Stop patronising your audience! (What do we really get out of participation?)

Astrid Breel, 1 July 2012

Present: Annette Chown, Charleen Agistin, Jojo Townsend, Jess Hoffman

Reasons for calling the session were to discuss a lack of clarity around participation and what it really means to offer participation and to participate.
Can it be dangerous to not be clear about this? If we see interaction / participation in a very one-sided way then we run the risk of narrowing down the vartiety of arts and culture if we put ourself in the corner of defining value by assumed social impact. Work should be made as it is because we want to make it and then impact might follow for some people and that will be far more genuine and less patronising than devising some extra part of a work that ‘engages’ the community for the sake of doing it.

Real people performing in a work can be more interesting than actors - so using participants can bring this.\

Unexpected participation can be very engaging - but there needs to be a choice.

Need to be clear on the purpose of participation, so that we are honest with our audience about what we are ‘using’ them for.
There are many different types of participation and it's important to not have one single frame for describing, understanding or engaging in art work.

Making work with an opening for participation to give the audience a sense of investment and create an openness. The show can happen anyway but the it's responsive and about the people that are there on that particular night.

Proximity plays a part, taking away some of the distance and creating a different attention with the audience - communicating directly with them.
Would be good to know what the audience really think - how might we go about finding out?

As an artist you can get a lot out of the openness from the audience and the honesty they offer you.

Don't assume the impact will happen, but engage the audience that you are interested in.

Also don't dumb theatre down, there should be no difference in where you are showing it, the same work can work in a theatre space and a day care centre and don't talk down to your audience just because they are not in a theatre space.

Need to leave space for the audience to take from a work what they want, not prescribing what they might take away from it.

Is there a problem with the terminology, that participation has become a buzzword and doesn't mean anything anymore and might be putting some people off coming?


audience, participation, engagement