ARE WE THE BADDIES? Audience development, cultural policy and ideological precarity

Research output: Contributions to collected editions/worksChapterpeer-review


  • Steven Hadley

This chapter situates the practice of audience development within both Dubois’s work on culture as a vocation, and wider current cultural policy debates around the democratisation of culture and cultural democracy. Belief in the democratisation of culture is waning, and there has been significant recent debate on the prospects of a revival of cultural democracy. Audience development as a practice is seen to both replicate and reproduce (rather than challenge) the dominant cultural hegemony, most specifically in institutional settings across the subsidised cultural field. As such, it has traditionally been conceptualised as a management tool for the democratisation of culture. Vocational occupations – such as those in arts management and audience development – are attractive not so much for their material rewards as for the prestige and self-fulfilment they confer. They require a strong personal commitment, which can be subjectively experienced in terms of passion and selflessness. Dubois’s description of the relationship between the social backgrounds of arts managers and audience development agendas makes it clear that goals such as audience diversification required by cultural institutions are unlikely to be successful if the majority of their staff originate from academic families with high levels of cultural capital. Based on interviews with key actors in the development of the practice of audience development in the English field, this chapter questions practitioners’ emotional and intellectual attachment to the cultural vocation of audience development and situates their responses within a contemporary cultural policy context. The chapter argues that in a policy context which is shifting towards a model of cultural democracy, the alignment of audience development to the democratisation of culture creates a form of ideological precarity for arts managers and fundamentally challenges their ‘enchanted relationship to work’.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Companion to Audiences and the Performing Arts
EditorsMatthew Reason, Lynne Conner, Katya Johanson, Ben Walmsley
Number of pages16
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Publication date06.04.2022
ISBN (Print)9780367470753
ISBN (Electronic)9781000537963
Publication statusPublished - 06.04.2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 selection and editorial matter, Matthew Reason, Lynne Conner, Katya Johanson, Ben Walmsley.