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Igniting intelligence & innovation

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Director’s note

Julie Tait, Culture Sparks Director, sums up the past year and casts an eye to the future.

Please share your comments below!

“A cultural leader whom I admire enormously, once said to me about my role within his organisation, “Change: get used to it or get out”. Although there was a gleam in his eye, his words stuck. Crowded by the pressures of meeting social need, articulating value, defining new markets and of course the very real, mind-concentrating imperative of meeting revenue targets, the publicly funded arts sector is not always a comfortable place to be – however, it’s the area we work best in and know most about.

“This year we have made significant strides forward in the digital arena, both in terms of how we run our own business, and through the initiatives we’ve set up or taken part in: securing a second stage of the £1M AmbITion programme; taking on and developing new project ideas such as WhiteNOISE; and developing new collaborations and partnerships with software engineers and developers. We have extended our role online, analysing the behaviour of arts organisations and their virtual audiences, gathering intelligence about the visual arts or gallery-going audience, and indeed about audiences for whom no data previously existed. Through finding new ways to present intelligence to our members, we’re helping organisations to visualise their audiences and what stimulates them. We’re opening up conversations, fresh thinking and new partnerships to share and develop new practice. A key challenge in our digital work and our use of data has been in determining how best to deploy data as a tool, not just to benchmark performance dryly but as a resource to interrogate, inspire and influence. And there is no shortage of demand.

“The challenge of turning theory into practice is common to the whole sector, and that’s where our alchemy comes in. It is the mix of members, project ideas, research intelligence and vision that combine to grow audiences. Not just research, but practice and partnership too. The role the staff at Culture Sparks play in that mix is unique, and I thank each and every one of them, current or alumni, for their passion, creativity and sheer hard work on behalf of members and partners during 2011-12. Culture Sparks could not realise its ambitions without the dedication and contribution of all who work with us, including our accomplished Board of Directors and all of our specialist partners and associates.

“Next year, though, our plans extend much further. Interest in how to develop audiences from our colleagues across the whole country; the evolution of new tools to reach out and share information; and the pressure to demonstrate results in the current, highly charged political and economic arena all mean that the imperative to work together is even greater. Therefore, we have begun conversations with our audience development colleagues across Scotland to come together in a new company to offer arts and cultural organisations greater access to our services and a much stronger voice in the debate about cultural engagement and participation. We urge you to join in as we embrace change and meet the future head-on.”



  1. I enjoyed reading your note Julie. Exciting times indeed, now and in the future. Just back from 6 months in Canada, I had a wonderful time over there (working with Scots Diaspora ahead of Homecoming 2014) but it is also, always so great to come back home with so much happening here in our music, arts and cultural scene. I agree with your comments about embracing change and I would like to wish Culture Sparks and your partner organisations much success in working together and strengthening your voice for the arts in Scotland.

    • Thank you Shona and welcome back!

  2. One of the things I wanted to do – was to thank for all the help that you (Culture Sparks) and your resources – have gave me to help clients / customers / individuals – to access the digital world.

    I think that your are one of a 21st century powerhouses and digital engineers that will help our immediate generation to get ahead and also help with our young ones to continue that process.



    • Thank you Paul,
      We really appreciate your comments.We absolutely believe that the best way for audiences to grow is to help you to focus your resources and talents effectively and will do our level best to do this. Please do keep in touch, all best, J

  3. Greatest challenge will be demonstrating results in what will continue to be a challenging social, financial and political arena. But I think a national remit for audience development will make this slightly easier. Some good conversations in Edinburgh during the consultation – we’re in.

  4. Thanks Jane,
    I agree. Thanks for your input. All welcome. Some great and inspiring conversations I agree. Real consistent themes emerging. Glad to have you on board. Brilliant! J

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