BLOG 29th September 2022

Same Laura, new role

Hello all!

It’s been a busy twelve months, but I’m back from maternity leave. While it’s been amazing having time to spend one-on-one with baby Chloe, I’m very excited to come back to an organisation with a new office, new faces, and a new position.

In my new role as Client Relationships Director, I’ll be supporting Fiona strategically both internally and externally. Within thrive, I’ll be helping our team to ‘walk the walk’ – we’ve been so focused on helping others to do audience development that we sometimes forget to make time to do it ourselves. Not anymore. We’re going back to the basics - doing our own CRM from scratch, aligning our KPI’s with our mission (and streamlining them too so they’re easier to measure our impact), and talking, no, listening more to our own audiences – organisations in the arts, culture, and heritage sector in NI. And on that note, be on the lookout for emails from me – I’m hoping to set up informal chats with you in the coming months to catch up over coffee and see how things are going. We want to make sure that the work we do for you is both useful and practical, and getting your input is critical to helping us grow and evolve as an organisation. We aren’t in the business of giving out 200+ page reports (yuck) just for them to collect dust in a corner – we want to help organisations in the cultural sector to develop closer relationships with audiences and have a positive impact on the wider community. We are also on the lookout for lovely case studies on the great things you all are doing (whether it’s been the result of our work or not), so if you have any amazing audience stories, I’d love to hear them.

Externally, I’ll be working on the delivery of our strategic projects. One of the projects I’m leading is ‘Northern Ireland in 100 Stories,’ funded by Arts Council of NI. My colleagues and I are travelling all across Northern Ireland, having conversations with 100 residents to uncover people’s relationship with arts and culture. What do they enjoy doing? Who are they doing it with? Why do they like doing it, and most importantly, what is the impact of arts and culture on their lives? We will be channelling the voice of the audience to help the sector, funders, and decision-makers see the significant value of arts and culture in people’s lives beyond just numbers on a page. We’ve only had about 40 conversations so far, but the results are striking. You can have a look at our first set of results here: Belfast, Derry~Londonderry.

Lastly, I’ll be managing some of the newer faces of our team. Victoria has been leading the charge on the research side of things while I’ve been away, while Alix has just started but is already making great strides with her blog on the cost of living crisis, and case study on the Belfast Book Festival’s Pay What You Want scheme. With Alix in this new post, we are hoping to help cultural organisations get even closer to their audiences by uncovering patterns in audience behaviour that’s often tucked away in box office systems.

It's an exciting time to be working at thrive. While I’m still finding my groove settling into my new role, I can’t wait for what our future will bring. Research is one of my biggest passions, so it makes my heart sing knowing that we are using research in different ways to help the sector develop stronger relationships with audiences. We’re currently sitting on a big pot of ticketing data, so one thing I’d love for us to do is to make it more useful to the sector other than merely writing our annual Foundations Report. So, I’m working with a Tableau expert through the Tableau Service Corps, in the hopes of creating dashboards that will bring audience insights to life (and make it more interactive, so you can see differences yourselves). Another thing I’d love for us to do would be to do a NI-wide survey to deep dive into all aspects of arts and culture in people’s lives. While we’ve done a whole series of Culture Beyond Covid surveys in the past, and we have also done two population-representative surveys in the Belfast and Derry City and Strabane Council areas, there isn’t a single NI-wide picture of cultural behaviour, motivations, and barriers. It would be amazing to look at the whole region and do a deep dive on cultural engagement – what people are doing, where it’s happening, why people are engaging, and how culture has impacted their lives.

Anywho, I know your time is precious, so thank you for reading this far! If you need me, you can reach me at my new email address -

Laura Cusick

Research Analyst

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