Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tours for the Adventurous; Culture Bosses Are Keen to Lure Us out of Our Comfort Zone. DAVID WHETSTONE Finds out What It's All About

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tours for the Adventurous; Culture Bosses Are Keen to Lure Us out of Our Comfort Zone. DAVID WHETSTONE Finds out What It's All About

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

BOSSES of some of the main cultural venues on Tyneside have embarked on a joint mission - to make us all a little more adventurous.

The latest inducement is a series of free, behind-the-scenes tours of galleries, theatres and other cultural venues taking place tomorrow and over the weekend.

It seems that in Newcastle and Gateshead, many of us - if we partake in such activities at all - are cultural stick-in-the-muds.

While a regular visitor to the Theatre Royal might never darken the doorstep of the Shipley Art Gallery, a Live Theatre fan might give children's book centre Seven Stories a wide berth.

The problem first emerged anecdotally, says Erica Whyman, chief executive of Northern Stage, but it was then confirmed by a piece of research carried out two years ago.

Erica, who takes the lead in the matter of audience engagement for 10 cultural institutions, says: "We had all identified the fact that we are good at getting the people to come who know and love us.

"What's much harder to do, partly because it is more time-consuming, is to encourage people to do something that they haven't done before.

"In this region we have got a lot more culture on offer than we used to have, so it hasn't necessarily been people's experience from childhood to get involved in cultural activities.

"The research we did into audience behaviour showed that there isn't much crossover between the cultural venues. There is a small group of people who go to all sorts of things but it seems a lot of people are happy in one place."

Erica says that, collectively, Tyneside venues command a huge audience, but a significant portion of that audience is reluctant to step outside its comfort zone.

The same, apparently, goes for different forms of art and entertainment.

"There are people who love jazz but have never been to a classical music concert," says Erica. …

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