Indispensable Culture

Liverpool’s Royal Court theatre recently installed a restaurant in their stalls. Is it time to rethink the audience’s night out?

Successful cultural venues have celebrated paradigmatic change in their operations model for hundreds of years. How can contemporary theatres, museums and art galleries reframe their thinking to ensure they remain indispensable? This workstream draws inspiration from the past to consider emerging research on new and innovative operating models across the sector.

“Consumers increasingly expect, and more often than not are given, a high degree of interactivity and engagement in their leisure pursuits, from gaming to reality TV and theme parks. Everywhere one looks, consumers are being offered choices to make that were not previously available.[…]

Of course, many people profoundly enjoy sitting quietly and taking in a live performance, or viewing art that is not interactive at all, without feeling underengaged or disempowered. Nonetheless, static experiences of all sorts will grow increasingly problematic, especially those that do not offer audience members any choices to make, such as when to get up, when to get a drink, when to talk — all of which are available in the theater of the home.

At a focus group discussion several years ago, young adults were asked to narrate an “imaginary tour” of a hypothetical jazz venue. With the aid of a glass of wine, they designed the next generation of concert facilities defined largely around choice-making. During the day, the venue would be open as a coffee house/music lounge, where anyone can come to hear, share, and acquire music. At night, it would transition to a venue for live concerts where patrons can move fluidly between different spaces designed for intensive listening, “partial-attention” listening, and socializing while watching the concert on a large screen.”

Alan Brown, “All the World’s a Stage: Venues and settings, and the role they play in shaping patterns of arts participation, Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Vol 23, No 2, Summer 2012