Whether you’re a developer trying to attract locals to a new area of a city, or a festival organiser wanting to keep audiences thinking about you between events, running activities that invite audiences to join in with what you’re creating can be a successful way of forming lasting engagement.
But to create something truly meaningful for audiences means going beyond the traditional approach of simply holding a drinks party or a launch event. In Manchester, creative studio Standard Practice (formerly known as Oh OK Ltd) has been developing a model over the last few years which shows how embedding audience participation and community engagement in projects can be both satisfying for those taking part, as well as yielding results for clients.
Standard Practice is working with a number of developers in the city, including NOMA, behind an £800 million, 20-acre development in the north of Manchester city centre, and U+I, which is delivering the huge Mayfield regeneration project, which will include new homes, retail and office spaces. Where the studio comes in is in placemaking and helping to form new community links in areas that have previously been largely forgotten.
In NOMA, Standard Practice’s work is advanced: the team delivered the Pilcrow Pub and ran a space called Plant in the area for over a year, which offered community space to anyone who needed it, and was used by a mix of charities, companies, artists and activists during its run. Most recently the studio has moved into the Old Bank, which – as its name suggests – is a former bank that is being developed. Standard Practice has a 12-month residency in the space and is opening it up for use by the public, as well as running workshops and exhibitions there.
In addition to this, Standard Practice also works with cultural organisations in the city, and is currently hosting a number of workshops on behalf of the Manchester International Festival where the public are invited to create ceramic tiling that will be used in a number of temporary bars that will be erected during MIF’s run this summer. These workshops are all taking place in Underway, another space run by Standard Practice in one of the disused railway arches in Mayfield.