential ingredients of making the arts accessible in Caithness and therefore fundamental to arts development in the area:
a) Arts Ambassador Schemes
Arts Ambassadors work in specific communities, often on a part-time, sometimes on a voluntary, basis, to generate attendances for the arts. A skilled Ambassador can address many potential attender concerns on the spot, and is able to overcome some of the key barriers to arts attendance:
· Cultural/representation barriers
· Emotional barriers
· Barriers to participation in decision-making
· Barriers to access to information
It is essential to help arts organisations to build bridges to communities that they currently do not reach. Ambassadors schemes have been successful throughout the UK. Benefits of using Arts Ambassadors can include:
· Direct and 'live' targeting
· Ambassadors speak the language of the target market
· Access to hard-to-reach communication channels and networks
· Ambassadors by-pass customer cynicism about marketing messages
· Ambassadors' communication cuts through a barrage of other leisure and entertainment choices
· Ambassadors respond on the spot to customer objections or queries
· Support in developing databases
· Last minute sale of otherwise empty seats
· Support in sourcing and engaging with community networks
· Feedback from the target market on service, programming, marketing
b) Test Drive Schemes
The term 'Test Drive' was coined to equate marketing campaigns aimed at attracting people to an arts activity for the first time, with car retailers who encourage people to test drive their products free of charge. Test Drive acknowledges that promotional literature, for example, cannot fully communicate many of an arts events features and benefits. In other words, there's no substitute for the real thing. Test Drive can be defined as 'A planned and incentivised encouragement of people to experience something in the arts for the first time, leading to lasting relationships.' It is important that Test Drive is not a one-off promotion but about building a commitment to the event. Successful Test Drives plan every step of the relationship, not just the first event that a new customer will be brought to, but also how the relationship with that customer will be developed thereafter. Test Drive is not the solution to papering a poorly selling performance at the last minute, but is planned well in advance. Test Drive also should be a two-way relationship, and use feedback from the new customers after their first visit to inform the development of the relationship with these customers in the future.
c) Group Sales
Caithness has a large number of groups and organisations, including sports and social clubs, on top of the many arts groups and societies. By cultivating people who organise group visits, it is possible to get many of the advantages of both Test Drive and Ambassador Schemes in one and, thus, introduce large numbers at once to attending events they might be unfamiliar with. People are more willing to try something or visit an unfamiliar place in a group of their friends and colleagues, where the social element re-assures them that they will get some basic collective enjoyment out of being together and the risk of the unfamiliar is reduced.
Talks to organisations, groups and clubs about what arts organisations do, about art-forms, events and activities, serve to inform and de-mystify what is on offer for current non-attenders, so that it is possible to expand the audience for the arts. After every talk, the Ambassador role, the essential ingredient is the guided and hosted visit to an event, providing the Test Drive experience.