Understanding audiences for the contemporary arts

One day symposium: ‘Understanding audiences for the contemporary arts’

Wednesday 29th April 2015

Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield

This symposium, hosted by the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC), brings together researchers and arts professionals to share current approaches to audience research and audience development, and to explore future possibilities for research and practice. The event has a particular focus on the contemporary arts (spanning contemporary music, dance, theatre and visual art), and SPARC researchers will present the initial findings of our collaborative project with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. We warmly invite participation from researchers and professionals working across the arts with an interest in audience engagement, and in the contemporary arts in particular.

In order to share ideas and facilitate discussion, we are inviting short researcher/practitioner statements (rather than full papers) on the following key themes:

  1. Methods and ethics – what are the practical challenges of researching with audiences?
  2. Communication and collaboration – how can arts organisations and researchers work together effectively to increase understanding of audience experience?
  3. Impact and application – what evidence is there of research making a difference to audience development, and how could this impact be better achieved and understood?

Three panels, chaired by invited practitioners and researchers, will address these topics and encourage discussion amongst all delegates. We will also be joined by two invited speakers: pianist Dr Philip Thomas (University of Huddersfield), who will offer a performer’s perspective, and Kealy Cozens (Sound and Music), bringing insights from her organisation’s work in composer and audience development.

Call for papers

Proposals are invited for 10 minute presentations that address one of the three themes outlined above, ideally through an evidenced example from recent research or practice. Each panel will include two or three presentations, followed open discussion with all delegates.

Proposal deadline 28th February 2015: Please submit your proposal (up to 200 words) and a short biography to be considered for inclusion in the symposium by email to sparc@sheffield.ac.uk Decisions will be made by the SPARC organising committee and the programme announced by mid-March.


Registration will be open via the SPARC website from 1st March 2015. A registration fee of £15 (or £10 student rate) will be payable by all delegates, to include lunch and refreshments.

SPARC website: http://sparc.dept.shef.ac.uk

Organising committee: Lucy Dearn, Sarah Price,

Stephanie Pitts & Jonathan Gross

 Enquiries: sparc@sheffield.ac.uk