Colchester Experience – by Charlotte
Travelling down to Colchester was quite an exciting experience for all of us as it was a place we had never been before! Of course London on the other hand was the same old bustling city as we got the chance to stay at St Pancras Youth Hostel. I think it made everything that little bit more like we were going on Holiday! I was really looking forward to visiting Firstsite as being part of the Circuit programme I knew it would contain interesting work and then again even more interesting people.
When we arrived we were greeted by Roz and the team who are always extremely warm and friendly and let us settle into the space, which I have to say is incredibly impressive. It’s light, spacious and a credit to Colchester city centre. We were greeted by a lovely breakfast buffet which we were extremely delighted about as caffeine was on the brain having been travelling all morning.
The presentations were great, focusing on evaluation, it was inspiring to see so many young people from across the country planning, creating and evaluating events entirely from scratch. It was also a great opportunity to get feedback from the Circuit critical friend as our June event is fast approaching and it was extremely beneficial to gain new and fresh ideas to help us improve and focus on the next up and coming events at the Whitworth!
The experience all in all was a great opportunity to see what other galleries do and the involvement they have within the Circuit programme. It was a highly enlightening weekend, which inspired me to want to increase my productivity within the work that Circuit does.
Questions from the session – Answered by the group
Thinking about your role as an evaluator, at your gallery, for Circuit, have you devised or used any tools or processes for evaluation that have been new to the gallery?
‘The Anonymous Bowl’ seemed to work really well as it gave people the chance to speak really honestly about the programme, which was constructive. Making use of a dictaphone in group meetings has also been effective as group conversations often produce more interesting results, as members are able to feed / bounce off each others points.
For our event in June we are planning to make a ‘Thumb Print Map’. This will form a large-scale participatory infographic, which people can take part in quickly and easily. We plan to do this at all of our future events and overtime build an artwork that tracks the locations of our audiences & how accurately these align with who we are targeting.
In your role as an evaluator, at your gallery, what have you learnt or found out?
Nobody is particularly keen on taking part in evaluation, or being knowingly ‘evaluated’. You have to try and be creative with how you collect and record information. Having said this, its important not to over complicate things – usually the simpler the better.
Has what you have done, learnt or found out made a difference to how you will think about or do things in future?
Yes definitely. You don’t have to overthink things. Try not to use the word ‘evaluation’ as this can be a trigger to lose someone’s attention. Forms are always unpopular so try and avoid this format as much as possible when collecting information from visitors to your event! Using the word ‘feedback’ sounds better as it seems less formal and makes the visitor’s opinion feel constructive and more valued rather than just being collected for ticking boxes.
Do you think that your work, as an evaluator could or will influence what happens at the gallery more broadly in future (i.e not just in Circuit).