London 2012: Legacy Report

The Long Read

Just published on the Arts Council England website: Reflections on the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, which combines a summary of the Cultural Olympiad‘s achievements and legacy by its director Ruth Mackenzie (Manchester International Festival‘s first General Director) with an executive summary of the evaluation report conducted by Dr Beatriz García of the Institute of Cultural Capital, a Liverpool-based research centre that builds on the Impacts 08 evaluation model.

It’s a great read, packed with evocative descriptions of artistic creations and plenty of facts and figures. The introduction by the Chair of the Cultural Olympiad Board, Tony Hall, sums up nicely the ambition of the project: not art for art’s sake, but art for the sake of more art for more people.

We all hope that the legacy will be more chances to enjoy the fruit of that infrequent marriage of ample budget and unbounded imagination.
– Tony Hall, CBE

Ruth Mackenzie’s “summary of learning points” surveys a wide range of categories, from artistic innovation to cultural tourism legacy.  I have summarised the summary below:

  • National scope: the Cultural Olympiad engaged communities across the UK for 4 years and it has now handed off the cultural torch to both Derry-Londonderry 2013 City of Culture (Northern Ireland) and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (Scotland).
  • Participation: mass participation projects, such as Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, and large-scale learning programmes, such as Tate Movie, a collaboration with Aardman Animations engaging 25,000 offline and 9,000 online, helped raise the participant numbers to nearly 6 million.
  • Skills development: informal and formal learning opportunities were built into the programme, with for example a Creative Jobs Programme managed by the Royal Opera House offering 40 paid apprenticeships to unemployed young people in London.
  • Diversity
    • Cultural diversity: an inter-nation event such as the Olympic Games is a good pretext to present culturally diverse artistic creation, whether it is by bringing together UK-based artists of diverse origins, inviting projects such as Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, composed of musicians from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries, or giving a new twist to the Africa Express collective of western and African acts by putting them all on train for a national tour.
    • Ability diversity: the London 2012 Festival created the world’s largest ever commissioning fund for disabled and Deaf artists, which culminated in the Unlimited festival-within-a-festival at the Southbank Centre, featuring 29 new works, some of which are now touring internationally. The excellent Liverpool-based DaDaFest – Disability and Deaf Arts Agency and Festival – have a few videos on their website about their Unlimited commissions.
  • Large scale innovation: with a strapline promising ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences, innovation was highly encouraged. Amongst other feats, the festival managed to get Big Ben to divert from schedule and West Midlands Police to tweet about  Stockhausen’s World premiere opera, which involves 4 helicopters and a dancing camel.
  • Free: admission to National Museums is free in the UK, and many Cultural Olympiad events and experiences were also free of charge. As the report states, “Audiences are more generous with their time and more willing to experiment with unfamiliar art, if they are not paying to attend.” This was also a bonus for international visitors.
  • Unusual venues: whereas “The use of the public realm, parks, streets, squares, shopping centres, has long been a traditional audience development policy especially for local authorities”, London 2012 Festival also invested natural and heritage sites, such as Britain’s coasts for Peacecamp.
  • Cultural tourism partnerships: the overt goal was to not only encourage domestic and international tourism in 2012, but also in further years. Visit Britain – the national tourism board – and Arts Council England are stated to carry on working together on joint initiatives.
  • International partnerships: co-commissioning with international partners is both a way to diversify and enhance the national cultural offer by bringing together British and international artists – and to showcase featured British artists in partner countries.
  • Digital: finally, under the Digital heading are filed diverse initiative such as digital marketing (with successful use of social media), digital communications (i.e. broadcast) and digital arts (such as Yoko Ono’s Serpentine programming and North-West-based Abandon Normal Devices festival). A free, on-demand digital archive of all the works created in 2012 called The Space, a partnership between Arts Council England and the BBC, which paves the way for the Digital Public Space currently developed by the BBC.

The second part of ‘Reflections’ is the executive summary of the evaluation report, which full version is available on the Institute of Cultural Capital website, with additional insights in the appendixes and case studies on Arts and Disabilities, Youth Projects, Stories of the World, Creative Jobs, Tourism and Social Media Analysis.

Volunteers and Donors: Facts & Figures

The Long Read

What festivals get from their volunteers seems fairly obvious – a sudden influx of enthusiastic people who take on a wide variety of roles, from handing out brochures to conducting audience research, cleaning the festival site and pretty much anything else they get asked to do. For a large festival, that’s hundreds of hours of work, sometimes highly skilled.

But what do volunteers get out of donating their time? What motivates them, what makes them feel truly rewarded? And would it be a very good or a very bad idea to ask them to contribute also financially to the organization that they support with their donated skills and times?

Hill Stratégies, an arts research consultancy based in Hamilton, Ontario, has recently published their updated version of  Volunteers and Donors in Arts and Culture Organizations in Canada in 2010. It’s the 40th report in their  Statistical Insights on the Arts series and it is based on statistics queried from Statistics Canada’s 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP), a survey of more than 15,000 Canadians 15 or older.

It’s full of data on volunteer and donors in the arts, and also gives comparisons with volunteers in other nonprofit sectors.  As such, it’s a practical tool that can help arts organizations to understand the wider context and to make decisions, for example on their volunteer benefit structure or recruitment techniques.

Here are some snippets from the report about volunteers:

  • Arts and culture volunteers tend to stay with the same organization for a relatively long period of time: 42% of arts and culture volunteers were with the same organization for at least five years.
  • The top 10% of arts and culture volunteers (i.e., those who volunteered at least 286 hours) contributed 61% of total volunteer hours in arts and culture organizations. (…) The top 25% (who volunteered at least 110 hours) contributed 80% of total volunteer hours in arts and culture organizations.

A few more about individual donors:

  • The $108 million donated to arts and culture organizations represents, on average, $141 per donor.
  • The top 25% of donors, who contributed at least $125, accounted for 75% of total donations.

And about both:

  • While there are very similar numbers of arts and culture volunteers (764,000) and donors (760,000), there are relatively few people who do both. Roughly 87,000 people both volunteered and donated in arts and culture organizations in 2010.

The full report is available from Hill Stratégies website.

Emotional Impact of the Arts

The Long Read

Impact studies are generally conducted to assess – and prove – the value of a venue, event or festival, in economic and sometimes social terms. They measure the difference in hotel occupancy, average spend in local businesses and many other factors to show what would have happened if the festival hadn’t taken place or the venue didn’t exist.

When I was at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 2009-2010, we participated in a somewhat different type of impact study, along with the 7 other arts organisations that formed the Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium at that time. The LARC team, working with consultants Baker Richards and WolfBrown, coordinated audience research across several museums (Tate Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool), theatres (Unity, Everyman & Playhouse), two multi-disciplinary arts centres (Bluecoat and FACT), an orchestra and programming venue (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic) and an arts biennial (Liverpool Biennial) to assess the  emotional impact of the arts, asking audiences across all artforms and settings questions about “captivation, emotional resonance, spiritual value, intellectual stimulation, aesthetic growth and social bonding”.

The results of the Intrinsic Impacts pilot study are available for download on LARC’s website, and come with a warning: it’s an exploratory research, aimed at developing research protocols. The report itself is rather cautious, highlighting biases and issues, but concludes with a few assertions and ambitions:

“What is certain beyond a doubt is that audiences and visitors measurably benefit from attending the arts, in many ways. Intrinsic impact is at the core of the value system surrounding the arts. If the impact doesn’t occur at the time of the exchange between the art and the audience, then the economic, social and civic benefits associated with the arts can’t happen.  This is why the quality of the experience is so important, and why investments in artistic processes and creative programming endeavours can pay substantial dividends to individuals, families and the community.”  

“Focusing on intrinsic impact shifts attention to transformative outcomes in the economy of meaning, not just the economy of money, and provides civic and cultural leaders with a new vocabulary to describe the primary benefits of arts and culture, and their many contributions to civic engagement and quality of life.”

The Intrinsic Impacts pilot study investigates methods and tools to answer the report’s opening question: “How are people transformed by arts experiences?”. One of its avowed objectives is to help programmers and curators in understanding the consequences of their artistic choices,  a question at the heart of public art programming, audience development and engagement efforts. Perhaps this quote by John Dewey can provide, if not an answer, then at least an interesting take on cause and consequence:

“Works of art that are not remote from common life, that are widely enjoyed in a community, are signs of a unified collective life. But they are also marvelous aids in the creation of such a life.” – John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934