This is a guest blog post from Jenny Daly, Campaign Manager for the Family Arts Campaign. The Campaign team support a wide range of arts organisations throughout the UK to improve their understanding of the needs of families and promote their work to a broad range of family audiences.
The Family Arts Campaign is a national collaborative initiative with the aim of increasing the number of families engaging with arts and culture. We have found that in recent years, one attitude that’s really shifted is the perception of ‘family’ as a distinct audience segment. It probably goes without saying that families today take many different guises and caring responsibilities are shared amongst different generations. Arts organisations are responding to this, making their work relevant and their welcome felt across the broadest spectrum of families.
Getting this right not only fulfils your organisation’s mission in making your work accessible for all, but it makes good business sense. Our latest independent evaluation told us that, of organisations surveyed who had been implementing measures to improve their family welcome, 33% reported an increase in earned income from family audiences alone, with 59% reporting an increase in average attendance and participation. That is really a significant reflection on how good practice with families impacts across the board.
We’ve picked up quite a few tips over the years, not least through working with an outstanding network of arts organisations throughout the UK, including now almost 500 holders of the Family Arts Standards accreditation and over 20 local Family Arts Networks.
Some points to bear in mind to help your organisation appeal to the broadest range of families:
1. Don’t make assumptions that might alienate anyone. Are your family ticket offers flexible? Do your communications and messaging portray a broad representation of families? Does your programme content appeal to different communities? Look critically at the messages you put across (even unthinkingly) and assess how they might be received. After two years of participating in the national Family Arts Festival, the London Symphony Orchestra came up with a great list of recommendations in this area. Our Content Guidance document also explores the information necessary to enable families to make decisions about attending arts events.
2. Be aware of barriers. An outing as a family can be a big undertaking- parents and carers have a lot of things to think about before the show event starts. Is there parking nearby? Is there enough time for comfort breaks? Can we be seated together? When providing for families with more complex needs, these worries multiply, as seen in our case studies for The Relaxed Concert at Town Hall Birmingham and The Drum’s Flat Out project. Being aware of difficulties many families face and providing clear and easy-to-access information about how your organisation addresses them makes a big difference.
3. Just ask- don’t be afraid of feedback. Take every opportunity to consult families on their views and experiences and regularly review the actions taken as a result. Whether it's informally, through questionnaires or deeper consultation, all methods employed by The Woodville in order to build customer confidence and loyalty. It’s important for families to feel involved and you’re likely to pick up on lots of pointers you might have overlooked by gathering a broad range of viewpoints.
4. Team-up. One thing we’ve learned for sure is that we achieve much more together. Find out about what other groups and organisations are active in engaging families in your communities and find out what you can do together. Reaching out beyond the arts is a sure-fire way of talking to families who might not be taking part already, or aware of what you’ve got to offer. Here’s a collaboration from members of the Telford Family Arts Network.
5. Share the load. Our approach to providing a good family welcome is a holistic one and doesn’t sit on any one staff member’s to-do list. Bringing different teams in your organisation together around a shared aim is what brings about change. Involve creative/ programming, marketing, box office and front of house and learning & outreach at all levels. This way, good practice becomes embedded throughout your organisation.
But don’t just take our word for it! On 15th March we’re bringing together up to 400 arts professionals to learn and share best practice in engaging families at our biennial Family Arts Conference. We’ve got a great line-up of speakers from organisations such as Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Z-Arts, ATG and many more discussing how they are working to attract new and diverse families. We hope to see you there!
The Family Arts Campaign is a national collaborative initiative with the aim of increasing the number of families engaging with arts and culture. The Spektrix team have been supporting the Family Arts Campaign to help enable arts organisations to prioritise and grow their family audiences. The Campaign has been supported by Arts Council England since 2012, with Welsh activity supported by Arts Council of Wales.
Their aims are to:
- Increase the amount and range of good quality artistic work for families
- Improve the quality of experience for families taking part
- Improve marketing to reach as many families as possible
Check out their website for more info on all the great things they’re doing.