1. @Mikhail – these are paid-for tickets for other arts events that are sold at a discount during Artsfest. The 200k figure I’d guess would be talking about the number of people ‘at’ Artsfest. Given that Birmingham city centre probably has that number of people walking around on any given Saturday and this was a public event it would be hard a) hard to measure in the first place, and b) hard to disprove.

  2. So when the organisers say that 200,000 enjoyed the artsfest thing are they making it up then? Does the city centre deal with 200,000 people on a typical weekend? Does this mean artsfest made no impact in bringing people. Was artsfest supposed to bring people into town? Is it bad PR spin or are they suggesting that the figure may be accurate. If so why not 100,478. How do they estimate? My point on events like artsfest or any similar event, how can turnout be measured? How would you measure something like Gigbeth or Lord Mayors Show? How do we tell which events were successful and which events were a waste of time and money? We keep hearing “the event was a huge success” year after year, What I’d like to know is how the event this year differed from previous years, was it better, worse, more effective, is progress being made, is it worth it etc etc. I’m sure the local police have to work out how many police officers need to be around an area if there will be a certain number of people present. I’m sure somebody somewhere has to work out numbers of people versus security or stewards or something like that. What I’d like to know is if there is a way to verify these events, I’d like figures like 200,000 to be verified and not pulled out of the air by the PR people who want everyone to believe what an amazing day it was. Somehow I get the feeling we’re all being fooled. I hope I’m wrong.

  3. john mostyn

    I remember a survey carried out around the 3rd or 4th Artsfest.
    It was very well put together and at the heart of it was a questionnaire that attendees were asked to complete by a team of researchers. I didn’t keep a copy but I remember clearly being surprised at how many people that year had come into the City from right across the West Mids specifically to come to Artsfest.

    Paul Kaynes, now at Audiences Central ran the survey, perhaps he could remind us of the stats from then?

  4. John,
    You may be referring to a report (http://www.newaudiences2.org.uk/downloads/btp_fierce.doc) that is actually about the Fierce festival but which as part of its methodology did the following:

    “A number of people were approached at ArtsFest 2001 on the basis that they seemed to fit the perceived type of person who was also a Fierce attendee. They were asked to complete a survey card with their contact details and this data was analysed.”

    Turns out that the data collected wasn’t very useful as they were trying to compare a free festival (Artsfest) with a ‘box-office’ festival (Fierce). The subsequent report did find that 25% of people (the highest proportion) travelled more than 45 minutes to events at Fierce.

    The survey is highly analytical about population ‘types’ but doesn’t say much more than Artsfest is more likely to attract families than Fierce.

    Haven’t found anything on visitor numbers but methodologically it would difficult but not impossible. The wife (something of a research methods guru amongst her many talents) reckons an on-street survey would allow you to analyse what type of person went but it would then be tricky to extrapolate up to give total numbers (but some approximating could take place if the survey was comprehensive enough). A post-event postal survey might do it as well. I presume some kind of method must have been employed to come up with the numbers quoted – surely people don’t just make these things up…


  5. Boy Wonder

    Artsfest is surely about taking part in the arts and people clearly did that on a large scale whether that was at Blast (fantastic) or any number of other theatre or music events. Agreed not everything was excellent but in the main it served its purpose, getting people involved either as participants or audiences. (Its positive news about ticket sales). On Friday I witnessed people on their way up Broad Street to get lashed see some really worthwhile music. Lets not get too hung up on the accuracy or not of the figures. We are not, after all, AWM bean counters.

  6. Hey enough with the statistics! What the hell is this a civil service convention? Why don’t we just assume that because nobody got angry and smashed the fuckin’ place up that everyone had a good time? Ehh ? who gives a shit what the fuckin’ methodology is for counting the heads and toes of the feet that walked by? How much did their shoes cost? Oh and who had tea or coffee?

    The point is that the ‘organisers’ will always present a glowing report to the funder’s, the funder’s will present a glowing report to the fund, the fund will present a glowing report to the government and the government doesn’t give a shit! Everyone is happy and it will be funded next year because they managed to not save any money!. Well done all round!

    I enjoyed it and my enjoyment wasn’t in any way hampered by whether some schmucks were counting! They shoulda been watching the fuckin’ shows not counting the audience! Get a life you putz! Spend the money – who cares everyone is happy happy happy except the bands cause they don’t get paid!

    I know stop paying civil servants who love facts and figures to count the fuckin’ tickets and give their money to the bands instead! They’ll tell you who came to the show- aunts uncles a local tramp who pissed up the side of the stage! – Hey everyone’s a winner and we can all sleep a little better knowing that the figures will never add up. Good Night people.

    Geez! How many people read this shit?

  7. “Geez! How many people read this shit?”

    How many people make it down through the comments threads is a valid question. For the record, though, the blog is averaging 300 uniques (not clicks – they’re meaningless) a day on the site and about 100-150 via the feed (I don’t have the latter to hand but can get them if you want.) You did ask.

    If I might try and tidy stuff up a bit, counting is, as you say, meaningless. What’s interesting is that in the weeks running up to Artsfest the council were making noises that this was to be the last one and backed this up with conspicuous-by-it’s-absence promotion. Apparently this lack of enthusiasm came from councilor in charge not believing the crowd figures. Now he wants to keep Artsfest and cites quite improbably crowd figures to back it up. This is interesting, if only in a Emperors New Clothes way. Actually, it’s not that interesting really. Just worth noting.

    My take is you can’t measure this stuff but you can get a collection of subjective notions which you can learn from. I’d imagine the people who actually put effort into things like Artsfest are making those judgments and will come to conclusions of their own. This kind of micro-analysis cannot really be aggregated that well to a master judgment, which is why we have politics to make those sorts of unsubstantiated pronucements. Necessary evil.

  8. For those still interested:

    I should have looked more closely at that New Audience website as it has reports from the ’98 and ’99 Artfest by Paul Kaynes.

    110,000 attended in ’99 and the survey method was “short questionnaires, consisting of twelve questions aiming to discover arts attendance behaviour before and during ArtsFest.”

    26% were from a 45 minute drive away.


  9. anthony hughes

    26% from a 45 minute drive – that may only place them around Moseley on a Saturday?

    I attended the Blast performance as you know John, it was a spectacular event and extremely well staged. I read a comment elsewhere on the blog that asked the question why so little media interest? and as for national coverage… I agree that if the production had been a Tate or more generally a London event it would have been all over the culture show and broadsheet reviews. It is encouraging when a large crowd turn out two nights in a row on a cold evening.

    My evening was made all the more enjoyable when three track-suite wearing Chav’s turned up – the one of them began telling the others how Curzon Street station was the original Birmingham station opened in…the oldest station in… etc Who says arts funding isn’t well spent? If one Chav has the courage to read and remember interesting facts – AND run the risk of his mates ridicule “Yer Mom!” then job well done. Not exactly a barometer or statistically exact science – but one that made me realize the potential for affect on social awareness of the arts.

    Interestingly in contrast to the hundreds of people at that one event and not unrealistic figures into the thousands throughout the artsfest events, we don’t hear anywhere near the same level of cynicism about the blatantly very poor turn out at most gigs. In fact it is a real cause for concern. We should in principle celebrate any large attendance (whatever the figures) at any cultural event in the region.

  10. so if Russ L on September 24th, 2007 says “I don’t think anyone has been even in the least bit fooled by the “200,000″ claim at any point…” How do we deal the person/s who wrote that press release claiming that over 200,000 people turned out for Artsfest….This sort of thing just makes it harder for anyone who has a GENUINE success story to report to get any credit for their hard work…..not wishing to refer to B CD thing again or anything similar…..

  11. Severeley, that’s how. Hang ’em up by the… town hall?

    And, oh these crazy chavs. Reading and everything, whatever next. Maybe they might even impress you sufficiently to put aside the snobbery far enough to acknowledge that these particular ones may even have been human beings, Anthony.

  12. anthony hughes

    No, I don’t think they were humans But, having delivered projects for youth groups and taught for years – and having been young once myself (a while ago), I did genuinely think that it was encouraging to hear some interest in a rather abstract performance. No snobbery intended.

    The fact that we have any well poulated cultural events has to be a good thing. How people use figures for positive or negative spins is another matter and not one that I feel the need to involve myself in yet again – I spend an increasing amount of time dealing with this in other areas and genuinely trying to address and challenge the issues around them. On this particular weekend my own brain took a holiday – which maybe accounted for surpirse when someone else’s didn’t. Over and above this I still try and maintain a sense of humour.

  13. anthony hughes

    It’s all an experiment…maybe both versions are truisms. That would make an interesting statistical study.

  14. I have no doubt the results would be just as accurate and believable as the 200,000 claim.

    So, did anybody else have any important revelations at Artsfest? Maybe someone encountered an immigrant who wasn’t simulteously scrounging off the state and taking our jobs, or anything of the like.

Comments are closed.