All of Leamington’s a stage

Article by Rachael Richardson- Bullock 27.06.16

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”- William Shakespeare, As you Like It.

When most residents of Warwickshire think of a creative and artistic hub, most will immediately think of Stratford-upon-Avon; with its Shakespeare heritage, gorgeous scenery and no end of things to do and get involved with, it is a natural choice.

However, Leamington Spa is its unexpected rival, especially in the summer. Not only is the town delightful with its matching shop fronts and perfect flower displays, but the entire town is the background to a variety of art; whether its plays or music in Jephson Gardens or films in Foundry Wood, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

But, why is this important? Why does this make Leamington so special?

Art interacting with the landscape and visa versa is a rich and magical experience. For example, last month, Leamington Underground Cinema staged two horror films in Foundry Wood, one of which was The Blair Witch Project. Shrouded in darkness and surrounded by trees watching a film based in the woods was as immersive and interactive as artistic experiences go, and this was only achieved by using and appreciating a unique area of the town.

When you live somewhere and walk its streets day in day out, it becomes easy to forget to look around, to not notice the little details; this can be said of life too. To quote Roald Dahl “…those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” But this is where Leamington draws its residents back in, with its art and its beauty, offering the opportunity to its residents to explore and come together.

Jepson Gardens recently saw Heartbreak Productions’ The Tempest played out nearby the river, come rain or shine (makes sense for Prospero to bring about rain I suppose!) and will be back again with a production of Murder on the Terrace. Leamington plays a part here almost as much as the actors involved. Providing a fluid backdrop adds a unique element to each spectator’s experience; whether it’s the rustling of the leaves in the trees carrying the words of Shakespeare away or the smell of the flowers or the distant sound of the sensory garden there is something magical for everyone waiting to be noticed.

More than this, these events inspire the community and local authorities, such as with the rejuvenation of the Leamington Carnival taking place in July, and the investment awarded for works to the Pump Room Gardens. But it doesn’t stop there, with new sculptures cropping up in Jephson’s and Leonardo Da Vinci paying a visit to the Spa Centre, the enjoyment, the creativity and the opportunity to indulge in art is boundless. 
So what’s the message of this article?

Embrace what is around you, as you may find something you weren’t expecting.

For information on events, visit Royal Leamington Spa’s website.

Rachael Richardson-Bullock is a novelist and blogger living in Leamington Spa.

15 content hacks to help your social media strategy thrive

Article by Lisa-Marie Nelson 06.01.16

(follow me @PRBirdie)

If you’re reading this post then you understand creating and sharing quality content can really elevate your business.

Chances are you’re probably stuck for ideas too, but that’s okay, content marketing is hard.

You may be surprised to know even professional communicators suffer from writers’ block from time to time.

It can be particularly hard to remain creative and gain cut-through against an ever-growing fast-paced torrent of social media content.

As a professional communicator who hates the fluffy stuff, I believe in order to add value you must be strategic.

That doesn’t mean you have to create everything yourself or spend an arm or a leg on development – curating content can be just as good if not better.

The fact is, sometimes we need a little help to get our creative juices flowing. And, the quickest and easiest way is to take inspiration from others.

To help with content planning brain fog, I’ve mixed a few of my own suggestions with some from Social Media Content Ideas to get you started.

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite quick wins:

#1 Fill in the blanks

Get people to show their creative side. Do it just for fun or run a competition to help promote a new product or service.

  Figure 1 OREO Cookie fill in the blank Twitter contest

#2 Promote social networks

Don’t be shy, let people know where else they can find you and start building a more complete customer profile.

#3 Feel good quotes

Make people smile. Share a feel good quote on a Monday or the mid-week hump and ask people to like, RT or share the love.

  

Figure 2 Feel good quote from Mandy Hale on Instagram

#4 Promote your events

Tell people about events you’re hosting, attending or sponsoring. Include relevant hashtags, stand numbers and @ mention the organiser for RTs/shares.

#5 Fan of the week

Celebrate your audience and give a fan a shout out! If someone has shared their experience with you use it tell others and thank them at the same time.

  Figure 3 Skittles “Rainbro” fan profile on Facebook

#6 Share your successes

Keep your audience up-to-date with your successes it aids transparency and builds trust. Post business results, awards, review and client wins.

#7 Use seasonal hooks 

There’s an awareness day for almost everything so make the most of the hype. Be selective; consider the audience and the value you can add.

  Figure 4 NFU Mutual teamed up with AGA to help promote Breakfast Week

#8 Facts and insights

Help people get to know you better. Share an interesting piece of your history, unknown fact or share quirky customer stories.

#9 Photo of the day

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words so use it to your advantage. Post a captivating picture illustrating what you do or re-post one from a customer.

  Figure 5 Farmers’ Weekly photography competition entry

#10 And our survey says…

Are you really listening to your customers? Are you using the 10 best survey questions to ask your customers?

#11 Offers and promotions

Offer a freebie or discount. Why not work with another brand which complements your offering and will help grow your audience?

  Figure 6 NFU Mutual teamed up with Emma Cornes to giveaway one of her bags

#12 Post job openings

A cheap way to promote your growth and recruit. Your followers have a vested interest in your businesses so they could well aspire to work for it too!

#13 It’s for charity mate!

If you support a charity tell people about it; chances are you picked a cause that’s close to your customers’ hearts so they’ll be interested to know.

  Figure 7 Jess Glynne’s Take Me Home has been named as this year’s official single for BBC Children in Need.

#14 Call to action

Don’t just broadcast information; tell people what you want them to do with it. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a RT, like or share and helps with reach and engagement.

#15 Read all about it

If you’ve worked hard to get good press shout about it. Share news stories and @ mention the publication or website. If you have a press centre drive traffic to it.  

 Figure 8 Coverage in The Independent: The John Lewis Christmas advert 2015.

That’s all folks! I hope you’ve scribbled down a few nuggets to try out. If you found it useful please like and share it to help others struggling for inspiration.

Let me know what you of this article or share your own words of wisdom by connecting with me on Twitter using @PRBirdie or find me on LinkedIn.

Happy content planning!

 

Commissioning Art- The Do’s and Dont’s

Article by Brian Dickinson 11.11.15

Commissioning Bespoke Stained Glass

Myth 1: Stained Glass is just for Church Windows.

When I introduce myself as a stained glass artist, one of the first questions I get asked is “Do you make Church Windows?”

I can understand why people say this, before I became a stained glass artist I would have made the same assumption.  

Church glass is very specialised sector of the stained glass marketplace. Working as #dolittleglass I create unique contemporary stained glass for homes and businesses. Windows make only a small part of my stained glass work. The majority of my creations are portable artworks & lamps, ideal for today’s mobile lifestyle. 

I’m constantly finding new places where stained glass can make a impact. 

Who commissions an artwork?

Myth 2: Bespoke art is just for the Rich or Arty folk.

You don’t have to be a member of the Saatchi family to commission art. Everyday folk like you & me buy and commission art.

SO WHY COMMISSION AN ARTWORK?

In a world where every high street is selling the same stuff, it’s difficult to put your own stamp on your home or workplace. Commissioning an artwork is a great opportunity to create something personal & unique.

Some people treat themselves, others commission work as a special present to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or other landmark.

Often it’s a cost effective way of purchasing art as it avoids the heavy gallery commissions, frequently 30 – 50% of the purchase price.

Working directly with an artist is a fun and rewarding experience. The rest of this article highlights how to get the best out of the relationship. 

What’s involved in commissioning an artwork?

Choosing an Artist
Perhaps the easiest way to choose an artist is to look at their past work. Do you like the style of their work? Do they have the capacity and capability to create what you are looking for?

Another important criteria often forgotten, is the artist themselves. Do they listen to you and take care to understand your needs? Is this someone you can work with and trust? What do their past customers say?

As you are choosing an artist, the artist is also going through a process of vetting you as a client. Good artists may say no to your request.

 

Getting Started

Deciding on a Subject or theme.

How much input does the purchaser need to give? Talking with other artists, this seems to be a difficult question for both the artist and the customer.  

Successful collaborations can take many forms.

a) Agree the general theme and leave the rest to the artist. This requires a lot of trust on both sides. This approach often gives enough freedom for an artist to produce their best work.

b) If you are unsure about a suitable theme. It’s a good idea to spend some time with your chosen artist. A conversation over drinks can home in on a suitable theme. It might be a personal hobby or special interest. Artists a generally very flexible and imaginative. After one discussion the all a family could agree was their favourite colours. This was enough trigger the creative juices.

c) Many artists take inspiration from other images and photographs. This can be a mood board of the type of artworks you like or a single photo to be used as a basis for the commissioned artwork.

How the artwork is to be displayed?

It might seem a bit early to decide how an artwork is to be displayed, but for a medium like glass it’s crucial. Get it wrong and a spectacular artwork can appear bland. Early consideration also helps prevent unexpected costs.

For glass questions like:

• Where will the artwork be displayed? E.g. Against a wall, standalone, in a window….

• Will a frame be required/needed? What material best fits the location?

• Will the artwork need artificial lighting? As a light box or to illuminate.

• How much natural light? 

Timing is an important consideration.

If there is a deadline for the commission, it must be made clear from day one. The creative process can be lengthy, please give your artist enough time to schedule and produce their best work.

Quotation, Payment & Deposits

Once the terms of reference are agreed, it is common practice for the artist to ask for a non-returnable deposit. This is to cover up front costs – materials and payment of third parties (e.g. picture framers). This deposit also is a sign of good faith, showing the customers commitment to the commission.

 

Creating the Artwork

How much is a customer involved in the creative process?

The main objective here is to ensure the customer is going to be delighted by the end result. Whilst avoiding wasting too much time and money going down the wrong path.

There are several ways to involve the customer in the design process:

a). A quick outline design sketch prepared early in the design process gives an opportunity for getting feedback from the customer. For stained glass this is a layout diagram together with design notes showing proposed glass colours. Samples of the glass can help the later.

b). Sometimes a few sketches may be prepared to give the customer a degree of choice.

c). Occasionally an artist might be able to involve a customer directly in the making process. With my stained glass work there are a few steps in the making process where this is possible. Here the customer becomes the artists assistant. This is a great idea if the commission is creating a present for a loved one.

d). Some artworks can take a long time to produce. Here the artist has a choice: Either have a big reveal of the completed artwork; or give regular updates throughout the making process. I prefer the later option as it keeps the customer interested.

e). Excessive customer involvement can be a cause of stress an conflict. This is where the customer constantly changes their requirements, attempts to take artistic control or interferes with the creation process. Trust your chosen artist to deliver.

Unveiling and Handover

At its simplest this is a basic exchange of goods for the agreed fee. With the care taken at the earlier stages, the customer should be delighted with the newly created artwork.

A bit of drama!

Some customers like to have a big reveal for themselves and their friends. This can be a fun way for the hand over. I has the additional benefit of showing the commissioned item to a wider audience. Great publicity for both the customer and the artist. 

Sometimes this exposure can be in a public exhibition at a gallery or other space.

Is that the end of the story?

As the customer you are getting the benefits from a fantastic artwork.

A positive way of expressing this delight, is to prepare a testimonial / written review for the artist. Recommend the artist to your friends, family and wider contacts. This generous spirit will bring its own rewards. 

The artist may also want to use an image of the artwork in their portfolio and publicity material.

Who owns the copyright for the artwork?

In lots of cases this is not an issue. Once the handover is completed that’s the end of the story.

An artist may want to reproduce the artwork to gain extra revenue for their efforts. There is a long history of artists doing this by creating additional versions of their popular artworks. Additionally the image may be reproduced in the form of prints, limited editions and greeting cards.

This opportunity for future revenue may reduce the original commissioning cost.

If you are very sensitive to the uniqueness of the work, you may request and negotiate exclusivity.

Conclusion

Commissioning Art is a Win – Win – Win proposition. 

Go for it.