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How can developing a cultural strategy be truly inclusive?

Posted on: April 9th, 2024 by ctceditor

When we were developing a cultural strategy in Suffolk, I received an email from the (rather brilliant) Elma Glasgow asking whether participants would be paid to attend the consultation workshops. She made the point that it would help to diversify engagement. 

We thought about this. The fee we were being paid by the commissioning council wouldn’t cover this support for workshop participants – and we had already conducted individual consultations for over 40 people, none of whom were paid. I replied to say that this wasn’t possible, and explained why. Elma expanded on how consultation methodologies often relied on those in salaried roles, or with larger incomes – disproportionately excluding freelancers, minority ethnic groups, people from working class backgrounds, women… She was right of course. On every count. 

We thought again. We discussed this as a team. We raised the comments with the client. And we all agreed that nothing could be done for this project, but that this was a sector-wide issue, not just an issue with one project. And we promised to raise this issue with future clients.

So we did. Our next client was the Blackpool Cultural Steering Group. They had already identified the issue, and had ring-fenced budget to pay non-salaried participants for their valuable time. This was more than consultation. It included reading documents, attending meetings, and contributing to the editing and writing of the strategy. So even with a fee that Blackpool residents could be assured was ‘best value’, we renewed our commitment – keen to be part of a process which trialled original co-design ways of working. It was research – for us as practitioners, as an agency, and hopefully for the sector. 

Now we had a potential model, we looked to utilise what we had learned in Blackpool and apply it elsewhere. We tendered for a cultural strategy of a major city, and worked with Harpreet Kaur, a local consultant specialising in equality and diversity in research and engagement. We identified a healthy budget to empower (and pay) people to contribute through workshops and consultation events – totalling 60 days of supported input from the local community, and at rates in line with the Artist Union’s recommended rates for mid-career creatives. Additionally, we ring-fenced budget for translators and interpreters, for childcare, transport, booking accessible venues… whatever additional support people might need in order to participate. We also identified local creative delivery partners for the strategy outputs. The approach is much more embedded than more typical consultation (which still has its place), and so circumvented the usual consultation fatigue. It avoids only consulting with ‘the usual suspects’ i.e. those who can (literally) afford to take part. People get much more engaged, and the results are much more of ‘their place’ as a result. Real, local, owned.

We were interviewed. We did well. We didn’t get the gig. The feedback was that we hadn’t allocated enough days for consultancy. Over 50% of our proposed overall project budget was going directly back into the pockets of the local creative economy. But, we weren’t paying ourselves enough in the engagement phase, and so gave the impression (wrongly) that our role as experts was smaller than in a more traditional approach. To say we were gutted was an understatement. We’re continuing to explore this with new place-based clients across the country. The will is there from many commissioners, but it’s not straightforward.

So this leaves us with a challenge – how do we get the balance right? How can we as consultants try to be (part of) the change, do the right thing, lead by example, be a part of a cultural sector that moves forward in really tough times – and still deliver within the constraints of ‘the brief’? How can already-stretched local authority budgets provide fees for participants? What methodologies are needed to be truly inclusive? And what happens after a strategy is developed and launched? How is this principle upheld over time, and how can freelancers be creatively supported to maintain their involvement in delivering place-based strategies? 

Answers on a postcard please. 

Our Digital Team goes from Strength to Strength

Posted on: March 12th, 2024 by ctceditor

This week we welcome not one but three new members to the Digital Team at CTC.

Emily Luk and Sandy Lau join as Digital Project Coordinators, bringing with them a host of new skills and experience and Jady Ng whose booking system and ticketing expertise will certainly add a new dimension to our Digital Team.

Rugby – ‘the Game-Changer’?

Posted on: February 28th, 2024 by ctceditor

From when William Webb Ellis caught a football and ran with it at Rugby School in 1823, the game changed forever and the name ‘Rugby’ has become known the world over. How does the town of Rugby live up to its name?

Like many towns, Rugby has great connections, attracts young families from London, has plenty of good jobs, a large (huge, actually) out-of-town retail park, and an attractive town centre with some great independents. But it’s also home of the sport, and where the jet engine and holograph were invented – and is currently undergoing major regeneration.

We’re working once again with our good friends at HemingwayDesign to develop a place narrative for Rugby. Our challenge is to ensure that the regeneration plans demonstrate that spirit of ‘game-changing’ and the values they represent. What does it mean to ‘pick up the ball and run with it’ in Rugby town today? In what ways does the town come together to show a positive ‘disregard for the rules’? 


New Team Member

Posted on: February 15th, 2024 by ctceditor

After more than 20 years of working in product development, contracting and sales for some of the most successful tour operators and DMCs in the UK and Ireland, Karin now specialises in helping tourism businesses get their products travel trade ready and bookable online, and giving them hands-on support to develop pricing, digital marketing and sales strategies. Karin is working with us on the Fáilte Ireland Digital That Delivers programme as a Lead Consultant – Travel Trade.

Humber – good timing, big opportunity

Posted on: February 15th, 2024 by ctceditor

It’s clear the Humber suffers from a perception lag. But the opportunity is enormous, exponential, vast – and urgent. Humber’s role in transitioning the UK – and the world – into a new reality is critical. The challenge lies in articulating that in a powerful, united message. 

Last week, Andrew and Amy joined clients Future Humber and consortium partners HemingwayDesign and Pace Communications for a charrette and think tank event.

Future Humber has commissioned the consortium to develop a place brand for the region, to help drive strategic and inward investment, and to deliver a united voice.

Siemens Gamesa factory

The charrette began with a tour of the Siemens Gamesa factory, which manufactures offshore wind turbine blades. The sheer scale of the operation is hard to communicate, or capture in photos (if you were allowed to take pictures on the factory floor) – but imagine the choreography of a production line working 24/7, 51 weeks of the year, to create blades with a rotor diameter of 236m. That’s longer than 21 London buses in old money. Truly mind-boggling.

We met with representatives from the Humber energy cluster, which is genuinely world leading in offshore wind, clean chemicals, green steel production, carbon capture and the rapidly expanding hydrogen economy. The Humber region is tackling global issues on a global scale, and needs to rapidly expand both operations and recruitment to lead the decarbonisation of the UK. 

Hull City Council representatives took us on a walking tour of the city, pointing out developments such as the Fruitmarket. The 2017 UK City of Culture legacy has led to the Maritime City programme, which has raised over £25m to redevelop museums and historic sites and better tell the story of Hull’s maritime history. 

A pit stop in Goole to learn about how the Humber Freeport is leading to expansion of the Enterprise Zones and attracting new businesses to locate there, was followed by a walking tour of Beverley from the fab tour guide Paul Schofield. Paul showed us the quirks of the town, including a public art trail depicting the mediaeval guilds.

Day two we crossed the iconic Humber bridge. We looked at Scunthorpe’s regeneration, such as the revamped St John’s Church which will enable the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre to incorporate a science and discovery centre. A working lunch about developments on the North Bank was followed by a bus tour of Immingham and Grimsby ports. The monumental scale of trade was difficult to comprehend. As Britain’s largest port, Immingham’s ‘industrial cathedrals’ to steel, cement, and containers dominated the flat landscape. Import and export cars filled the view horizon-to-horizon. Immingham handles around 0.8 million vehicles every year.  

Made Great in Grimsby

Over in Grimsby, we toured the docks to see where over 70% of the UK’s fish is processed, arriving daily from across the world. Grimsby’s famous smoked haddock has Geographical Indicator status, and the ‘Made Great in Grimsby’ campaign has brought the cluster together to tackle big issues such as decarbonisation, and has also been adopted by the Football Club. It’s also home to the offshore wind maintenance fleet – where engineers have to abseil down the blades to conduct repairs. 

On Thursday, we were joined by almost 100 VIPs Bondholders for Future Humber’s Think Tank. Andrew led a presentation explaining the consortium’s approach to place branding: that actions speak louder than words; that logos and campaigns create temporary buzz but little long-term impact; that places must be underpinned by values shared by all stakeholders in a region; and that those values must be credible, authentic and aspirational. Amy crowd-sourced perceptions of Humber now, its assets and aspirations for the future. 

They were joined on stage by leading regional stakeholders Nina Stobart (Phillips 66) and Anja Hazebroek (NHS) for a panel Q&A, about the opportunity and timeliness of the region working collaboratively to advocate for a better deal. 

Good timing, big opportunity. Humber.


Slow gardening – a model for sustainable (and enjoyable) business growth

Posted on: February 7th, 2024 by ctceditor

On my list of things for 2024 is to consider my garden. It is a bit of a mystery to me, not traditionally my domain, but a place where I think I might become creative, learn something new and make unexpected and good things happen. I am not interested in rushing down the garden centre for an instant fix – I want to savour the process, create structure, and give time and space for things to take root and earn their place. I am not entirely sure where to start – and I anticipate there will be alot of frustration, hard work and likely some hot tears from not knowing what to do next –  but there is no lack of inspiration and approaches to borrow from. A recent  trip to Piet Oudolf’s stunning all-seasons Oudolf Field in Somerset has raised the bar and I’m ready to give it a go.


If it’s not too whimsical, I do think there is a connection here to how we also approach our business growth at CTConsults. Our ambition has never been to be the biggest, the fastest-growing or the busiest agency. For us growth isn’t the end game – but it inevitably comes with the territory of being curious and expansive thinkers. We are developing all the time, we are open to growth, but, hopefully, in a way which doesn’t outrun us or wear us out. And yes, in truth, small businesses are unpredictable, we aren’t in control of the climate and at times it gets out of kilter – that’s just how it goes (or grows). This week Brad introduced us all to a fabulous new team development tool. He saw that well-managed, sustainable growth needs a happy and well nourished team and his new internal CDP programme reminds me of the planting scheme that I am looking for at home – one that encourages each of us to find our ‘right’ spot in a shared space, and grow to our full height, and where together we will be in good shape whatever the season. Thanks Brad. Good work.

The Importance of Experiencing

Posted on: January 19th, 2024 by ctceditor

The team here at CTConsults makes a conscious effort to do something together once a month during working hours. This routine monthly occurrence is dubbed ‘Culture Club’ and let me tell you why we do it and what we’ve been up to.

During 2023, we got out and about and experienced a wide range of events – not just limited by culture. We saw Factory International in each stage of its opening, from Jerram’s First Breath, socialising in a sunny Festival Square and then seeing the extent of its exhibition space with You Me and The Balloons. Some of our other highlights include, The Manchester Flower Festival, The Science and Industry Museum’s The Power of Music and A Phantom’s Remains at the esea contemporary. We even escaped to the seaside, wrapped up warm for Blackpool’s Lightpool, which adds a contemporary, cultural take to the town’s annual, famous Illuminations. 

Now, having organised time to socialise as a team has its obvious benefits: it’s fun, it gives us something to look forward to and it lets us get to know one another outside of the office. It is also important to the work we do as consultants.Immersing ourselves in these different experiences allows us to see, first hand, the sectors we work to support, taking inspiration from stimulating new ideas and practice. By no means do we attend Culture Club with notebooks and magnifying glasses at the ready – quite the opposite. We go, we enjoy, we experience and then we talk, chat and share our thoughts. What better way to gauge the impact of the current cultural and experience market than as an active participant.

That is why every last Friday in the month you’ll find us all gone early doors. Let us know if there is something we should see at your place as we will definitely take a look.

Explore the all-new Creative Tourist!

Posted on: July 19th, 2023 by ctceditor

For over a decade, Creative Tourist has been connecting its culturally curious audiences with unmissable experiences in the North of England. Our updated website is helping us to go wider and deeper with this mission, as we reveal more arts and cultural gems than ever before.

Head to creativetourist.com and you’ll find guides to cultural destinations right across the North, from small towns to major cities. These guides join the dots between standout attractions of every kind, from heritage sites to future-leaning theatre shows. The idea is to encourage readers to explore both what’s on their doorstep and what lies beyond their usual arts and cultural stomping ground, while revealing connections between places.

There’s a huge amount of information on the site, but it’s incredibly easy to find, with improved navigation getting you to the heart of the matter in a few clicks. Events feeds, for example, now allow you to search by both category and location. Looking for exhibitions in Leeds? Or theatre in York? There’s a filter for that.

Explore these new features and many more besides while taking a quick trip around our new site. We have to say, we’re rather proud of it.

CultureHosts needs your help!

Posted on: October 28th, 2022 by ctceditor

We’re gathering insights to improve CultureHosts, our digital events listings platform.

Do you have 20 minutes to share your thoughts and experiences with independent consultant-researchers & designers at Absurd.

Your input will help us to refine the platform, and help you promote to promote your culture and events more effectively.

Please email Absurd@ctconsults.com


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