Clonmel Junction Festival – DeVos Programme Learning
David Teevan, Artistic Director of the Clonmel Junction Festival, discusses his learning from the New Stream partnership with the DeVos Institute so far, a programme which is the first that he has participated in to invite the board and executive to work together. | Interview by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan.
Clonmel Junction Festival is ten-day long festival in July based in Tipperary, which hosts over 70 drama and music events. It has been part of the Clonmel community for the past twelve years, and is strongly supported by local audiences and businesses. For the Festival, its participation in the New Stream Partnership with the DeVos Institute has come at an opportune time when the organisation is evolving and expanding to include ambitious projects with a significant number of emerging local artists.
According to David Teevan, the aspects of the DeVos Programme which had the largest impact on the organisation were the changes in board culture, consolidating the idea of creating a family around the festival, and the idea of stewardship.
Three years ago, the Festival board had stagnated and their main priority was managing a deficit. Now with the deficit much reduced and with an influx of new members, the board has experienced a complete regeneration and the company is moving forward with confidence. This change in the board culture has been led by the Chair, Claudia Woolgar and another board member, Aisling Kilroy, who are both taking part in the DeVos Programme along with David and the two other core staff members Theresia Guschlbauer and Nollaig Healy. “In terms of board culture, there have been shifts, and the shifts are very positive,” says David, “the Board have taken on more ownership than they have in the past.”
The Board are now very active on behalf of the festival, for example taking on the role of making sure tickets are selling, as well as creating a new fundraising committee. All board members are now Patrons of the Festival as well. David welcomes this new board culture, stating: “I like the fact that there are board members on the programme. It’s the first time I’ve done an arts training programme in 23 years where board members were invited as well as staff members.”
The involvement of the board also ties into a new organisation philosophy of The Family, which extends to board members as well as the festival’s network of Friends, patrons and supporters. “The idea of the family has fit very well with what we are as an organisation and who we are”, says David. Though the Festival already had a Friends scheme, their membership diminished due to the recession and also, David feels, to a lack of stewardship. One of the ways in which he and Nollaig Healy, the General Manager for the Festival, have decided to improve the Friends scheme is to start offering more benefits, as well as adding a new lower member option for €40. During a winter event last year, at a Jack L and the 27 Club concert, for the first time the front four rows were reserved for patrons and sponsors. At the Festival this year, there will be priority seating for patrons, with a senior volunteer assigned to looking after them and getting to know them by name. “It’s a structural change,” states David, “and there is a change in what they get in terms of stewardship, in terms of looking after them, in terms of thinking of them as family, in terms of making them feel appreciated.”
With regard to Artistic Planning and Programmatic Marketing, previously the Festival had only been programming on an annual basis. However after their first DeVos meeting, the Festival team came up with five or six ideas, two of which are already being implemented at this year’s festival, and one for 2014 and 2015.
“Suddenly [from] an organisation that was thinking in terms of a one year cycle, we are thinking two or three years ahead of ourselves, and that’s really, really exciting.” David Teevan
Regarding Institutional Marketing, David sees the new priority seating for patrons as a way of implementing Institutional Marketing through their programme. “We’ve got the idea of institutional marketing,” he says, “and it is infiltrating our thinking, it has become part of the thinking.”
Looking at the delivery of the programme itself, David has really identified with one of the main messages, which is to focus on the actual artistic programme of the organisation. He has taken the advice of Michael Kaiser, which, in David’s words, is: “don’t think in terms of your next project, don’t think in terms of one year cycle of funding, when you’re being creative and looking at artistic programming, just let go.” He appreciates the lateral thinking of both Michael Kaiser and Brett Egan, who deliver the programme, but also feels that it could be improved by an increase in direct communication between them and his organisation between webinar sessions.
Overall, the results of the aspects of the programme that have been implemented so far have been positive, and the team at Clonmel Junction Festival will continue to work on their targets. “We don’t see ourselves finishing on June 20th, ‘oh that’s DeVos done’,” says David. “I think we’re going to carry the DeVos ideology with us… I think there’s very simple learning that can be had from this programme that enhances an organisation.”
“I think we have taken on board some part of the DeVos ideology and we have implemented it. I think changes have come about because of that, and I think the organisation is stronger as a result.“ David Teevan