From Spectatorship to Engagement Symposium Report

22 June 2012

We recently ran a symposium at the Royal Society of Arts, Royal  under the title From Spectatorship to Engagement, looking at ways of promoting and extending engagement in the arts, specifically theatre. We brought together a wide range of arts workers, funders, academics, administrators, and a neuroscientist to consider ways in which people can and do engage with the arts. Our aim is to find better ways to capture what engagement is actually going on – in a wide range of theatre forms, from small-scale community arts to more conventional theatre buildings – and find ways of applying the lessons from the more innovative areas of theatre to the more traditional end.

We were also attempting to meet the challenge set out by John Knell and Matthew Taylor in their essay Arts Funding, Austerity, and the Big Society, which uncompromisingly demands that artists find more convincing ways of expressing the value of the arts.

The day was well attended by around 40 delegates, discussing a wide range of issues including (a) how audiences engage, (b) current practice, (c) future research. The day opened with a paper by David Edgar outlining the premise of the debate and was also addressed by Matthew Taylor in a talk underlining the challenge facing the arts. Artist Sarah Maggs documented the day in a playful series of cartoons, which you can see here: