Star date: 10th September 2012


The Manchester Weekender event, backed with public money and featuring lots of publicly backed arts companies including The Lowry, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Happystorm Theatre, is being aimed at "highly educated", "highly spending" "Urbanistas" – rather than "those currently not engaged with art and culture", according to leaked internal marketing plans…

Full story here…

The Manchester Weekender event, taking place October 11th-14th in Manchester and at `The Quays', features lots of poncy stuff including Will Self  `Close Up' and `The Flaneurs Guide to the Northern Quarter'.

The "annual art and culture extravaganza" claims that visitors can "experience the real Manchester." Except that loads of it is taking place in Salford Quays, or `The Quays', as it's billed. And an internal marketing plan reveals that the Weekender is being aimed primarily at the affluent, despite both the organisers and many of the companies taking part being backed with public money.

The leaked document identifies main Weekender target markets, including the `Urbanistas' - `highly educated', `highly spending'. And the `Early Urbanistas' - `younger', `reasonably affluent'… It adds that it is "not trying to reach those currently not engaged with art and culture".

All this would be okay, except that everyone is paying for the Weekender. It's being organised by Creative Tourist, a project developed by the Manchester Museums Consortium, which includes The Lowry, Manchester Art Gallery, and the, er, People's History Museum. A Weekender event at the People's Museum called Songs of the Caged Bird is centred around American civil rights with a previous tour around `Manchester's civil rights past'. At the same venue, Salford's Hot Bed Press will be running a `Radical Print Shop' centred around `Manchester's political/protest past'… Let's hope the affluent Urbanistas enjoy them...

Creative Tourist's website  features logos including ManchesterHistory.co.uk - supported by the European Regional Development Fund and Visit Manchester - and Visit Manchester itself which in turn is financed by the Association of Greater Manchester Councils (AGMA), of which Salford City Council is a member. One of AGMA's stated priorities is "Better Life Chances in Deprived Areas".

There's also a logo up there for Renaissance North West – an Arts Council museum project, praised a few years ago by the DCMS director of culture for its policies on "social inclusion".

Salford companies taking part in the weekender include The Lowry (£1million from Salford Council), the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (£3million per year from Salford Council), the University of Salford, Islington Mill, Hot Bed Press and Happystorm Theatre

The Weekender's marketing plan notes that the Arts Council estimates that the `Urbanista' audience it's aiming at "accounts for 3% of the population""we would like to lead with a photographic image aimed particularly at the Urbanista/early Urbanista markets" it states.

"…we can assume certain characteristics across all markets" the marketing plan adds "cultural literacy/awareness; further or higher education qualifications; comfortable use of digital technologies and social media; an understanding of how marketing/advertising works…and a position towards the top of the socio-economic scale."

The Salford Star asked Susie Stubbs of Creative Tourist for an explanation and she sent us a long reply, basically arguing that the marketing plan had been taken out of context…

"It isn't exclusive" she states "The Weekender is really popular with Manchester residents and visitors alike. It has something for everyone - whatever the budget.

"Cultural tourists are a demographic that we alone are attracting- on behalf of and in constructive partnership with all our cultural sector partners" she adds "Obviously, none of the events we promote exclude local people - far from it - and we have a very supportive local following, but it just isn't where we put the emphasis of our marketing activity for the Weekender…that's the job of our partners

"Whilst receiving funding from a mix of public sector sources, we do not receive any money direct from Salford City Council or Salford arts organisations in receipt of public money" she stresses "but we do work in partnership with the arts, culture and tourism sectors to promote the city region's offer to cultural tourists from outside the city, and to ensure that by collaborating and working together, we make the most of the arts and cultural offer in Manchester and The Quays."
We asked Salford Council - which is a financial partner in AGMA, which in turn funds Visit Manchester which in turn supports the Weekender – for a comment but so far it has declined.

We also asked The Lowry to comment but have had no reply. Happystorm Theatre did respond and quoted us their policy… "To increase accessibility of theatre to a non-theatre audience; to encourage social cohesion…; to continue the growing sense of pride in Salford through artistic and meaningful theatre produced in and for the community."

For the Weekender, Happystorm is showcasing its production of Borderline Vultures (backed by The Lowry, Peel Media and the Arts Council), set in "a secret and unusual location at The Quays from where you will navigate your way through a multi-storey universe of touching and absurd encounters".

Tickets are on sale at £12 and £10 but director Susi Wrenshaw states that the company is going out of its way to make the performances accessible…

"We have 22 performances altogether. 21 are on sale to the public" she says "We are offering tickets to our 2 previews for just £5 and have cheap Tuesday shows for £7 for all tickets to make this accessible. One of the performances (13th Oct 2.30pm) was added on top of our other shows to be part of the Manchester Weekender for which we are also offering tickets at just £7 to increase accessibility.

"The production is also part of Black History Month" she adds "After meeting with the Refugee Network it became apparent that even the £5 charge for previews would be a barrier to its members being able to attend…We therefore added an additional show which is free of charge in celebration of BHM. The Refugee Network and other agencies will be supplying transport to the free show so that nobody is excluded. Most of these people have never been to or rarely attend the theatre."

The Manchester Weekender runs 11th -14th October and Salford related events include Behind The Scenes at BBC North (£5.75, £7.25 and £8.50); BBC Philharmonic Orchestra play Mozart and Mahler at the Bridgewater Hall (£10-£34) and the Joke Boat at the Quays (£3/£2) – Sam Avery will be giving a `comic's view of the buildings, facts, fiction and unsuspecting passers-by along the way"…

For further details on the Manchester Weekender – click here

RWL wrote
at 5:36:46 AM on Thursday, September 13, 2012
Two days gone by and still no Lowry response to my question here as to how many times they've tried *asking* the people of Salford what they might want from the Lowry. Even their defence to accusations of elitism seems to be just cut and paste PR smarm. Ask them a question (i.e. try to engage, which is what they claim to want) and they go silent, almost like they're stunned that that the Plebs outside the Walled City might have thoughts of their own regarding The Arts. What an arrogant organisation.
Michael Herbert wrote
at 12:06:19 AM on Thursday, September 13, 2012
good article, creating a welcome froth in the urbanista's skinny lattes
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 7:31:13 AM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Jo N, fine bring in as many "cultural tourists", sounds like a punk band to me, just get them to pay the going rate, no subsidies from a city that can't afford it.
RWL wrote
at 12:59:02 AM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
@The Lowry - you say The Lowry continues to encourage Salford residents’ engagement?!? At best all this means is that your arrogant clique think you know what's best for the locals and puts on pacifier events for them. The problem (other than Nanny Knows Best is a bloody patronising way of doing business) is that when locals want to engage with YOU, it's clear you're just not interested. It would be interesting to see a poll of what the local residents really think of your efforts to engage. How many times have you come out from the Walled City to ask them what they want? And then done something about it? Well???
at 12:24:13 PM on Tuesday, September 11, 2012
J, I happen to like watching Manchester United, but do not expect the ticket to be subsidised by the tax payer, I like to go to the odd gig, but again don't get & don't expect subsidised tickets. That is why these things should not be paid for through taxes. You want it you pay for it. It is that simple. Furthermore read the article the Lowry & BBC Phil take four million quid a year from Salford tax payers.
Jo N wrote
at 12:23:37 PM on Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Grow up, Salford Star, Creative Tourist is a promotional channel specifically designed to bring cultural tourists to Manchester and Salford - the clue's in the name. The point of the Weekender is to give that initiative a focus and bring the culturally-savvy with money to spend here, rather than Berlin or that London. That's not to say for one moment that their output or activities don't embrace local people who might be interested in them - I know, 'cause I am one. Read the demographic targeting for any promotional activity and several of the groups who indirectly pay for it won't be in there - again, the clue's in the name.
The Lowry wrote
at 7:46:35 AM on Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The Lowry is one of a number of partners working to make the Manchester Weekender a success for Salford and Manchester. As well as creating a fantastic atmosphere for local residents, many of the events, including our Comedians exhibition, are free to all. Others, including The Library Theatre’s production of The Heretic, will be discounted to Salford audiences through the Our Lowry scheme, which all Salford residents can join, free of charge. Over the Manchester Weekender (11-14 October) The Lowry continues to encourage Salford residents’ engagement with our theatre, galleries and participation programme. This includes half price tickets for our Saturday Playhouse events and heavily discounted tickets to see the acclaimed Rambert Dance Company. The Lowry’s mission to be as accessible as possible to Salford audiences is a year round commitment, not limited to any single weekend.
GPD wrote
at 10:06:25 PM on Monday, September 10, 2012
Yet again another great piece of investigative journalism from the Salford Star. As for the 'class system comments from the Star' nice to see you've taken the side of the underdogs and those who ultimately foot the bill for such socially narrowly-focused art extravaganzas.
J wrote
at 10:06:15 PM on Monday, September 10, 2012
Some serious double standards here. You say its not an issue that they're targetting a certain demographic, but it is an issue that public money is being used. Now, lets turn this on its head. Middle and upper classes (and even some working classes) pay a hell of a lot of tax. Taxes go towards all services- some typically not used by said classes. Services include the NHS and benefits. Is it fair that they're paying for something that they aren't using? If you think it is fair, then it's completely hypocritical. You can pull out the leisure vs life/death card but ultimately, people will be paying for things through their taxes that they either won't use. Not everything has to revolve around the working classes or underclass. The two classes are not being hard done by if they're not being targetted in certain events. Further down the article it says public money isn't going into it anyway, which renders the entire article redundant.
m irlam wrote
at 11:18:00 AM on Monday, September 10, 2012
Typical class system comments from the Star, take that chip off your shoulder. No doubt it will create a great opportunity for the Salford scum bags to go on the rob You know, those you were defending last year during the riots!!!
RWL wrote
at 10:09:55 AM on Monday, September 10, 2012
Aloof non-response from the Lowry seems standard. They should fund their own exclusionist agenda, public money would be much better spent on community arts projects, e.g. saving the Victoria Theatre
A.P. wrote
at 7:54:00 AM on Monday, September 10, 2012
Well I think Mayor Greedy Stewart had better make a comment . After all , aren't we all enjoying his new era of 'openness' ? An utter disgrace . Well done , Salford Star , for bringing this matter into the public arena . Speak up , Stewart. Can already smell the Bullshit.
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