Audience Development Strategy – Justification

This blog post contains the Audience Development Strategy document I developed in collaboration with Hyowon Choi, another student in my project group.

Introduction

Section 1: Age

Section 2: Family structure & life stage

Section 3: Income and employment

Section 4: Education level obtained

Section 5: Digital use and streaming

Section 6: Ethnicity

Section 7: Disability & Mental Health

Section 8: Confidence & Engagement with the arts

Section 9: Location

Introduction:

Contemporary collecting provides an opportunity to collect and represent experiences that have been historically neglected in museums and art galleries. To challenge this historical habit, we have chosen to appeal to the Audience Spectrum Profile who have been most significantly impacted by the virus – financially, by health risks, through social isolation and the political context and environment. The profile that most comprehensively represents this group is Kaleidoscope Creativity, as the most diverse audience group in every way – all information has been collated by the Audience Spectrum Statistical Appendix. Within this document will be outlined the demographic statistics for this group, along with justification as to how they have been affected by Covid-19 and why engagement is necessary, important and timely. They make up 9% of English households and are one of the lowest engaged audience groups – our research shows there’s incentive to build a sense of familiarity with the arts for this group, also that an online exhibition would be suitable, and could provide an opportunity for social interaction and engagement that will have been sorely missed during the pandemic. Primarily, the proposed exhibition, [in]visibility, is designed to draw attention to the societal inequalities faced by this audience profile and its community members. The inequalities and discrimination against their protected characteristics were pre-existing, but have been thrown into the public eye and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. A hyperlocal focus on Manchester will be used in order to increase audience engagement within the KC community – this focus has been enabled by the statistics, research and justification in this document.

1. Age

Kaleidoscope Creativity (KC) is the most diverse group from the Audience Spectrum in terms of age, including both young and elderly.

Justification – Audience spectrum data indicates that young age groups are disproportionately affected by unemployment and by the financial implications of the pandemic. Older people are affected by the health risks and all age groups are affected by social isolation which makes them particularly vulnerable at present whilst the virus is ongoing. We believe that the offer of free and accessible activities that reflect their experience would provide opportunity for community engagement. KC as an audience profile is most suitable to a project that focuses on COVID-19, because it comprehensively represents both younger and older age groups, both significantly affected but in different ways.

2. Family structure & lifestage

KC is made up of: older single households (24%), older family with no children age under 18 (13%), older family with children age under 18 (13%), elderly single (8%), mature singles/home singles (8%), Mature family with children age under 18 (7%), Young singles/homeshares (5%) and 35% of respondents have children.

Justification – The data suggests that a third of the group have children in these households and are often living within settled communities which provide support. They would not have been able to access their community support due to the COVID-19 and would have been impacted by social isolation, in addition to this, due to school closures children would have been missing their community activities and networking. This indicates that they could benefit from an opportunity for social engagement, but also to understand how others in the community like them have been affected by the pandemic.

3. Income and employment

In this profile the majority of people already had a low income before the pandemic, 31% of them have an income less than £10,000. They are consequently vulnerable to the impact of recession, and the loss of gig-economy jobs such as 0-hour contracts. Audience Spectrum data shows that 58% of KC live in council or housing associations. 41% of respondents live in terraced housing. In addition to the other statistics, this suggests that this audience profile can be categorised as working class.

Justification – For people who have difficulties regarding income and employment can benefit from a free engagement opportunity. Socio-economic status can be measured by income and occupation, which suggests that this group can be considered as in the lower class. Trade Union Congress (2020) reported that lower paid people are more likely to have to go to work, more likely to be furloughed and less likely to receive a good level of sick pay during the pandemic. That not only puts them into a high risk to health from the virus, but increases their chance of job loss and redundancy, falling into debt poverty. “This crisis has exposed, and exacerbated – glaring inequalities, in the UK labour market” (Trade Union Congress, 2020).

4. Education level obtained

The majority of people represented in KC have obtained higher education qualifications in professional or vocational equivalents at 24%. A level or vocational level 3 and equivalents ranked second highest at 23%. In contrast, 70% of the highest engaged group (Metroculturals) have higher education qualifications or professional/vocational equivalent; and only 10% have only A levels or equivalent.

Justification – This will inform language use and interpretation and indicates that any offer of engagement or exhibition should avoid overly academic and inaccessible language. We surmise that KC’s are more likely to be interested in an exhibition that directly reflects their experiences and stories they can relate to.

5. Digital use and streaming

The respondents of KC use My space, Youtube and Facebook the most; 36% of respondents of KC report that the main reason for using Social Networking Sites is to find out what’s happening in their local area; 26% of respondents said that they use them to share content or views on content. Also, 18% of participants used museum and gallery sites in 12 months. Before COVID-19, 75% of respondents annually engaged in more popular and accessible culture, and some of them accessed the local community and outside of the mainstream. There is a rejection of traditional provision. They have a high overall Internet usage.

Justification – The majority use of Social Networking Sites such as My space and Facebook suggest that these are two platforms to target for outreach. An online exhibition would be suitable for them considering their high internet usage, they will be more likely to enjoy digital media content such as film and video. On-site activity including exhibitions are not possible during lockdown. A digital platform, i.e. Artsteps, available via mobile phones is sustainable and accessible to this group, and arguably would be more suitable for them regardless of the pandemic.

6. Ethnicity

Most KC respondents are white at 66%, followed by Asian or Asian British and Black and Black British at 18% and 10%, respectively. This represents the largest percentage of people identifying as in an ethnic minority (Black, Asian, Mixed and Others) when compared with other Audience Spectrum profiles.

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

Quoting Maya Sharma from the AIU (Ahmed Iqbal Ullah) Race Relations Centre, the Covid-19 pandemic is now seen as inseparable from the BLM movement, after the death of George Floyd in May 2020 – the height of the first wave of the virus. Many People Of Colour (POC)  felt a threat to their safety in their daily lives, especially from this movement.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of collectives instigated by people identifying as East and South East Asian have been created. This was in protest of the mainstream media’s use of images of East Asian people in articles connected to the virus, and an increase in racist attacks on this community since the virus began. Besea.n is one such organisation, whose mission is to ‘tackle negative stereotypes and to promote positive media representation of ESEA people in the UK’.

Justification – There is particular incentive to represent the experiences of non-white people, in particular non-white working class people, due to the fact that they have been most negatively affcected by the virus in the following ways:

  • Statistically BAME people are most at risk of contracting the virus and of becoming seriously ill with it.
  • Young BAME people have been most significantly impacted by the unemployment caused by the pandemic and ensuing recession.
  • The pandemic and the BLM movement have brought pre-existing racism to public-attention. Racist attacks against East and South East Asian people have increased.

In the report, ‘An Avoidable Crisis’, commissioned by Sir Keir Starmer,  Baroness Doreen Lawrence mentioned that BAME people feel that the pandemic poses an especially higher risk for them, and that they are tragically dying at a disproportionate rate. ‘It was immediately apparent that the impact on people’s health was inseparable from economic prospects and experiences of discrimination.’ Furthermore, as stated in a American Society for Microbiology article from July 2020, COVID-19 exposed the huge disparities in health care access that were always part of their reality, but not always noticed by many of us.’

There is incentive to provide a platform to encourage KC’s to continue to share and talk openly and honestly about their experiences of COVID-19, considering the tragic and inordinate impact the virus has had on their community in a multitude of ways. Contemporary collecting has a powerful potential to assist people through a process of healing after traumatic events. Cramer (2020) suggests that through oral histories ‘respondents have had a chance to integrate those hardships into their life stories and are ready to share their stories of trauma associated with a historical crisis, whether to memorialize those lost, to offer proof that an event occurred, to convey lessons learned, or to serve as a confessional’. Oral histories are but one aspect of contemporary collecting.

7. Disability & Mental Health

According to the KC Statistical Appendix, they represent the second-largest percentage of respondents identified as having a physical or mental health condition or illness in the past 12 months or more, at 39%. 34% of participants reported that they have a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

Mental Health during the pandemic:

The potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on population mental health is of increasing global concern. The following statistics have been extracted from a study by the Mental Health Foundation:

Wave 1 – Mid-March before lockdown: 62% of adults in the UK felt anxious or worried, this was highest among students and women. Becoming ill, being seperated from friends and family or if they have to self-isolate, and coping with the uncertainty, were the key reasons of stress. On a positive note, half (49%) of the UK adults surveyed, felt that they could make a positive contribution to limit the spread and impact of the pandemic.

Wave 7 – Late August 2020: Six-months into COVID-19 restrictions, and a smaller proportion of people (but still substantial) are struggling with their mental health compared to those of late July. Almost a half (45%) of the UK population had felt anxious or worried in the past 2 weeks. Nearly 18% of people reported feeling lonely in the previous 2 weeks. The same proportion of people felt afraid, 15% felt hopeless. On the other side, the percentage of people who felt that they were coping with the coronavirus pandemic very well or fairly well rose to 64%.

  • Mental Health Foundation – Wave 1:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/research/coronavirus-mental-health-pandemic

  • Mental Health Foundation – Wave 7:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/research/coronavirus-mental-health-pandemic/key-statistics-wave-7

  • Covid-19 financial inequality and mental health (Mental Health Foundation):

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/research/coronavirus-mental-health-pandemic/covid-19-inequality-briefing

Physical Health during the pandemic:

  • Employers face an increase in complaints of disability discrimination amid the Covid-19 crisis:

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/news/employers-face-raft-disability-discrimination-claims-amid-covid-19-crisis

  • Mind the gap: how Covid-19 measures have highlighted the daily discrimination faced by disabled people:

Justification – As KC encompasses a large percentage of people who identify as having a mental health illness or disability, the opportunity to raise awareness of the structural discrimnation against them should be seized. As noted above in section 6 – contemporary collecting has the potential to heal. The provision of a space to promote community cohesion and understanding, and the encouragement of sharing for those suffering with mental health illnesses, could be beneficial. As Helen Rees Leahy states in the Institute for Cultural Practices (ICP) blog entry of 06 May 2020: 

“This rapid expansion of online content is also one of the many ironies of the pandemic for people who were already living in social isolation, whether for health, social or economic reasons, before they were joined by the rest of the population. For many disabled people, this is just one example of the sudden availability of access, long denied or ignored in an ableist society – from online meetings and education, to home working and local deliveries. What was previously impossible has become not only possible but ‘normal’ because healthy people need it too  – at least, as long as the lockdown lasts. Expanded cultural access is now a priority because the majority of physically ‘able’ spectators find themselves constrained, housebound, uncertain about the future and newly vulnerable. In other words, aspects of living with disability have become commonplace, and cultural organisations have suddenly recognised how lonely this can be.”

8. Confidence & Engagement with the Arts

Overall, engagement in arts and culture was significantly low according to the KC Statistical Appendix: physical, on-site museum and gallery visits ranked the second lowest of all audience groups at 9. Engagement in mainstream events, including exhibition or play arts, ranked the lowest at 9. In contrast, engagement in culturally specific activity – for example ethnicity specific culture – ranked relatively high at 3. A prevalent characteristic of this group is their low confidence level when it comes to accessing cultural offers, hence why they remain the second to last least-engaged group of all audience profiles. KC’s often feel as though the arts “isn’t for them”, and a lot of their decision making is about limiting the risk factor. They subsequently require more support to feel comfortable.

Justification – During the webinar ‘Audience spectrum through COVID-19’, it was discussed that any ticketing, pricing, excessive messaging and social distancing measures will put KC’s off. With capacities being reduced to increase safety, KC’s are actually likely to be dissuaded by this, as they feel more visible. The benefit of using an online, digital platform is that they can access the content from home, at their own pace and will not be ‘noticed’. If there is an opportunity to contribute stories and material to an exhibition, the option to remain anonymous would be most suitable for this group. There is an incentive to attempt to appeal to such a large group (9% of the population) who do not expect to see their experiences or culture reflected in exhibitions to encourage a sense of ownership over the arts.

9. Location

According to KC statistical appendix, most of the population live in London at 48%. The second-largest lives in the West Midlands at 11%, followed by North East at 10%; and, 9% of respondents live in the North West. Head of households age between 41 to 60 consists the highest percentage of respondents at slightly over 50%. This is in line with the results shown in section 2. Family structure & lifestyle, that most of the respondents, at about 65% of them are older or elderly households.

Justification – Based on the concept of hyper-locality, which means data focused on a well-defined group of people or community, we aim to target the local in Manchester for those who lived in the same areas for a long time, as the KC’s data have shown, who live in council housing or use housing associations. This approach can bond their sense of community, increase communication and engagement within their local society and encourage familiarity with the arts. As Helfgott (2020) mentioned, local media has a capacity to deliver messaging and presents a prime opportunity to engage communities of people as a result. Also, in regards to the concept of space, the transformation of an outdoor space into an indoor space would be suitable for those who have restricted physical movement due to the lockdown or due to disability, which would be beneficial and accessible. A familiar and well-known space, or one where they feel at liberty to explore at their own pace, may also help KC’s to feel more comfortable bearing in mind that they need more support than other audience groups.

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