This workshop explored how to engage new audiences in events and activities of all sizes, including when capacity and resources are limited. It was held on 25 February 2021 as part of the Refugee Week Slow Conference, and was led by:

  •  Tom Green, Counterpoints Arts (Facilitator)
  • Usman Khalid, Founder, Haven Coffee
  • Giulia Ciccolella: Editor, ekō Magazine

Here is a write-up of the guidance shared by Tom Green at Counterpoints Arts:

Why think about audiences?

The theme of Refugee Week 2021, ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’, is an invitation – even more than normal – to reach beyond our usual circles and make new connections.

Arts and cultural approaches have the power to reach wider audiences, including those might not otherwise engage in this issue

Which audience?

ACTION: Think about the audiences you want to reach and why

Some ideas from the new Refugee Week Theory of Change:

Arts and Culture Audiences

A diverse group that varies depending on event and venue and may also contain any of the three other target groups. Operating in a range of arts and cultural settings enables Refugee Week to reach wide and varied audiences who might not otherwise engage with refugee issues.

Existing Supporters (active/passive)

Refugee Week enables existing supporters to celebrate, share learning and build connections, as well as activating ‘sympathetic yet passive’ supporters, thereby growing and strengthening the wider movement. Existing supporters also help engage ‘fence-sitters’ (people who are undecided about the issue) in Refugee Week.

Children and Young People

The changemakers of tomorrow. Engagement in schools enables Refugee Week to reach a wide cross-section of society.

Opinion Formers

Figures with the power to influence wider public attitudes, including (but not limited to) journalists, ‘social media influencers’, celebrities, faith leaders, politicians, civil servants, teachers and doctors.

What is our programme/event?

ACTION:  Consider what is the best kind of programming or event to reach those audiences.

Some things to think about:


What events and programming have inspired you and your team, both in Refugee Week and at other times? And who do you know (artists and others) who might be able to help? Think about artists and organisations who have links to communities you are haven’t reached yet


Can you programme in a space where your target audience already goes? Eg in a museum, a shopping centre or a park

Activity/ Content

What are your target audience interested in that you can offer? People who may not otherwise attend a ‘refugee event’ might get involved because they love football, comedy or a certain type of music

What’s the story?

What will catch the imagination of your audience and make them want to come and / or engage? Eg at Counterpoints we have run stand-up comedy events that have a wide appeal

Re-use, recycle

Are there ways that your programme can be presented and shared in different formats? E.g. A live event could also be shared online. A performance can be posted in snippets on social media. Extracts can be presented on local media both before and after the event. Remember to get permissions from the artists, though.


ACTION: Find partners who can help you reach your target audience.

Refugee Week is the perfect time to invite new partners to work with you. Which partners have a good connection to your target audience? How might you involve them? How can you make a connection?

Partners might help you reach your audience by

  • Spreading the word t through email newsletters, word of mouth and social media
  • Providing a venue
  • Offering resources to help
  • Bringing in new audiences and participants, e.g. a school > children and young people


ACTION: Link your press, media & social media strategy with your approach to audiences

Think about the advice for press, media and social media. How will your Refugee Week event become a story? The media coverage is also a way of reaching an audience – even if people don’t come to the actual event they will still receive the message.

Further reading

Creating an effective audience development plan (Audience Agency)

Spirit of 2021 Moment to Movement Report (especially Section 3)

Articles tagged with “Audience Development” on Arts Professional

Spread the Word: Media and Social Media Webinar + resources (Refugee Week Slow Conference)