Webinar recap: New Spaces, New Places, New Audiences
A new kind of cultural democracy can be achieved by taking social and creative experiences out to non-traditional locations, meeting customers, communities and audiences face-to-face via live and digital platforms, achieving meaning through co-curation and exchange.
NorthernLight and The Revels Office united to realise a webinar that would celebrate their shared passion for creating authentic cultural and social experiences in new locations, bridging between museums, brands and places.
Read on to find out if culture will take the place of retail in city centres; how the arts can play a role in community and place design, considerations on how to maximise the return and impact of place-based innovations; and real-life examples to inspire you!
Watch the highlights video below.
Let’s hear from… Hans Poll, Director of Marketing and Programme for Forum Groningen
Hans took time to give us a virtual tour of the Forum Groningen, once described as a ‘cultural shopping mall’ by the Guardian, but also a vast and mesmerising illustration of what public spaces and services could become in the near future. Driven by the need to regenerate a neglected part of the urban centre, the Forum delivers exactly what its community needs and wants – an extension of the inner city with numerous different ‘squares’ to meet in, spots to work in (with free WiFi and charging!), places to learn, and experiences to enjoy. Combining a library, cinema, lecture hall, museum, workshop laboratory, tourism office, café, shop, viewpoint and events space efficiently in one, it is open for most of the day and night and on every day of the year – truly working hard for the people who visit, live and work in the area. The Forum has given an economic and social boost to the whole city, and despite initial scepticism it is now something that people are proud of, becoming part of the identity Groningen, thanks to the trust that has been built up between the people and the place. Their dynamic programme, which is open to influence from the community (including a programming consultation group of 16-22 year olds), plays a major role in the success of this organisation, including overcoming traditional barriers between different artforms – bringing together art, gaming, writing, film and technology (amongst many others) in one place – a true mix that equalises the experience and definition of culture. Hans explained that endurance will rely on staying relevant both in terms of the events and activities on offer, as well as the décor and environment of the building itself, inspiring continuous curiosity for the people who visit.
“…we encourage retailers, city planners and property developers – as well as brands and businesses – to think forward about how their spaces can incorporate creative and social adaptations right from the start of their planning process, and not to overlook the voices of the people who will go on to inhabit those spaces.”
Will culture replace retail at the centre of towns and cities?
The Forum Groningen demonstrates the powerful and sustainable role that culture can play in making places more liveable long-term, offering a solution to the loss of high-street retail (and arguably a more rewarding and communal experience than shopping can do alone!). Culture and retail can and should sit side-by-side, equal in value to the financial and social return they offer a city, both seen as viable investments for businesses and public funders, and ideally interwoven between people and place based on the unique identity and needs of the local community. Design and programming is a key part of this, looking to the needs of people years ahead as well as being able to respond to immediate changes. So we encourage retailers, city planners and property developers, as well as brands and businesses looking to reach their customers in these places, to think forward about how their spaces can incorporate creative and social adaptations right from the start of their planning process. And not to overlook the voices of the people who will go on to inhabit those spaces.
Let’s hear from… Madeleine Kessler, Architect and co-curator of the British Pavilion for the 2021 Venice Biennale of Architecture
“…push how spaces are used and notice where an item, building or business can do more than its core purpose… make free social spaces somewhere that people can linger and enjoy.”
Madeleine Kessler is interested in how cities evolve and transform over time, conscious of the cycle of creation and destruction. Her work is helping to define the purpose of places, and makes the people of the community creators of their own local spaces. Her work on the 2021 British Pavilion explores privatised public space, and Madeleine highlighted challenges around creating exclusive spaces in communal places, such as gardens and parks that are made available to only those with a key, as well as the opportunity to reinvent places with more playful and social experiences supported by their design. Madeleine encourages us to push how spaces are used and notice where an item, building or business can do more than its core purpose – from the conversations in hairdressers that combat loneliness, to the need for attractive public toilets to make free social spaces somewhere that people can linger and enjoy. She explained that small scale interventions can have a hugely positive effect, and testing ideas is a quick way to consider bigger picture change. Importantly, Madeleine shared the design principals of climate, people, place and value as a foundation for this work, and encouraged cross-disciplinary and truly collaborative working to discover new ideas and solutions when creating ways for the community to engage with their built environment.
“The arts and those who make places have a lot in common… focus on these shared goals and be open to working together – between culture, commerce and community…”
How can the arts play a role in community and place design?
The arts and those who make places have a lot in common – bringing people together, creating a beautiful aesthetic, listening to needs and curating to inspire, balancing creativity with economics. Focus on these shared goals and be open to working together – between culture, commerce and community; this will make us all work harder to see how places, infrastructure and experiences can offer greater purpose and reward in a meaningful and trusted way.
Let’s hear from… Peter Slavenburg, Creative Director of NorthernLight
NorthernLight has spent over 20 years making transformative experiences for museums, brands and places, working across a number of different sectors and clients, all with a shared appreciation for the power of sharing stories and making ideas come to life. Peter explained that this year the team’s inspiration has been based around the notion of creating space for new thinking. Peter and the NothernLight team pooled together their favourite examples of arts and social experiences transforming non-traditional spaces, or with non-traditional platforms – carving out room for thinking and creativity in everyday life.
“Our team’s inspiration right now is based around the notion of creating space for new thinking. How can we really touch hearts, connect minds and activate hands?”
Where are these new places, new spaces and new audiences? Real life examples to inspire you!
Music meets culture with DJ sets in historic and cultural settings by Cercle. Public squares on rooftops, for family-fun and respite by day and for entertainment by night, like the NEMO rooftop. Making a temporary open-air museum, taking high-quality replicas to city streets, by the Prado. Making train station waiting rooms a place to see museum collections usually held in the archives, by the National Museum of World Cultures. Billboards used for art instead of advertising, by the Billboard Creative. Science on the move, with a mobile museum by Science on wheels. Complimenting nature with technology, with fields of light that respond to daylight and illuminate the night by Bruce Munro. Using your existing space in new ways and for different audiences simultaneously, such has having sleepovers for kids one night, and for grown-ups the next, at London’s Natural History Museum.
Let’s hear from… Kate Rolfe, Director of The Revels Office
“…collaborating rather than competing between commerce and culture will lead to greater return for everyone, and create better experiences for the communities around us.”
Kate is driven to ensure that innovations in cultural and social experiences are viable; she works to unite arts organisations with their commercial counterparts and business models to ensure they can successfully reach audiences, generate revenue and achieve true relevance in a way that is sustainable long-term, as well as being able to respond to changing trends and needs. It is important when dreaming up these new ideas that we craft operational models that welcome arts and not-for-profit partners, placing the appropriate value on the incredible content and services they create. Just as with community co-curation, cultural co-curation needs to allow room for new voices, provide energy for creativity and collaboration, and respect the value of people’s time and ideas. There is an urgency to this work, as retail centres, urban places and cultural institutions all need to work fast to reinvent themselves for new consumer habits, empowering people to engage with them physically and digitally in meaningful ways on their own terms. Arguably, collaborating rather than competing between commerce and culture will lead to greater return for everyone, and create better experiences for the communities around us.
“…it’s important to start now, as other sectors are already creating their own meaningful social and creative experiences faster and on a larger scale”
How can we make creating new experiences in new places and for new audiences viable?
The world may want culture, but can culture reach the world? Put simply – yes, absolutely! With some creative and collaborative planning, there are numerous ways to work across teams within arts, charitable and educational organisations to identify content and services that could pop-up elsewhere, physically or digitally, either as small and impactful interventions or larger-scale, longer-term installations. Internal and external partnerships are key, as well as a total and transparent understanding of your audiences; while this can take time it’s important to start now, as other sectors are already creating their own meaningful social and creative experiences faster and on a larger scale. Embracing new technology is also vital, without forgetting the unique value of the real in-person experience, meaning a new balance needs to be struck to unite your digital and physical organisation. Finally, it’s important to not overlook the value of your commercial activities within a non-commercial organisation – audiences may be initially more interested in your events, merchandise or courses than your artistic programming, so introduce yourself to them that way to start your relationship (and generate some much-needed revenue in the meantime!)