Evaluation has always been an important component of our management of the Crush Festival. Its core funding comes from the Bundaberg Regional Council and Tourism and Events Queensland, so having data to demonstrate impact is vital.
Meeting the requirements of these partners in the past has meant evaluation has focussed on capturing demographic data, attendance and economic impact. When the opportunity came along to look at a qualitative evaluation process through Culture Counts, we jumped at the chance. It is always valuable to get the perspectives of audiences and peers to continuously improve the model of delivering the festival.
We used seven Culture Counts quality dimensions to survey audiences about their festival experience – local impact, captivation, rigour, connection, distinctiveness, meaning and relevance. The majority of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with all seven dimensions, with high average scores above 80%. We learned that the public feel the festival is well developed and is of strong importance to our region. Respondents also said that the Crush Festival helped audiences to feel connected to people in the community. As a festival that is strongly about developing arts experiences that speak of our unique character and stories, it was very heartening to receive this feedback and to know we are on the right path with our programming.
The feedback has helped us to see how we can focus our promotions of the festival in future. Our lowest score (74%) was a response to the festival ‘saying something about today’s world’. Building the impact of our storytelling, and the relevance of the stories to our community into our future marketing, is a strategy that we aim to implement next year.
Most pleasing for us was that Crush Festival 2016 reached new audiences while still appealing to repeat visitors – 42% of those surveyed had not attended any of the previous seven festivals.
The main challenge for us for the Crush Festival this year was the layering of evaluation. We had compulsory reporting to our partners, contracted independent evaluations from Tourism and Events Queensland as well as Culture Counts. The team at Culture Counts were very accommodating, by building in the questions we required for our reporting needs. We were still able to gain perspective on marketing impact, visitation and demographics through the one survey.
These learnings were all perspectives we hadn’t measured at previous festivals. Using Culture Counts as part of the 2016 Crush Festival has given us a fresh perspective from our audiences (something that we had underestimated in our self-assessment) and will help guide us with our future programming.
Creative Regions was one of 10 organisations funded by Arts Queensland to trial the Culture Counts platform in 2016. Find out more about the Culture Counts trials at and read blog posts from other organisations who have used the system
Shelley Pisani is an experienced arts practitioner with a degree in fine arts and history, teaching qualifications and a Master of Arts and Entertainment Management. She is currently the Artistic Director of Creative Regions based in the Bundaberg Region and has been the driver of the Crush Festival since its inception in 2009. Shelley’s career has delved into arts marketing, her own ceramic studio in Brisbane, regional gallery management, consultancy and now Creative Regions, a company that prides itself on deep engagement with communities to deliver unique arts experiences.
Image: Circa Crush performing at Crush@RiverFeast. Image by Paul Beutel Photography