Cork’s Firkin Crane is the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Arts Audiences Google Mentoring Scheme. This is the fourth year of the project and 16 organisations, including IMMA, Galway Arts Festival, the Gate Theatre, Riverbank Theatre, and the Chester Beatty Library, have benefited from the Google input.
It is the first time, though, that a Cork arts organisation has been selected, and Paul McCarthy, managing director of the historic Shandon venue, is delighted at the news: mentors from Google will advise the Firkin Crane for four months on how to connect with existing and new audiences through digital marketing.
“In a world of multi-media communications, it is very important to stay up to date with the best marketing practices in the arts,” says McCarthy. “We believe that, with the help of the acknowledged experts, we now have a unique opportunity to create awareness amongst members of the public that Firkin Crane, home of dance in Cork, is a place where everyone can make, see or join in dance.”
There is also the exciting possibility, he says, of making contact with passionately interested people and groups all over the world.
“Technology is growing so fast and opening so many doors,” he says. “You have to get to grips with it, and explore the amazing opportunities it offers. Already, for our residencies and performances, we invite and receive projects from all over the world, which might be created in Australia or India or America and then transmitted right here for us to view. In the old days, you would put an advert in maybe one or two international dance journals; you would then go through the replies, and try to make up a short-list of people to interview. All that took so much time, and you were only ever reaching a very small number of potential artists.
“With the internet, we can make our interest known to a far wider audience of interested performers, and when their projects come in, we can take our time looking at them, decide which ones we want, and then get back to the originators and set up arrangements to bring them here — all over the net. That’s just the start. Think of being able to make contact with those who are interested everywhere, and who don’t yet know that we’re here, or the kind of work we do.”
Every day, new ideas and ways of communicating, of reaching wider audiences, are thought up and put into practice. Google’s Hangouts on Air is just one example, already utilised by Barack Obama, says McCarthy. “It’s like broadcasting on the internet. You can schedule broadcasts and go live in HD on Google+, YouTube, and your website, or host interactive conversations with people around the world. The possibilities are never-ending.”
And then there is Cork itself, says McCarthy, where their overriding aim is to make the Firkin Crane part of the wider community, involving all ages, all social groups, across the spectrum. “As it is, only those who already know they are interested in dance, in all its forms, come to us. We want to extend that, to show just what a widely appealing entertainment and exploratory form it is.” He is looking forward to studying how that can be achieved, together with the experts from Google. The mentors had better know all the answers, because the Firkin Crane is bubbling over with questions.