All about the audienceThe history of Audiences Central begins in 1991 with Birmingham Arts Marketing (BAM).

When the organisation took on a West Midlands-wide role in 2004, the change of focus came with a change of name:  Audiences Central.

As the audience development agency for the West Midlands, Audiences Central were uniquely positioned to help arts and cultural organisations make a real difference to building and sustaining audiences for their work. They worked with organisations to achieve shared objectives taking a long term strategic view, spearheading initiatives that had a sustainable effect on audience development, and to provided cost effective tactical support to boost campaigns.

With a core paid membership of around 100 arts, cultural and heritage organisations, plus strong professional and commercial links with dozens of other bodies, companies and groups, Audiences Central worked across all artforms, supporting major companies of world renown to individuals just starting out, and spanned the West Midlands – Birmingham and the Black Country, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and into Herefordshire.

Audiences Central members ranged from internationally respected organisations, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) and City Of Birmingham Orchestra (CBSO), to leading art galleries and museums (New Art Gallery Wallsall, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Ikon Gallery), to venues and arts centres (THSH, The NEC/NIA, macBirmingham, Warwick Arts Centre, The Drum), to major theatres (Alexandra Theatre, The Belgrade, Stafford Gatehouse, Birmingham Hippodrome, The Rep), along with a raft of dance and theatre companies, craft and visual art organisations, choirs, festivals, heritage sites, visitor attractions and local authorities.

The LoopKey areas of work included:

  • Audience Engagement & Development
  • Campaign Planning
  • Consultancy
  • Digital Marketing
  • Marketing Services
  • Press & Media
  • Research & Benchmarking
  • Networks & Events
  • Learning & Training

Audiences Central’s ongoing events programme included a variety of conferences and seminars (including Jolt), and the popular Regional Press and Marketing Network, which provided press and marketing professionals with opportunities to share best practice, network and question key industry figures following presentations.

Audiences Central also produced a series of specialist newsletters including The Loop, which featured sector news, analysis, vacancies and other relevant information.

In 2011, Arts Council England announced that the regional audience development agencies would not be part of the new National Portfolio, and this announcement has led to Audiences Central’s Board’s decision to close the agency on 31 March 2012.

The Board and all members of Audiences Central staff, along with external partners, invested considerable time and effort investigating alternative business models in an attempt to ensure the organisation could continue without funding. Unfortunately, given the challenging economic climate and timescales for potential lifelines, this wast not possible.

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