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The Case for Culture North East

Annual Forum 2022 report


A photograph of Sage, Gateshead, where the Annual Forum 2022 took place

The North East Culture Partnership held its first ‘in person’ Annual Forum since 2020 at Sage Gateshead on 12th July 2022.

The event was shaped by a group of NECP Board Members along with NECP Managers and aimed to present a wide range of regional voices responding to our emerging Case for Culture Themes.

“This was the fifth Annual Forum which NECP has organised (in addition we organise Heritage Forums) and aimed to bring the region’s cultural sector together to discuss themes arising from the refresh of the North East Case for Culture. 

“This was our first in-person Forum since the event in Sunderland in January 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic. The event faced some challenges with staff and speakers unable to take part at the last minute due to Covid-19, and there are some areas for improvement around access in the report, but overall, we were pleased with the event and the feedback from delegates and attendees on the day.” Matthew Jarratt, NECP Manager.

The following report, compiled for the NECP Board, is primarily drawn from audience feedback and surveys and input from NECP Managers. We hope it provides some useful feedback which can help to shape future NECP events.  

Forum Impact

Social Media

Social media on the day of the Forum itself reached 16,221 people – with the most popular and engaging content (not including general welcoming images and welcoming messages – which were the highest engaged with) being:

  • Lord Parkinson’s address
  • Invisible Dust
  • Stockton & Darlington Railway
  • 50/50 Future


As a result of the promotion of the Forum (which began on 13 May 2022) newsletter subscriptions increased by 151.


There was 1,023 unique views of the Forum event on Eventbrite, with 220 tickets reserved. 

In total, 94 bookers didn’t attend – which is a 43% dropout rate, around 10-15% higher than we would typically see for free, live events pre-Covid.

We are looking at ways to reduce the dropout rate for future events, which may include limiting tickets to one per booking. This event uses much of the NECP annual budget, particularly for catering, which could have been reduced based on the number of attendees.


More new attendees

30% of attendees were new to the Forum this year, which is slightly higher than in previous years.

Consider improvements 

70% of people rated the Forum content as Good or Excellent, which is similar to previous years. 


We received feedback about the need to ensure the stage was accessible and the need for BSL provision at our events. In response, NECP Managers and Board have produced an event accessibility toolkit to support our improvement around accessibility, and we also aim to share this with regional partners. 


Our Board Steering group included several diverse Board members, and our speakers’ gender balance and diversity markedly improved in previous years.  We recognise that we are on a journey to improve our work around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work, particularly regarding our audiences for events. 

Delegate Feedback



Pre-event communications80% Excellent or Good
Registration on Eventbrite88% Excellent or Good
Staff support at the venue87% Excellent or Good
Structure of event53% Excellent or Good
Quality of event content70% Excellent or Good
Your ability to participate fully40% Excellent or Good
The location of venue90% Excellent or Good
The accessibility of the venue82% Excellent or Good
Lunch and refreshments77% Excellent or Good
Length of sessions28% too long

68% about the right length

Breaktimes in between sessions55% too short

45% about the right length

Attended Annual Forum before65% yes

30% no

5% unsure

Likelihood of attending NECP events in the future73% likely

22% neither likely or unlikely

5% unlikely 


Selected commentary from the question: would you like to expand on any aspects of the day?

Length of sessions

“I found the length of the sessions without breaks to be quite difficult. Just an opportunity to get a drink of water on a hot day and visit the loo. I got to the end of the day feeling quite tired and worn out. I would have valued more opportunities for networking. It was lovely to meet people and see those that I hadn’t seen in person for several years. I thought there could have been some more imaginative decisions made about the projects that were focussed on. I think there could have been a better selection made that showed the breadth of creative and heritage activities across the region.”

“Expecting attendees to sit through and attempt to engage with 3-hour blocks of content with no breaks is totally unreasonable. It’s just not possible to maintain concentration for that long. Unfair on both attendees and speakers. These day-long events need a mix of formats – workshops, keynotes, provocations, etc. There wasn’t enough space for networking throughout the day. The day should have been structured around developing a clear output that moved C4C on – perhaps picking up on Steve Bishop’s comment – what’s our specific “ask”?”


“For future events it would support everyone’s participation if there was a variety of discussion formats. For example, at some points in the day it would be great to have a provocation followed by conversations in small groups (people sitting immediately next to each other) followed by chaired contributions from delegates. This would support networking and make the dialogue more two-way. Thanks to the organisers for all the work that went into the event. Here’s to the next one!”

“I felt it would have been more involving of the conference attendees if there had been more of a workshop/breakout element to the day – however I don’t have much experience of conferences, and perhaps it isn’t something that is suitable for this arena. I also had to leave at 2.30pm, so perhaps these things were addressed later in the day. I thought some great suggestions were made by people at the conference, and a visual record of this would have been good, as well as a summation of how things will move forward.”

“The content was very strong but there wasn’t enough time for discussion and networking. Perhaps focus on less content and have more time around them or arrange two days so that delegates can make a choice on subjects and attend both or one of the days. Altogether though it was evident much preparation had gone into the day with some very good speakers. Thank you very much for a stimulating day.”

COVID Safety

“I would have liked to see more covid awareness – distancing measures and sanitiser available – and measures for the shared microphone!”

Format, Logistics or Structure

“It would have been nice to have sessions which weren’t just listening to people talk. The seats were very uncomfortable. I think more breaks need to be planned for these things as it is hard to engage fully when sessions run on from each other. I would like to see bursaries for freelancers to attend the day as their voices are often missing.”

“Panels had some high-quality content. Focus on topical concerns re Case for Culture was good. Details of programme were circulated far too late. Accompanying material was much worse than previous forums – previously we had a Delegate Pack with speaker biogs etc, and it was particularly regrettable this time not to have a list of participants. Bit ironic that we had a session on EDI but were not a very diverse audience. Sage staff very friendly and efficient.”


“I couldn’t see wheelchair access and there was no BSL interpreter. Everything was in English – a summary in some other languages would be good. No Braille.” 


“The events session felt irrelevant and incredibly traditional. There were no provocations. Many people spoke well, thank you but decidedly un-diverse and the same old faces, one in particular, who has dominated arts strategic policies for well over 20 years! Far, far too little time to discuss.”

Key takeaways:

  1. Shorter sessions and more frequent breaks
  2. More opportunities for discussion and active participation from attendees
  3. Providing delegate pack as per previous years 
  4. Continue to improve Diversity and Accessibility 
  5. New voices or new (not typically seen) speakers
  6. Covid safety/hygiene measures

Selected commentary from the question: were your access needs met?

Breaks or rest periods

“I don’t have any access requirements, but I did find the lack of breaks difficult.”

Captions and visuals

“My accessibility was addressed. However, I did think that having captions for presentations would have been appropriate, particularly for those where English isn’t their first language and those with hearing impairment. I also thought having larger font for the slides would have been helpful for those with bad eyesight.”

BSL and hearing loops

“No BSL interpreters and was video content captioned? Should be a given, never an add-on. Ideally should have been hybrid event – Difference North East ran a hybrid a few weeks ago and was fantastic.”

Stage access

“The stage appeared to be inaccessible – no ramp was visible. There was no BSL interpreter and no captions. There was no morning break.”


“Effort to provide vegan catering etc was appreciated.”

Key takeaways:

  1. Accessibility as a standard and not because it is requested: BSL, ramps, captions, easy-read slides and visuals could all be a standard in future
  2. Consider online and real-life hybrid to widen participation 

Selected commentary from the question: what did you enjoy about the Annual Forum this year?


“Seeing people I hadn’t seen for a long time, hearing about the research project and the draft findings.”

Meeting up with people in person after such a long time on Zoom. The themes of the day were all very relevant.”

“Good to feel a sense of community again – together in person.”


“The talk by Matthew feeding back on the findings.”

“Jill Cole’s Freelance discussion & Regional Events in particular.”

“Matthew Rooke was a very inspiring speaker and accessible.”


“I think the subjects for panels were great. It was fabulous to get an update on the Case for Culture.”

“Hearing from a broad range of speakers on several different topics.”

“It was useful to take stock and there were some inspirational speakers.”

Key takeaways:

  1. Being with colleagues and connections in real life is important to people, and a ‘feel good’ factor
  2. Inspiring, articulate, passionate and prepared speakers are appreciated. 

Selected commentary from the question: what could have been better about the Annual Forum this year?


“More chances to network and talk to colleagues during the day.”

“Contact details for speakers. It wasn’t possible to meet all of them and would save hunting for them through their organisation’s websites.”

Format, Logistics or Structure

“Shorter sessions with more audience discussion.”

“A better focus on timekeeping, making sure breaks are prioritised in the programme, more breaks (one in the afternoon session), making sure we finish on time, a BSL interpreter.”


“More interaction during the sessions, greater use of the expertise amongst delegates, better-prepared contributions from presenters – the injection of energy.”

Key takeaways:

  1. Allow more space and opportunities for connection, conversation, and interaction between delegates and speakers
  2. More cadence and energy to the sessions, keep pace and timings with an MC


Appendix 1: Case for Culture Annual Forum 2022 programme


Registration & tea/coffee, Market Place

Welcome, introduction by Jane Robinson
(Newcastle University and NECP Co-Chair)
Welcome to Sage Gateshead by Abigail Pogson

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
(Minister for Arts),
Chair: Jane Robinson

Matthew Rooke – Case for Culture
consultation feedback.
Chaired by Graeme Thompson (Sunderland University)
• Lisa Westcott-Wilkins (DigVentures)
• Carol Bell (Creative UK)
• Kam Chera (Creative Inclusive Arts)

Regional events
Chaired by Keith Merrin (Tyne and Wear Museums)
Maddie Maughan and Ellie Turner
(Hadrian’s Wall 1900)
Keith Merrin (Lindisfarne Gospels)
• Gemma Ptak (Tall Ships 2023)
– Niall Hammond (200th anniversary of
Stockton & Darlington Railway, 2025)
• Alison Clark (Durham City of Culture bid)

Lunch and networking in atrium,
Market Place

Songs of Sanctuary
Performance by Raghad Haddad and Sam Slatcher

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Presentation by 50:50 Futures
Chaired by Anand Bhatt (Dance City)
– John Walker (Historic England)
• Cheryl Gavin (Helix Arts)
• Raghad Haddad (Musician)
• Sam Slather (Musician)
• Phil Douglas (Curious Arts)

Artists / Freelancers / Cultural SMEs
Chaired by Jill Cole (Northern Heartlands)
• Leila d’Aronville (Founder of
North East Cultural Freelancers)
• Hannabiell Sanders (Musician
and Harambe Pasadia Festival)
• Stella Hall (Festival of Thrift)
• Rachel Adam (Bait)

Climate Emergency
Poetry reading by Linda France
Presentation by Sail
Chaired by Claire Malcolm (New Writing North)
• Helen Brock and Jamie Saye
(Sustainable Arts in Leeds)
• David Renwick (National
Lottery Heritage Fund)
– Adam Cooper (Invisible Dust)
• Linda France (Climate Writer for New
Writing North and Newcastle University)

Summing up by Keith Merrin
Post-event networking in Sage bar


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