Jane Spiers is Chief Executive, Aberdeen Performing Arts
This year is an exceptional year for Aberdeen Performing Arts, as we look forward to the re-opening of the Music Hall after two years of hard work behind the scenes.
It’s been a real team effort and there’s a great buzz around the place as we prepare to step back in.
APA’s business plan is called Imagining New Futures, a future for Aberdeen and the north-east in a rapidly changing landscape, post-oil and gas downturn, post-independence referendum, post-Brexit. We are passionate about the arts and want to be centre stage, shaping and influencing cultural, civic and community life in the city.
More specifically for APA, Imagining New Futures means growth – the Music Hall redevelopment, the launch of our new production company Freshly Squeezed Productions, the expansion of our talent development programme, our two festivals Granite Noir and True North and the expansion of conference and events business.
The Music Hall is a flagship project at the heart of the regeneration of Union Street.
All three of our venues are city centre, His Majesty’s Theatre and The Lemon Tree, and at a time when retailing is moving out of town and on line, we are bringing people back into the city centre, impacting positively on the daytime, evening and weekend economy, generating more business for shops, restaurants, hotels, bringing more visitors, and helping to make Aberdeen a great place to live, work and visit.
To put that in context, in an average year we stage 800 shows, sell 500,000 tickets, generate footfall of 1.5m to our venues and turnover is £13m.
While the majority of our audience comes from the city and shire, we attract visitors from around the world to signature events and festivals. There is a lot more to APA than number crunching but those numbers make us one of the most successful cultural business in Scotland, not just in Aberdeen.
It’s great to see investment in the built environment and in our cultural assets. Both HMT and the Music Hall are category A-listed national treasures, the envy of other cities in Scotland and with such an amazing history and heritage, they are visitor destinations in their own right.
But for us, it’s not just about the physical infrastructure, we’re investing in festivals and programming and we’re investing in talent and new work through our new producing base in the north-east, Freshly Squeezed Productions. The work we do off stage is as important as the work we do on stage – our youth theatre, youth music, community choirs, young bands and Music Hall Babies project.
We are a charity and our charitable objectives are not about making money, they’re about making a difference to individuals and communities through arts and culture.
We have been active participants in the development of Culture Aberdeen, the newly launched cultural strategy for the city and we are inspired by the ambition and direction it provides and the opportunity it presents to shape the future .
That’s what the Music Hall transformation is all about and it provides a context for our ambitions.
Investing in arts and culture is not just a regeneration strategy for economies in decline. We will see recovery in the city. That won’t obviate the need for investment in arts and culture.
We make choices about where we want to live and work. A city with strong cultural credentials acts as a magnet for the skilled workforce we need.
I want to live in a city where we are all proud to be ambassadors for the arts, where we are inspired and enriched daily by our participation in the arts and where the arts shape our future.