Orchestras Live conference focuses on audiences and evaluation
Orchestras Live staged a successful conference on 30 April that saw 80 orchestral managers, venue managers, promoters, local authority officers and funders come together for a day of debate and discussion at the newly-opened Curve in Leicester.
The morning session focussed on strategies for retaining and developing audiences during the economic downturn. Speakers included Neil Bennison (Nottingham Royal Centre) and Kevin Appleby (Turner Sims Concert Hall) who talked about recent initiatives at their own very different-scale venues, and David Curtis (Orchestra of the Swan) who talked about how they engage with audiences directly.
After lunch, the focus changed to an in-depth look at evaluation in a session led by researcher and facilitator Phyllida Shaw. She explained how the arts sector’s interest in evaluation has grown over the past 20 years, how our perceptions of its value have changed, how methods of evaluating have developed and how evaluation is now viewed by the funding system. There were also case studies from, amongst others, sinfonia ViVA and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Also at the conference, Henry Little – Chief Executive of Orchestras Live – outlined their ambitions for the coming three years, and there was a chance for Orchestras Live to talk about the work it is doing with regards to an evaluation framework over the coming year. And giving the day a change of dynamic, the delegates watched (and took part in) an excerpt from the Life in the Forest project run by Orchestras Live, sinfonia ViVA and North West Leicestershire District Council, that included 30 local schoolchildren, animateur Jack Ross, and musicians from ViVA.
Speaking about the day, Henry Little said: “the conference was a really valuable opportunity to bring together our partners and colleagues to talk about what we think are two of the biggest issues facing the industry at the moment – retaining and building audiences, and the importance of effective evaluation. It is rare that orchestral managers get the chance to meet with venue managers, promoters and funders under one roof, but as the national agency for the development of professional orchestral music, Orchestras Live is uniquely placed to provide that opportunity. I’m confident that the conference stimulated some fresh thinking to make us better equipped for the challenges of the future, and some excellent conversations were had.”
A report on the conference is now available to download from this website. In addition, you can listen to audio extracts from the conference sessions on our media player, including Henry Little's keynote address, Phyllida Shaw on the function of evaluation, and part of the Life in the Forest session.
After the conference we received some very positive feedback from those who attended, including:
“Yesterday was, I thought, an excellent conference – tight, intensive and very good content – and well presented by all.”
“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the conference yesterday; I found the morning very stimulating, I enjoyed the Life in the Forest greatly and the session on evaluation took me to an area I hadn't really thought about very much before. All supported by such capable speakers and presenters. I made a number of contacts too - some of which I have made use of already! Altogether a very worthwhile day.”
"Very enjoyable and well organised... . I am glad I came.”
“I felt that the whole day was particularly successful, and the chance to share others’ experience was very welcome and stimulating. I am very sure that all of us were very pleased to hear about Orchestras Live’s strategy for the future, and that it’s being approached so positively.”
“Always good to stop and think about why and how we do it.”
"A very informative and useful day."