The present paper has been prepared, at the request of DG EAC, by the European Expert Network on Culture (EENC). The paper has been written in 2015, on behalf of the EENC, by Mr. Niels Righolt.
Traditionally, countries like the UK, the Benelux and the Nordic countries have been amongst the pioneers in searching and testing new ways of interaction between the arts and the audience and many have looked to them for inspiration and new ways of working. However, the last few years have shown that, throughout Europe, there too has been a range of ground- breaking projects, learning programmes, new research and conferences examining how cultural producers and presenting organisations can improve their relationship with the potential audience, whether it happens through digital tools, education, outreach and community engagement or through more traditional methods such as mainstream marketing approaches. And recently demands for a clearer position on how the institutions and cultural projects will reach out to the public, has entered national legislation and regional priorities in e.g. the Nordic countries. In Denmark the Royal Danish Theatre has audience diversity written into its 4-year contract with the ministry and the same goes for several of the other national institutions in the country.
The digital shift has opened the field of cultural participation and co-creation dramatically, and its democratic implications are all to be examined and decided on. But, as a panel debate on digitalization at the Conference Digital at the Arts held in Reykjavik in October 2014 stated, “We cannot meet the challenges of tomorrow solemnly with the logics and structures of yesterday".
Is participation the ’new black’ in audience development strategies?
Niels Righolt from the Danish Centre for Arts and Interculture focused on what cultural institutions are like and on their relationship with citizens. If cultural institutions are to achieve the aim of making culture and the arts relevant to citizens, he argued, a change of mentality is necessary.
This means rethinking the way institutions work in view of new technologies and urban growth, using culture as an engine for social innovation, and at the same time changing the use of buildings and spaces and creating a space for dialogue among citizens, while rethinking formats.
Niels Righolt is the CEO of the Danish Centre for Arts & Interculture (CKI). He has a broad background and experience from more than 25 years in the arts field. He has worked as Head of Information, Producer, Artistic Director, Cultural Political Developer, Managing Director and Political Advisor within a variety of cultural institutions and organizations over the years, among others, as Managing and Artistic Director of the Dunkers Arts Centre in Helsingborg, Sweden, as Chief Curator and producer for Møstings Hus & Byggeriets Hus, Copenhagen and as co-founder of the intercultural magazine and communication bureau Cultures. At present Niels is a board member of among others the Danish contemporary dance scene Dansehallerne in Copenhagen and the Audience Europe Network. Niels has a background in Literature, Modern Culture & Cultural Communication and Spanish Culture & Language from the University of Copenhagen.