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The Hottest Topics at the Family Arts Conference

Kerry went along to the 2015 Family Arts Conference in London. Here's a few of her thoughts on the hottest topics at the conference this year.

The Family Arts Campaign strives to increase the levels of arts engagement by families, helping children and adults to experience everything the arts has to offer. Their annual conference brings the worlds of visual and performing arts together to discuss what’s next in the world of family arts – I attended this year’s conference at Cadogan Hall and the Royal Court in London, and came back to the office with a head full of thoughts. Accessibility, price, and communications were the day’s key focus from my view here at Spektrix. This round-up blog takes a look at what was discussed on the day, and why it’s important for the arts sector to take their family audiences seriously.

Pricing

Baker Richards research (commissioned by the Family Arts Campaign) indicated that rather than choosing to buy a ‘Family Ticket’, customers now often prefer to buy individual tickets for everyone in the family, with children’s tickets at a lower price. The modern family has changed, and the way they buy tickets has changed too. We can’t assume that families come with 2 parents and 2.5 children, so offering them Family package deals that are prescriptive and lack flexibility are becoming outdated. Families come in all sizes!

Adding value

Ben shared the importance of communicating your whole package to your customers, highlighting the importance of pre and post-show emails for communicating everything that families might need to know – how to get there, where to park, and so on. A family’s experience begins long before a show starts, so the easier you can make the experience the greater the perceived value is going to be, resulting in customers who are more likely to return or recommend you to their friends. Another fantastic example from Woodville showed how important it is to showcase how well set-up you are for families, with this deceptively simple video that took the conference by storm.

Yet, whether it’s seen as good value or not, the pricing of family events can remain a barrier to entry regardless. I was particularly interested to hear how, when the Royal Opera House found it too expensive to subsidise their tickets, they found new methods of adding value to the price; families at the ROH were invited to meet backstage crew and see costumes, lighting and other aspects of the production, giving them a unique taster of what the venue had on offer but also making ballet and opera seem much less daunting to them. This idea of making the arts seem less intimidating to family audiences played an important role at the 2015 Audiences NI Conference too, in Belfast back in February, where some of the ideas discussed could have a significant impact on family audiences right across the UK.

Removing barriers

The Arts and Leisure Committee of NI looked closely into the inclusion of low income communities into the arts, with a new project under the banner Test Drive the Arts. This project sought to introduce people to the arts for the first time, or encouraged lapsed customers to reattend, by offering free tickets from spare or unsold capacity. The committee shared their findings from the project, which successfully introduced more than 20,000 new customers to 95 arts organisations through 1,532 performances from across Northern Ireland. With the project now in its fifth year, Audiences NI reported that 73% had reattended since their Test Drive experience with nearly 50% attending twice – 16% said they are now an advocate of the arts in Northern Ireland as a result of test drive. Could a similar scheme work for family audiences?

The Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee of Northern Ireland also shared emerging themes from their inquiry into inclusion of working class communities within the arts. The inquiry suggested that barriers included a misunderstanding of the arts, with many participants recognising the arts only as ‘high arts’ such as ballet and opera, where an intrinsic fear of these high art forms and the venues they were presented in made many participants feel intimidated. The enquiry also pointed out that barriers to entry are often to do with communication – event descriptions need to be accessible and not intimidating. Social media, for instance, can be harnessed to reach out to those in marginalised communities bringing them across to arts and culture.

Getting communications right

I was thinking about this final point in particular during the Family Arts Conference, as effective communication is often the deciding factor in how successful family arts events are. Spektrix’s very own Emily Childs (speaking on a panel discussion about marketing to families) made an important point on this. Emily rightly pointed out that families are not a homogenous group, meaning that accurate and relevant segmentations are vital to communicating with them in the right way. ‘Family’ is not the same for everyone, so an intelligent family segmentation model should reflect the differences between families based on the (ever increasing!) age of their children. Similarly, as Ben Park stated, when people have a child they ‘don’t actually have a lobotomy’, pointing out that it’s the adults who buy the tickets and not the children – it’s important to target the content of your marketing at the correct people.

Did you attend the Family Arts Conference 2015? Is there more the arts should be doing to include families in the arts and culture? Leave a comment below!