Comment: Programming & Audience Engagement WA ‘Road Trip’ with Merryn Carter

Comment: ‘Road trip’ with Merryn Carter

Travelling around our vast state earlier this year for a Circuit West Project, Merryn Carter was looking forward to learning about the work being done in regions of WA that she hadn’t visited before.

“I was hoping to be able to support and encourage venue managers to consider the longer term and audience development impacts of their programming decisions. I also wanted to encourage more venues to develop programming partnerships with each other, to increase the range of programming options available to them,” Merryn said.

“I also knew in some locations venues are struggling to maintain a sustainable level of local government support for their work, so I was also hoping to be able to support their internal advocacy efforts and discuss the important roles they play in their communities.”

As well as seeing much of our beautiful state, Merryn said she met some wonderful people doing incredible work for their communities.

“Much incredibly valuable local arts activity happens mainly due to the passion and dedication of the staff, in spite of fairly severe under-resourcing. Most venues need more resources, particularly in marketing and audience development. It’s really hard to grow audiences without more investment in this area,” Merryn said.

“There is a lot of potential to open up programming choices through more venues forming partnerships with each other, to proactively create tours by reaching out directly to producers. Likewise, there is a lot of potential to fuel audience development through developing longer-term relationships with producers, encouraging them to form relationships with each venue’s local community.”

Travelling thousands of kilometres around the state, Merryn said there were many highlights of her trip including learning about the success of Opera in the Wheatbelt at Cummins Theatre in Merredin, hearing about the near-capacity performances in Broome by hometown group Marrugeku, and seeing plans for the new arts precinct in Karratha.

“Walking along Cable Beach in Broome at 7am was one of the non-work highlights – I smelled the camels before I could see them!”

Eating homemade soup and “the best homemade sausage rolls ever” at Beverley Station Arts was comforting and welcoming, and Merryn also saw some of the most spectacular sunset views she had ever seen in Esperance. “The guy at reception at my accommodation in Esperance told me that I should take the sunset drive along the coast – great local tip. It was some of the most spectacular coastal sunset views I’ve ever seen. I think the Esperance coast is a secret that WA is keeping from the rest of the country!”