Arts Organisations and Twitter: Telling the stories

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The below speech was given at the Arts Marketing Association’s Tweet Meet on Wednesday 23 November 2011, by A Younger Theatre’s Founder and Editor Jake Orr.

When I joined Twitter two or so years ago, I had no idea that this platform would somehow propel me into an industry that I loved and dreamed to be part of. I had no idea that several years down the line I would be giving workshops, presentations or participating in heated discussions around the use of Twitter for theatre or arts organisations.

Just like the growth of computers, technology and the internet, Twitter has become a part of the ‘norm’ for me, an inherent part of my everyday life. Can I imagine a day without it? Well, yes. But can I imagine a world without the interconnecting lines of communication criss-crossing across the industry, across my digitalsphere and across the world at large? No.

When I think back to those first moments of me connecting and engaging on Twitter I feel somewhat like I should be reminiscing on good times gone by. A time when no one knew what Twitter could do, how it would shape our lives or give us enhanced connectivity. Twitter was a place of constant evolution, from week to week you didn’t know what settings would be changed, or what new famous person would jump on the bandwagon. But equally you didn’t know who would connect with you, what conversations would begin, and how this tool would affect you as a person.

I long for those days again.
I long for freshness, and excitement.
I long for the unknown, the uncharted digital Twitter land.
I long for a time without marketing and sponsored content.
I long for experimentation.
I long for failure.
I long for creativity and spontaneity.
I long for connections of meaning.
I long for connections of unmeaning.
I long for stories.

Stories that can tell the world about the arts from inside an organisation.
Stories that begin to throw open the doors of our theatres to the process of making.
Stories that give our audiences an insight into the theatrical landscape we play with each day.
Stories that do away with marketing and show the real creativity that we have.

In each of our organisations or companies that we represent, there is a wealth of creativity that we engage with on a daily basis. The work we produce in rehearsal rooms is gradually, over time, placed upon our stages and shown to hungry audiences. These audiences feed and are nurtured from the stories we portray, they envelop themselves in the stories that we show, they immerse, revive, shed tears and grow with laughter.

As marketers, it is our duty to bring these stories out from our theatres into the audiences’ hands so that they can begin to feel the tangible strands of fragmented moments coming together. With the invisible needle and thread we sew together the work, the ideas and concepts of our directors and creators to that of the audience.

The wealth of creativity that we have to sew with is immense, and should be celebrated. We have some of the best creatives working in our buildings and organisations, and we are blessed to have the chance to work with them.

I long for the stories, this level of creativity and threads of communication between audience and organisation to be fed through Twitter just like our theatre work is fed through to our audiences. We have some of the best story makers in the country. We have to become those storytellers, to learn from the creators, to give over to the joy of storytelling to our audiences.

I’m not asking for our Twitter feeds to become abstract reflections upon the work that we produce, as some artistic experiment begins to alienate our audiences. I ask for the creativity that goes into the work of our pieces, of our stages to be fed back through our Twitter streams.

If marketing is not storytelling then I don’t know what it is.

Stories make up everything we do.

Let us return to a time on Twitter where the stories of who we are, what we believe in, and the magic of that thing that we all work towards – that electric excitement on the stage is back again.

Let us give back to our audiences the stories that they are promised when they buy a ticket.

Let us do away with tweets that have a marketing focus. Let us do away with the sell, sell, sell of social media. Let us be social, let us spread our stories from follower to follower, and allow the simple exchange of words to flow from our tweets.

I want to challenge arts organisations. I want to take over your streams and capture the hearts of your followers. I don’t want to sell tickets. I want to bring creativity to our audiences in a medium that we have tarnished with our blatant marketing.

Between the hours of 10am and 6pm, Twitter becomes a playground for the arts industry to promote itself in marketing tweets and social messages of boredom. What I want is a playground of storytelling from dawn to dusk. I want stories that weave between the creativity of our stages to our audiences. I want to feel the connections that I make with arts organisations on Twitter as real connections that bring me closer to understanding and engaging with the creative work that I see on the stage.

It’s not about giving our Twitter accounts just to the creatives – the directors, writers or designers in our organisations and telling them to ‘tell the stories’. It’s about marketing departments collaborating with them to embrace and thrive in the digital world, otherwise our branded social media will not reflect the true creativity we hold.

We work in the arts. We are artists. So why can’t Twitter be an art too? Why can’t we collaborate and dream the impossible for our 140 characters. Why can’t we tell a story? If Peter Brook said it takes one person walking across a stage in front of an audience to make theatre, then all we need is one imaginative tweet to a following list to create our own digital theatre. A theatre built on stories and creativity…

Please, please, tell me your stories… One tweet at a time.

Image by Tveskov

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