Creative Manchester was set up in late 2018 as a platform for bringing together educators, civic leaders, and employers to collaborate and promote creativity and innovation across disciplines. Although it was born in the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures, it also looks outwards to work across all faculties of the university, as well as with the wealth of cultural partners working across the city and the region.
My role at the organisation has been focused on event planning and management, allowing me to further develop my skills from my undergraduate experiences and two years working full time for a literature festival. This is an incredibly exciting time to work for Creative Manchester as they establish their four-year strategy and bring in new initiatives to celebrate the best of the university and the city. Plus, on my part, I have been able to learn from experienced colleagues, whilst also making a genuinely valuable contribution to their projects.
One example of this is the Music on Campus events, which were piloted in March. The events featured pop-up outdoor music performances from different groups within the Music department and Music Society, with the one I attended being held on Alan Gilbert Square. I was tasked with proposing different methods of evaluation for the events.
Despite the cold and breezy weather (although, miraculously, it was not raining), the pilot of Music on Campus was a great success. The three groups performing all had very different musical styles but, when asked, 100% of surveyed respondents said the performances made them feel calmer, happier, or more energised. Many people also commented that they felt the performances had had a positive effect on their wellbeing. The audience included current students and staff as well as visitors attending a SALC Open Day and feedback was gathered through informal conversations recorded on simple survey sheets.
Reflecting on the pilot event, I believe that with more lead-in time and more resources, the Music on Campus events could be a fantastic opportunity for Creative Manchester in terms of branding, forming meaningful partnerships with academic departments and student societies, and improving wellbeing. Furthermore, Creative Manchester can play to the strengths of the event to use feedback and evaluation methods which are non-committal, engaging, and creative.
In terms of feedback, I would choose methods that are as instant as possible, bearing in mind that many audience members are simply passing through the area, listening to the music, or socialising, and are therefore less open to being interrupted to answer survey questions. Methods such as token voting systems and doodle boards allow for both quantitative and qualitative data to be collected anonymously, and encourage audience participation, ending in a more reciprocal, joined-up experience that continues the wellbeing intentions of the event.
Rebecca Duncan is a student on the MA in Arts Management, Policy Practice Programme.