Saturday, January 9, 2010 from 1:00 to 1:45 pm
With Russell Kelley (Canada Council) & Matthew Greenall (Sound and Music)
(The following notes are from Matthew Greenall)
Big topic! I will approach somewhat obliquely as new concert music only a part of SAM’s remit. However I hope reflections will be relevant, and touch on other themes that have run through the conference.
Feb 2004: meeting convened by Arts Council England. 10 organisations connected with new music in UK brought together to discuss ambitions for the sector. Orgs ranged from multi-cultural touring agencies to grass roots collectives, the national jazz agency, the MIC and professional development orgs for new music.
We established some common themes:
Arts Council then offered carrot and stick.
Carrot: new arts venue planned in central North London (Kings Place) next door to major transport hub (Kings Cross International Terminal). Mixed use of arts spaces (2 new halls) and office space with major arts friendly media client (Guardian newspaper) the main tenant. Opening 2007. We can move in, on preferential terms, and establish Kings Place as a new performance hub for new work.
Stick: we must combine to take advantage of opportunity to move in to Kings Place. Arts Council wants to write one cheque (implied: merge or your grants at risk).
Years of negotiation and politics followed. Two decisive turning points:
Eventual decision of four organisations to merge and create entirely new organisation:
Merger completed October 2008.
From earliest discussions of what would become SAM, clear that relationship with audiences would be a key development area.
2007-09: SAM worked with an audience development agency, Audiences London, to get a more complete picture of our core and potential audience.
Conducted first national audience survey (e-survey) of new music for many years. Some key findings:
Primary (e.g. in person, one-to-one) research in three areas:
What we found from primary research
An overall view emerged of an audience outside our core of professional users that was curious, open to experiment, mobile, digitally aware, sometimes wanting a personal, participative involvement in work that went beyond role as a passive audience member.
SAM is still very new and has yet to fully establish its working practise. However, three areas to highlight:
Critical mass. SAM has a combined grant of £1.26 million from Arts Council (the sum of the four founders’ grants), an endowment inherited from one of the founders, and a significant reserve. This is stronger position from which to fundraise and withstand recession, from which to develop higher-level partnerships and profile events than the founders, to offer sector leadership and develop advocacy.
Working model. Our legacy from the four founders provides us with strong profile in four interconnected areas of work- live events, learning and participation, digital/web and knowledge/resources. By combining these we can provide rich content around projects or events, offering multiple entry points to our work for audiences.
Greater fluidity for artists. By working across genres and expanding the range of contexts in which we work, we offer artists, composers and producers greater opportunities to expand their own range of practise and engage with new audiences (e.g. professional development).
Some thoughts from the perspective of SAM’s journey (in no particular order):
The UK is an environment that continually presents new challenges and new communities to address if an arts organisation is to remain relevant in a changing environment. Immigration since 1950’s and EU enlargement in 2000’s are big factors.
SAM has begun addressing some of these communities, through:
From audience research, we have objective to collect own data and build knowledge around audiences. Trying to see ourselves as we are seen and change the dialogue with venues, promoters and presenters around data sharing to get more access..
Take seriously and address the issues that alienate potential new audiences.
Engage local communities through its leaders and take new work to them in spaces where they feel at home and can bring an audience (in UK, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group is an example of good practise)
Work with and embed leading artists to make diversity implicit rather than token in an organisation. Reflect diversity on Board and staff team.