On 6 Feb 2016 Circulate members gathered at Nottingham Contemporary to conduct an analysis of evidence from the Unlock Cambridge festival and Nottingham Contemporary’s Affinity festival, to identify key learning and produce helpful guidance for future festivals.
A clear set of learning points and questions to be considered, were identified, which can be summarised as follows:
Successes to build on when planning future festivals and events
- Use local young people’s knowledge, understanding and insight into the issues that local people feel passionate about, to engage local people.
- Use universally recognised processes and activities, such as games, to initially engage people, in an inclusive way.
- Include opportunities for people to contribute their opinion in an interactive way so that they feel involved and develop a sense of ownership or investment in the festival and ultimately in the group / programme / gallery.
- Use outdoor space to engage people who might be daunted at the idea of entering a gallery and to raise awareness of the festival / programme / group / gallery.
- Create festivals with a wide range of activities and events and a “continuous flow of entertainment” to engage a wide range of people and so that people become more familiar with a wide range of cultural experiences and expressions, thereby breaking down stereotypes.
- Provide free food and refreshments to engage those who might not be able to afford to buy food at gallery process and as an incentive to engage.
- Make high demand for activities visible but ensure there are enough spaces for all to take part.
- Ensure hashtags are simple, memorable and used on all marketing and publicity.
- Use space in new and interesting ways that make the most of their unique characteristics but also in order to make people feel comfortable and relaxed.
- Provide things (such as portraits or rubber ducks) that people can take away with them, as reminders of their experience so that they are more likely to return.
Important questions for future festival curators and organisers to consider:
- How can we make the audience more aware that being an audience member is, in itself, a creative and active thing?
- How can we make links and themes that may be apparent to us, such as between exhibitions and festival activities, more obvious for those who are visiting?
These learning points and questions are a useful addition to the learning points identified by Circulate after the Blueprint festival.
For more detail about the key findings that fed into these learning points see the supporting post: Circulate’s Festival Sense Making.