Over the course of two days in Bilbao and Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, more than 100 participants from Europe and beyond attended "The Future of Audience Development: Research, Training, and Practice", the final conference of the ADESTE project (Audience DEveloper: Skills and Training in Europe".
This major gathering was an opportunity for the ADESTE consortium to present the work it has done over the past two years to research, design and test a training module for cultural professionals working in audience development. The conference opened with an introduction to the project, a presentation on "From idea to practice: building audience development skills", followed by a lively discussion with ADESTE trainees who were professionals having participated in the training module pilot testing phase to learn about their successes and challenges taken from the experience.
Next, participants broke into parallel sessions for ADESTE trainees, professionals in the cultural and creative sector, as well as academics. The aim of these parallel sessions was to provide space for discussion on the training process, hard and soft skills for the "Audience Developer" professional profile, and the latest researching being conducted on the topic of audience development.
The afternoon session kicked off with keynote speeches on the theme of "Audience development from a cultural policy perspective" with experts representing three levels: European, regional, and local. Invited to share their perspective and knowledge were: Monica Urian from the European Commission; Henrik Martén of Kultur i Väst in Sweden; and Joanna Szwajcowska from the Capital City of Warsaw in Poland.
The day closed with a World Café session where the audience was divided into smaller groups to have more in depth discussions on how to support audience development, the skills and competences needed, and the role policy should play.
The second day began with a presentation of the Donostia-San Sebastián 2016 European Capital of Culture which provided an insight into the programming, challenges, and audience-focus strategy developed for such a major European initiative.
This was followed by another keynote speech given on the topic of "How to place audiences at the centre of cultural organisations, a study on audience development at European level" delivered by Cristina Da Milano from ECCOM - Idee per la cultura. Her intervention opened the debate that came after on "Audience development: between practices and theories" where leading experts, cultural practicioners, and academics from around Europe shared their points of view and what should be done now and in the future to support audience development in Europe.
The second day's afternoon programme included technical visits to flagship cultural institutions in Donostia-San Sebastián where participants met with cultural operators to learn how local cultural institutions are leading with an audience focus with examples of strategies and programmes that have been put in place to reach and expand cultural participation.
The two-day ADESTE conference also included a rich cultural programme and many networking opportunities for participants to enjoy the local cultural scene and to expand their professional contacts.
Video from the conference and a short report of the event will be made available online soon.