Through the Culture+ programme, we worked to improve the local arts economy through business development. As part of this work, we commissioned Dorset Moon, a new signature event in partnership with three established arts festivals from the county – Inside Out Dorset (produced by Activate), b-side and Arts by the Sea Bournemouth.
Known collectively as the Dorset Festival Consortium, the three biennial festivals came up with the idea of touring an artwork across the county over a short time-frame, to create greater impact and develop their audiences during their non-festival years.
Dorset Moon becomes a new collaboration for the county
The centre-piece of this new event was internationally acclaimed artist Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon – a fantastic, seven-metre diameter internally-illuminated sculpture of the moon. It landed in three locations across Dorset from 28 June – 14 July 2019, as a free event for all ages to enjoy. It also acted as a test bed for the festivals to work together for the first time in producing a new event, and to encourage engagement with existing and new audiences.
Working together in this unique way meant each festival can achieve more together than on their own.
In comparison to the other two festivals the current Arts by the Sea team in Bournemouth for example is relatively new, so working with experienced partners in the region has been invaluable for them.
“We have all benefitted from the sharing of knowledge, and the festivals have been able to achieve something with a wider reach and greater impact than we could have done alone. It’s been interesting to work on a project focussed around Cultural Tourism and the linking together of those sectors.” Andrea Francis, Arts by the Sea Bournemouth
All three partners benefited from each other’s knowledge and experience in different areas throughout the process, from programming, to event logistics, marketing, audience development and artist development.
The supporting programme as part of the collaboration
The supporting programme is also an integral collaborative element of Dorset Moon.
Supporting artists to develop their artistic practice and supporting the development of new work has always been an important aspect to all three festivals in their usual programming, so it was integral part to this collaborative process too.
b-side devised a Professional Business Development programme in Outdoor Arts, which was aimed at artists and producers wanting to move their practice from indoors to outdoors and was delivered in a modular workshop style by all three festivals. It created a significant opportunity for artists to learn skills enabling to develop new work (product) for the outdoors.
It resulted in several pitches by artists not normally working in the public sphere. From these, the Consortium then selected several new projects to develop, mentor to produce new work for the Dorset Moon programme; 5 of the 7 new commissions that were created were by artists who came on the course. Read more about each artist commission here.
Dorset Moon boosting local economy
Another of Dorset Moon’s key objectives was to develop new relationships with the tourism industry to bring new visitors into the county. The positive economic impact of free events that centre around internationally acclaimed objects was recently seen in Dorset as the county was the first location to host ‘Dippy the Dinosaur’ read the full report here.
To maximise the opportunity, the project partners reached out to all local businesses to make the most of the event by actively joining in with the campaign.
Jacky Thorne, the Arts Development Company’s Culture+ Tourism Lead says:
“By working together, we can encourage increased spending in local attractions, shops, cafes, restaurants and more! How? by promoting the three venue towns as fantastic places visit, stay – and spend money. Local businesses are stronger together – so by using our digital marketing pack we aim to help businesses get creative and team up to promote each other throughout the campaign.”
To encourage participation, local businesses were given access a range of digital assets for free via the Dorset Moon website to download and use for their own marketing purposes. They also received a weekly newsletter to highlight ways to create lunar-inspired packages for their customers and guests.
Dorset Moon goes digital
The Dorset Moon project also explored new ways to reach audiences through a specific marketing strategy.
As well as employing traditional methods, the strategy had a strong digital push, not only through the digital marketing pack for businesses but by working with digital influencers to help spread the word to a much wider audience. By working with recognised travel blogger Emily Luxton for example, encouraged new audiences to discover the Dorset landscape and everything it has to offer.
Furthermore, by encouraging local businesses, visitors and local residents alike to share images of the event using the #DorsetMoon hashtag meant the event could reach more audiences online and experience the event from afar.
An over-the-moon result
Over three weekends in June and July, 2019, more than 41,000 people saw Dorset Moon, exceeding the targeted 12,000. Visitors enjoyed Luke Jerram’s monumental Museum of the Moon installation in three spectacular locations in Dorset – St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth; Sherborne Abbey and the Nothe Fort at Weymouth.
The digital approach to the marketing also proved to be a success, as we saw:
- 1,500 user-generated images using using the #DorsetMoon on Instagram
- Images of the event were also picked up by national newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph and The Observer and news about the three landings also had a global reach with media reports in the USA, China, Thailand and Germany.
- Over 27,000 unique visitors actively used the dorsetmoon.com website between March and July inclusive.
- Over 70% of visitors returned to use the site, proving it to be a valuable tool for them
- 60% of audiences accessed the responsive dorsetmoon.com website via their mobile especially during peak visiting times of each weekend.
- Over 50 businesses across Dorset got behind the campaign and used the Dorset Moon assets to promote their own moon-related packages and offers.
- Of the three venue towns, Sherborne businesses took a more active approach, leading to many to experiencing record sales and some reporting that they sold out of their stock during their weekend event.
“Dorset Moon far exceeded the expectations of the Dorset Festivals Consortium. All three festivals are profoundly energised by the response from the public and the quality of the artistic work. The international reach online has highlighted our county as a place where truly extraordinary events take place. It has been a delight to present the work and partner with such a great set of iconic venues and a wonderful team.” Kate Wood, Executive and Artistic Director of Activate.
If this significant event in Dorset is anything to go by, it proves that collaboration can work and employing new digital approaches to the marketing campaign not only reaches a wider audience but directly affects footfall and can have a boost to the local economy.
This report is a part of Culture+ Project Report.