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Culture Counts – Anywhere Festival

Paul Osuch from Anywhere Festival talks about his experience with different audience surveying platforms, including Culture Counts… 
I fear I may have made a big mistake; this isn’t uncommon, I have this underlying fear often – that each decision may be the wrong one. Getting involved with the Culture Counts trial was no exception but let me explain…
Since I started the festival in 2011 asking questions has been at the core of what I do and its (r)evolution. We ask questions when artists register to take part in the festival, as we prepare for each festival and at the end. We ask our audiences when they call to book or book online, when they visit our web site, when they visit our business partners.
I love data and getting others’ thoughts and opinions. I’m very much of the opinion that all my best ideas come from someone else…Even that last sentence came from someone else.
You’d think everyone would get sick of being asked questions, but on the whole we’ve found the reverse; everyone is always willing to answer questions, especially when they see we’re interested in the answers and their replies will make a difference to the delivery of the festival.
For the 2015 Brisbane Anywhere Festival we chose to run two surveys simultaneously – the Culture Counts survey about intrinsic value and an extended 20-30 minute survey we’ve used in previous years covering basic demographics and brand awareness and measured through qualitative and extended free form answer questions.
Given we already have our own survey, you might ask what we thought we’d get out of being involved in the Culture Counts trial. The answer is this: we thought we’d learn about our approach to surveying and provide additional data through a different methodology.
The 2015 Anywhere Festival, Brisbane, had a ticketed audience of just under 10,000 and an un-ticketed audience of 63,000 at free events. For our own extended survey, which was administered online and by email, we received between 437 and 3613 responses, depending on the question. For the Culture Counts survey administered face-to-face, we received 66 responses, from both ticketed and un-ticketed audiences.
We chose to go with the face-to-face Culture Counts intercept survey at a number of our performance locations. This is not our usual approach because it can be difficult to manage in non-traditional spaces managed by independent and emerging producers in conjunction with business owners who are hosting shows while undertaking their usual function as a business.
What we were surprised to discover is that the Culture Counts data reinforced our own data across the board. In the chosen dimensions of Captivation, Rigour, Meaning, Relevance, Connection, Distinctiveness and Local Impact, each area ranked at, or higher in the Culture Counts intercept surveys compared to our online survey.  Our assumption is that a survey done anonymously online uncovers more negative bias compared to a face-to-face survey.
What were some of the hard figures from Culture Counts?

  •  49% stated they had not attended Anywhere Festival before
  •  18% have not attended an arts festival before.
  •  100% rated their overall experience as “Excellent” or “Good”

The most surprising result was that Rigour (‘it seemed well thought through and put together’) received the second highest ranking of all dimensions at 90%. We’re really proud of this outcome because we are a festival for independent producers producing work in non-traditional spaces.
Conversely, the lowest of the scores was in relation to Connection (‘it helped me feel connected to my community’) at 78% and we are currently interrogating what we can do to create a quality connection for a festival that happens away from theatrical silos, in community spaces.
We added our own question to the Culture Counts survey: What would you have done instead of going to an Anywhere Festival show? Interestingly, not one respondent said ‘see theatre somewhere else’. Television, gaming and more weird and wonderful answers emerged!
To see the full list and all the results head to the Culture Counts survey link here.
In hindsight, did we make a mistake trialing a new survey method while maintaining our own survey methodology? No.
The report backed up our own statistics, it provided a neat summary and analysis of the survey questions and responses and provided impressive depth and context while maintaining brevity.
For this, as well as the ability to benchmark with other organisations, the Culture Counts trial was invaluable and will inform our approach to data analysis and presentation in the future.
Find out more about the Culture Counts trial here and read blog posts from other participating organisations including the Institute of Modern Art, Bleach* Festival, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Access Arts and arTour.
Paul Osuch
@anywherefest @paulosuch
Paul OsuchPaul Osuch is the Co-Founder and CEO of Anywhere Theatre Festival Ltd (Anywhere Festival), a festival for performance anywhere but a theatre. Paul Osuch holds a Bachelor of Business from the Queensland University of Technology and is a graduate of the NIDA Playwrights Studio. He is an Australia Council for the Arts Emerging Leader, and Queensland Government Culture Champion. He was Artistic Director of Borderline Defamation Productions for several years, producing and directing the world premiere of many new works, including the Australian Film Industry nominated All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, which has since been adapted into a feature length film. He has created and marketed major productions at the Soho Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre in London to the Cement Box Theatre in Brisbane and been responsible for the rebranding of organisations including the U.K’s Rose Bruford College. Paul has always been focused on new ideas and ways to make theatre a bigger part of everyone’s life.



Feature image: Colossi – AF15 Brisbane. Imagination runs amok with Scott Wings in a deliriously gorgeous setting. Photographer: Stuart Hirth.