The process of making an audience manifesto began at a Royal Exchange Open Day, at which visitors were invited to begin creating manifesto statements, and it continued both as an online invitation for audiences to add to it, and through events such as ‘A Night at the Theatre’, a project in which audiences designed a blueprint for theatre, and conversations with audience forums and groups, who helped us to create, from the many statements we had gathered, a long list. Visitors to the theatre and online were then invited to vote on their top ten. Voting closed in December.
Some of the statements might appear kind of obvious, underwhelming. But when we talk about them with audiences, and drill down just a little to what lies beneath, it quickly becomes apparent that these are things audiences feel passionate about, concerns and passions that are alive, relevant, incredibly positive, heartening and challenging to us – here at the Exchange and to all of us working in theatre.
During Summer and Autumn 2017 we will be recruiting people from our outreach programmes, from the streets and from existing audiences, to work with us to develop our response to this manifesto. It will be an alternative Theatre Charter, and it will form the blueprint for our public facing work over the next five years, challenging us to demonstrate our commitment to being a theatre that is genuinely socially engaged, inclusive, connected and in meaningful conversation with the people of Greater Manchester. We’re also setting up an Audience Forum drawn from communities across the region to steer our audience consultation process as we develop a capital project for the theatre, using the Manifesto as the framework for change.
A limited edition pamphlet of the Audience Manifesto was produced for our You, The Audience symposium in February 2017, with illustrations by artist in residence Oliver East.