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Culture Counts – Bleach* Festival

The Gold Coast’s Bleach* Festival shares some insights about its 2015 festival based on audience and peer data gathered through the Culture Counts trial…

As a young festival firmly focused on meaningful engagement with our community and creating a ‘culture of place’, Bleach* – an annual arts and cultural celebration on the Gold Coast – is always looking for new ways to capture audience feedback.  Bleach* Festival’s 2015 Artist in Residence program, featuring Clare Bowditch, provided a good opportunity to participate in the trial of the Culture Counts surveying platform. There were two components to the program we evaluated through this process – a workshop for artists and a free public concert featuring Clare and artists who participated in the workshop.

The Culture Counts platform allowed for detailed data gathering particularly in relation to personal or intrinsic responses to arts experiences. In this respect, key questions were framed around core dimensions of captivation, rigour, meaning, relevance and so on, all designed to test the individual’s experience. This data is not usually captured in our economic impact research but is vital to understanding our engagement with our community and the creation of ‘good art’.  Furthermore, the opportunity to use Culture Counts to gather artist and peer feedback was highly appealing.

As we had hoped the audiences connected emotionally and creatively with our Artist-in-Residence, Clare Bowditch. There was an increased sense of community and the feedback indicated great joy and a sense of achievement from participants at Clare’s events. This was reflected in the survey with the highest-rating dimensions of meaning (‘It moved and inspired me’) and connection (‘It helped me feel connected to my community’) both receiving a 91% positive response rate across the total sample of workshop participants and public spectators. Some examples of specific comments received include:

This workshop was one of many things I attended at Bleach. All were at varying levels of exciting and positive. The ability to have the workshop – learn a new skill and interact with the artist – as well as perform at the event with her that night was a truly inspiring experience.  Being a part of the performance workshop with Clare and then performing two songs with her on stage was a real highlight for me in the Bleach Festival. I felt a real connection to community and enjoyed it immensely. Thank you for the opportunity!

Feedback was strongest from the workshop participants but was also very positive from members of the public who attended the concert as spectators. Interestingly, looking at the spectator sample alone, the highest rating was associated with connection to the community (82% rated this dimension highly), which aligns well with the overall purpose of Bleach* Festival. One of the key learnings was the relatively low rating given by spectators to the originality and point of difference of the performance (only 68% rated this dimension highly). This is feedback we will take into next year’s festival.

The peer review and self-assessment aspects of Culture Counts in particular provide key insights from within and outside the organisation. This unique viewpoint allows for different perspectives to be analysed as part of measuring the event’s impact and identifying future opportunities for growth and development. Possibly the greatest learning (and subsequent challenge) from this element of the process is to widen the internal assessment circle to include a broader network of peers and subsequent range of interests and opinions. This is challenging in a small organisation with multiple contractors but would provide good context for development in the future.

Bleach* Festival has a big agenda with many moving parts and only a small team and resources to ensure its successful delivery. As any small to medium organisation or festival can attest, adding a process or procedure that requires additional resources presents a challenge. While this will always remain the case, the Culture Counts survey was relatively easy to manage and user friendly. Data collection was via online surveys for workshop participants and volunteers collected data from spectators on the ground at the concert using tablet computers. It is a unique challenge to try to capture emotion and feeling from a survey, when most surveys tend to focus on measuring demographics and economic impact. The Culture Counts trial helped broaden the more traditional forms of evaluation we undertake as part of the Bleach* Festival and opened up a new avenue to measure intrinsic impacts of our event.

Find out more about the Culture Counts trial here and read blog posts from other participating organisations including the Institute of Modern Art, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Anywhere Festival, Access Arts and arTour.


Matt WilsonMatt Wilson is an experienced Sport and Tourism Management professional holding a Bachelor of Arts Degree with majors in Sports Management and Tourism Development and a Post Graduate Certificate in International Sports Law. Matt has over 18 years relevant experience holding positions at the senior management and executive officer level for state, national and international sporting organisations. Matt also has extensive experience in large scale event organisation, including leading the management of multi-million dollar events across more than 20 different countries throughout Europe, the US, South America and Asia. Matt regularly lectures in Sport and Event Management at leading universities and has received Adjunct Assistant Professor status at Bond University on the Gold Coast. Matt has been a finalist in the Queensland Sport Administrator of the Year Awards and in the Australian Sport Administrator of the Year Awards and was also the Managing Director of his own consultancy business providing advice and support to leading national and international companies on a range of strategic planning, marketing and business development issues. Matt was also the Manager of Australia Marketing for the Gold Coast Tourism Corporation, managing the brand marketing, positioning and development of Australia’s third largest leisure tourism destination. Currently Matt is the General Manager of Bleach* Festival, the Gold Coast’s largest Arts and Music Festival that celebrates the coastal lifestyle.


Feature image: 2015 Artist in Residence program featuring Clare Bowditch, courtesy of Bleach* Festival.