Our agents predict what may be in store for our sector in 2018...

December 20, 2017

Katie Moffat, Head of Digital - I think we’ll see organisations take a step back from their social media activity in order to reassess its effectiveness. Most organisations have had their main accounts for several years and are well past the honeymoon period. As the competition for online attention intensifies it is vital that the sector takes a more strategic approach to social media. In addition, I think more organisations will up-skill staff, both to acquire specific proficiencies, eg Google Analytics and to engender a more digitally savvy mindset across the workforce. In terms of platforms, we will continue to see the rise of Instagram as a key social channel for arts organisations.

Lucie Fitton, Head of Learning and Participation - We will see an increasing need for good data collection and use among learning and engagement arts professionals. Perhaps in the past, there has been a mixed level of confidence and value of data within these roles, but things are changing. The squeeze on creative subjects in education policy, combined with a focus on things such as wellbeing, employability and diversity, mean we must evidence and prove the value of our work more than ever to survive.

Oliver Mantell, Director of Consultancy, Manchester - People generally overestimate the pace of change, especially in the immediate future. So I’m both politely sceptical about new year’s resolutions (if you mean them, start now) and inclined to say that next year will be more like this year than you expect. Yes, there’ll be some eye-catching changes and activity, but on average, plus ca change… Mind you, the Great Exhibition of the North should be worth keeping an eye out for and I hold out some hope that a solution will be come up with to allow a cultural celebration of some form to take place in 2023. If there is, I’ll be rooting for Leeds…

Penny Mills, Director of Consultancy, London - In 2018 we are going into the Chinese Zodiac year of the dog… among other things, this means: “the Earth element is doubled in strength, which is generally manifested by a reinforced efficiency in accomplishing administrative business tasks that require a solid know-how in organization”. For the cultural sector - as Audience Finder hits its stride as the largest cultural dataset in the world, there will be no excuses for not having a ‘solid know-how’ of audiences (but we would say that wouldn’t we). Otherwise, it’s all about impacts. What can culture do to make our society one which we can be proud of? How do we need to lead, organise and learn? And what are the most useful ways of being able to tell our stories that will inspire others?

Carol Jones, Head of Consultancy, Wales - I'm hoping that 2018 will be the year of 'no excuses - just do it'. We've debated, we've reflected, we've planned, so whether it's data management (GDPR looms) or cultural equity we need to get our act together and put a wriggle on.
You know there’s that old saying – a dog is for life and not just for Christmas – and of course it’s the same with building audiences and deepening engagement with people that reflect the many communities that make up our multi-faceted society. We’ve all seen what happens when there’s a disconnect between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ and we'll see a renewed and passionate commitment to cultural equity and inclusion. In 2018 we'll continue to see inclusive practice embedded across all parts of our organisations but now starting to drive real and meaningful change.
(P.S. GDPR will come into force in May. As a sector we'll work through it - some of us belatedly - and realise that it was worth the pain, bring the benefit of making us think of data across teams and the whole organisation, and on the whole will be a very good change!)

Jonathan Goodacre, Senior Consultant, International - 2017 ended with uncertainty concerning the UK's place in the world. The cancellation of the European Capital of Culture in the UK for 2023 was a worrying development and the UK's previously high reputation abroad is also being put in danger by departure from the EU. I hope, rather than predict, that the arts and cultural sector can push against a perceived 'little islandism' to continue its global role, working together with a diversity of international partners.

Cimeon Ellerton, Chief Operations Officer - We’re noticing much more use of Wi-Fi tracking and location based services as a way to deliver content and gather audience data. Until recently, the ability to integrate and coordinate these different elements (the data in and the content out) has required pretty high-level IT skills, and a lot of tech. As with all things, there are increasingly off the shelf options and the ease with which systems can talk to each other is improving – we’re working on some very exciting projects to bring the power of this technology to festivals, exhibitions and even whole local authority areas. Last year our own Katie Moffat predicted more use of VR and AR, which I’m sure the Creative XR programme will further catalyse in 2018. A lot of noise is being made about the new AR stickers for Google Pixel phones, as did Snapchat’s VR Jeff Koons sculpture which demonstrated humanity’s unending urge to graffiti anywhere and everywhere. And Facebook has been providing AR masks (much like Snapchat) for some time now. So, I’m sure we’ll see a much more widespread use of AR, which in turn could make the location based services even more fun and interactive.