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This week, I have been in New York, representing ARC and Future Arts Centres at the International Society for the Performing Arts Congress, as well as seeing shows at the Under the Radar festival.
It’s really easy to approach conferences with ‘over-expectations’ of coming away with amazing new information and ideas. Generally this isn’t what happens. More likely, you’ll see or hear a few new things that given time and space, can permeate your own thoughts and practice. What is vital for me when I attend events such as ISPA is to seize the opportunity that being away from your organisation affords you: to look at ARC from a different perspective, in this case, a global one, and ask some new questions.
That’s certainly been the case here, as I have spent time with Gavin Barlow from the Albany, reflecting on how our organisations currently work together, and how we can share our experiences and learning even more effectively in future. For a while now we have been exploring ideas around artistic leadership, programming and decision-making, and what that should look like in community arts centres such as ours - both very similar in ethos but working with very different local communities. During this week, we have started to answer some of those questions, and our ideas have begun to crystallise. As a result, we will have some exciting new plans to share later in the spring.
One of the things ARC and the Albany currently work together on is our charitable giving campaign, A Theatre Trip for Every Child. It is a two year pilot campaign designed to support the development of a culture of philanthropic giving amongst individuals and businesses local to our centres.
We’re now looking to beyond the pilot, so the opportunity to meet Jessica Massart, Kickstarter’s Senior Lead for performing arts, was timely. Jessica was incredibly generous with her time, and I learnt more about crowdfunding from meeting her that from my actual experience of it. It was particularly useful to reflect on the wider outcomes of fundraising. Our Every Child campaign has never just been about the money - although it does mean thousands of five year olds can experience live theatre - it’s also about how we tell our story, and how we use that to form new relationships. We all know asking people for money is always hard. Being clear about what else you are trying to achieve can make it just that little bit easier.