Members of the Albany Outreach team yesterday accompanied three Directors on a research trip, funded by Coventry City Council to venues in Birmingham to find out more about how other arts and cultural organisations run, their models for using volunteers and how they use their space. This is part of a wider research project which will inform the development of the Albany’s new space for which we are expecting to sign a lease at the end of the month.
Our first stop was mac Birmingham in Edgbaston which has a unique location, on the edge of the large Cannon Hill Park. This comes with its own challenges but also provides opportunities for mac to engage with audiences who perhaps wouldn’t come to other arts centres.
The next stop was the Crescent Theatre who have a very small paid team and also run a large amateur company who regularly put on shows both at the Crescent and touring around the Midlands. It was really interesting to hear about how their company volunteer for duty shifts on the bar and front of house as there are many similarities here with the Albany.
We also visited the Birmingham Rep which is very different from the Albany as a major regional producing house with statutory funding but the challenges they face with space are ones many venues can relate to. As we consider our catering offer for the new space it was also interesting to hear about their experience both with external catering companies and running this themselves.
Finally, we made a trip to the Coffin Works which is a museum with spaces that are leased and others available to hire on a more short-term basis. Unlike the other venues on our tour it is not primarily an arts space but they have had some interesting events from food fairs to Asian dance in their courtyard. They also have regular volunteers from a variety of backgrounds who help at events, in the shop and by giving tours.
We are hoping to take the Directors on more trips, to venues old and new and further afield to find out as much as we can about how other venues run, learn from the challenges faced in terms of both initial build and operational management, but most importantly find out what works so when we come to modelling the Albany for the next stage in its development, we have the best information from which to do that.
The Directors would like to thank all the venues for their time which was so generously given.