Check back here regularly to find out what's going on at Palmer Squared.
The last throw down, Nov 18
After a decade as co-directors of British Ceramics Biennial, we have decided to step down as we pursue other areas of work. It’s been an incredible time, working with an amazing team, led by the inspirational Barney Hare Duke, from before the first festival through to the most recent, record-breaking event. It will be strange turning up to the 2019 festival as a punter, but with so much happening now in Stoke-on-Trent it’s an exciting time for BCB. We’ll miss you, we love you, we’re only up the M6.
Talking shop, Nov 18
We can be quite chatty when the mood takes us. In the past few months we’ve been invited to talk at a number of seminars, conferences and events around the UK. It’s fascinating to see how the agendas for audience development and cultural tourism, amongst others, are contributing to regeneration, community engagement and place-making more and more powerfully and directly. We’ve talked about marketing the arts in Manchester to a Chinese delegation. We’ve talked about unlocking heritage potential in Northern Ireland. We’ve coached the next generation of arts marketers. We’ve even debated how to make some of our northern English towns ‘great places’ (or perhaps ‘even greater). It’s great sometimes just to go and discuss what’s going on, and what might come next, through the networks and platforms that our cultural communities have. Let’s keep talking!
The Royal 'we', Oct 18
Who is the best arts organisation in Liverpool in terms of audience development – how effectively they can engage with so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ potential audiences? Take your time. No? Well, by any sensible metric the answer is the Royal Court, right in the city centre. Their audience profile reflects their whole city’s demographics and they do it by talking the same language, delivering a great experience and driving real innovation and energy into new projects, like Boisterous Theatre Company– the only theatre company in Liverpool specifically dedicated to BAME communities. As they would say, they’re boss at what they do. But they can get that message out better with some of their stakeholders – funders, partners, the arts sector, the city. So we’ve been helping with that, and picking up a bit of Scouse along the way.
Art is good for you, Sep 18
Health and wellbeing is rightly a major item on any progressive arts organisation’s agenda. But only one arts organisation takes this on to consume their whole purpose. Sick! Festival has moved up from Brighton to make its home in Manchester, and we spent a bit of time with them as they sought to put down roots as quickly as possible – mapping the landscape, making the right partnerships, understanding their new audiences, and building their team. We expect the incredibly passionate Sick! team to give the festival scene in the city and region in the coming years a massive shot in the arm.
Pump up the spa town, Jul 18
One of the areas we have always like to work is in audience development when capital plans are afoot. Often with major multi-million developments, a museum or heritage attraction takes the opportunity to re-evaluate and re-energise how its engages with its audiences. And it doesn’t have to be a landmark development either. This year we had the delightful experience of working with the small but perfectly formed Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate as it seeks to transform itself inside and out. We could immediately see how its place within the wider Harrogate Spa story was pivotal to how the town grew, and so our plans included lots of creative partnerships spanning community, health & wellbeing, heritage, arts, food & drink and tourism. The new Museum will be a great example of how one of our country’s great little museums can continue to have a big impact in its community.
That was 2017, Dec 17
2017 has seen a fabulously diverse group of new clients – some completely new, some old friends. Following similar work in Manchester and Liverpool, we have advised a group of Birmingham’s most dynamic arts festivals about how to work better together and build their profile. Working in clusters is clearly the way to go – we worked with major performance spaces from across England to help them develop international theatre – theatre without borders.
Heritage has been prominent this year, with audience development support for capital projects in Yorkshire – at Elsecar in Barnsley and now the Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate. Very different projects, but each with massive potential. And we will always leap at the opportunity to work with museums and galleries, and this year that has seen capital projects mix with strategic communications consultancy and direct mentoring, from the small independent to the scale of a national museum.
A new home for cultural tourism, Jul 16
We had to make mention of our other family - Creative Tourist - the UK's leading cultural tourism consultancy. We've just opened our first official standalone office in the heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter. Pop in any time. That is, when we're not jetting off to Reykjavik, Copenhagen or Woolwich.
Mining for audiences, Jun 16
We are delighted to be working with the National Coal-Mining Museum for England, helping to develop the visitor offer in the bits that aren't the wonderful underground tour. The site is huge and full of surprising stories about coal and coal-mining communities. The new leadership team is developing an exciting masterplan to make the attraction more audience-focused at every touchpoint – a great starting point for any museum.
Getting creative, Mar 16
One of the most important arts initiatives in the UK recently has been Creative People & Places, where new programmes of cultural engagement have been set up in some of the least engaged parts of the country. We've had the pleasure of getting involved in various different ways with the teams in St. Helens, Burnley, Blackpool and Stoke-on-Trent. All very different, all doing exciting and hopefuly perception-changing, behaviour-changing, life-changing work.
Time for access to ramp up, Jan 16
Over the past year, we've (well, Andrew) has had the privilege of working with Visits Unlimited. A new start-up social enterprise, they are dedicated to one simple aim – to make day out visits to culture, heritage and tourism attractions great for everyone, and that means families with disabled kids as well. They can offer training and support in a variety of ways, and uniquely have an extended 'family' network which makes sure they understand the needs of this big and often untapped market. Check out what they're up to on their blog – www.visitsunlimited.org.uk/blog.
Liverpool = festivals, Jan 16
The mighty Liverpool Biennial – the contemporary arts biennial for the UK – asked us to stand in as interim head of marketing & comms for the latest edition (the most ambitious yet). Suckers for punishment, we said yes. We've also been busy working with another 18 of the city's top cultural festivals as they explore how to work together for their individual and collective advantage in an increasingly competitive and crowded marketplace.
Heritage never stays the same, Nov 15
We've been fortunate to be working with a variety of heritage capital projects recently, whether developing launch campaigns, audience development plans, training staff in marketing or assessing development plans. This has included a literary house, a country estate's gardens, an urban civic building and a Norman church. The ability for heritage to recalibrate and reinvent is amazing, creating cultural relevance and a new place in local communities and the wider visitor offer.
Speaking openly, Nov 15
We like what we do. We like to spread the gospel of the value of the arts, audience development, cultural tourism and so on. So we are delighted when people actually invite us to do just that. Whether it's Birmingham Festivals, Creu Cymru, the Prince's Regeneration Trust, the Arts Marketing Association, Marketing Lancashire or the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, we'll be there. And we have been.
Return to Happy Valley, Sep 15
We worked on the audience development, marketing, branding and major events business planning for The Piece Hall in Halifax a few years ago. That massive team effort secured the funds to transform the Hall and Square, so look out for the new Piece Hall, launching in 2017 - perhaps as the Tour de Yorkshire flies through.
The business of the arts, Oct 14
Andrew was invited to speak by Yorkshire Contemporary Visual Arts Network at an event for 90 budding cultural entrepreneurs recently. Following our project management of a year-long programme in 2013 to help artists and arts professionals contribute to the region's visual arts economy (in other words, make money from art), we wanted to encourage the next wave of graduates and emerging artists as they seek to make a living from their practice.
Where's the oldest museum service in the country... and why it matters, Sep 14
Well, the answer is Warwickshire. Strangely fitting when you think about it. Shakespeare country, the heart of England. We couldn't resist the opportunity to work with our long-time associates Vishalakshi Roy and Helen Dunnett with Heritage Culture Warwickshire as they plan their audience and organisational development for the coming years.