Be SpectACTive!

Be SpectACTive! describes itself as ‘a European project based on audience development, involving some of the most innovative European organizations working on active spectatorship in contemporary performing arts.’ The project includes theatres, festivals foundations, universities and research institutes in the Czech Republic, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK.

The project has just published a rich 200 page book called Breaking the Fourth Wall: Proactive Audiences in the Performing Arts edited by Lluís Bonet and Emmanuel Négrier, specialists with a long history of work in this field. They present the book in the introduction:

‘This book gives an important place to the controversies surrounding the question of participation in the cultural and artistic fields. This debate gathers researchers who have developed through their work an original and documented point of view on the issue. Then, it brings together those who have been active in Barcelona among cultural, academic and artistic actors. Thus, this book proposes a dynamic state of the considerations that accompany the Be SpectACTive! project since its launch, at the beginning of 2015.’

After three views of ‘Artistic quality and audience empowerment’, there are sections on:

  • Risks and opportunities of active spectatorship from a management perspective
  • The interactive role of participatory creative residences: the artist, the venue and the audience perspective
  • The challenges of artistic programming with active spectators
  • Prosumer experiences in performing arts
  • The organizational challenge of audience development and engagement
  • Real democratization: involving audiences with different cultural capital

I’ve only just begun reading some of this material, but it’s already making me think. I’m sure that anyone working in audience development, participatory art or community art will find lots here to interest them.

The PDF is on the resources page, but it’s worth going to the Be SpectACTive! website to download a copy and see more about the project. Particularly impressive is the online platform in which artists talk about their work (you have to scroll down to find it.) And there will be a conference in York in October, which I’ve been asked to speak at: it should be give a good opportunity to learn more about current trends and ideas.

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