Let’s Get Real 2016: Can we reinvent our online cultural offer?

Advertising the conference

Can we reinvent our online cultural offer? This was the title of Culture24’s sixth Let’s Get Real conference held at the beautiful Whitworth Museum & Art Gallery in Manchester on 27th October 2016.

Read about the event / download the presentations / see the pictures

The question implies it needs reinventing and I feel it does. But its not just online, its not just about technology or digital. It is about the deeper issues and challenges about the relevance of our sector to audiences of today. Our existing audiences, our potential audiences and their changing behaviours.

Culture24’s Let’s Get Real work has looked at a lot of issues over the last five years: storytelling, online metrics, content strategies and more. Across all of this we’ve seen organisations struggling to change internally, adapt, adopt new rhythms of working, new waves of thinking about their offer. Organisational struggling with digital skills and literacies, with capacity, with tensions between established wans of working and new ideas — fundamental questions about our relevance and diversity as a sector.

We’ve also seen everyone searching for new business models, all in need of money. Everyone is looking to diversity their income streams and generate new income.

I’m interested in how to do this. How to think about retail and to think about more than just retail, anything that is transnational, anything where the value is understood and money changes hands to buy an experience, a thing or a service. The money and the value don’t have to be immediate, sometimes it’s about loyalty, opening doors, starting conversations and listening. It is about building relationships with audiences over time.

At the 2016 conference we brought all these ideas together with the belief that IF we can develop products and services of value and relevance to people, they WILL pay for them. Importantly, it is more than just trying to make sure you are relevant, it is ensuring that you are not irrelevant. As Nina Simon talks about so well in her book ‘The Art of Relevance’ saying something is irrelevance is often synonymous with triviality, it is meaningless, doesn’t matter, it is not important. This is not true, irrelevance is a distraction and a dangerous one. Draws us away from what we intended, what we desired, what we came here to do.

Significantly, irrelevance is also dangerous and can be damaging especially for organisations with limited resources to attract and engage people. Irrelevance is everywhere, in every sexy new technology, every programme purposed to strictly fulfil a funders interest. Every short sighted way to get people attention without capturing their imagination.

To help cultural organisations get closer to these ideas and how to work with them, I curated the Let’s Get Real 2016 conference to take people on a journey through public value, brand value and into commercial value. I started big with strategic issues, moved into more personal issues related to their organisations and ended by getting very practical. My hope was that by taking time to explore a deeper understanding of their own public values and their own brands, they would find the potential to transform, change and improve their own online offer and possibly even change their whole organisations practice.

Here are the links to download all of the presentations and videos.


Tom Crompton: Brand, values and public benefit (PDF)
Abhay Adhikari: Creating new online narratives to re-imagine social impact in our cities (PREZI)
Jo Hunter: Rethinking online participation, how can we collectively build value with our audience? (PDF)


Short film: Leo Burnett Agency & Chicago Institute of Art (link webpage)
@MatLocke: How to know if your sector is dying and what you can do about it?
Morgwn Rimel: The School of Life’s evolution from thought experiment to global learning platform (PDF)


Lucie Paterson (video): How to build a museum online shop in four weeks (VIMEO)
Zak Mensah: Selling online: Chasing the 1%
James Doc: Responding to the craze: Gotta catch them all? (PDF)

This is what it looked like :)

In conversation: Sejul Malde, Tom Crompton, Jo Hunter and Abhay Adhikari
Q&A with the audience
In conversation: Fran Sanderson, Matt Locke and Morgwn Rimel
There was a lot of very attentive listening and lots of good humour
Artist Tine Bech explaining her Rainbowmakers game that was played after the confernce
Sejul Malde talks about Let’s Get Real Young Audiences