It’s all change for the MAC

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - @Themac­belfast Byainem­cverry, Di­rec­tor of­mar­ketingand Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Macthe­atre

How merg­ing artis­tic in­stincts with a busi­ness fo­cus is the plan for the fu­ture of belfast theatre

We be­lieve that cul­ture and the arts are the foun­da­tion of any mod­ern so­ci­ety. In Belfast, the MAC is at the fore­front of re­gen­er­at­ing the Cathe­dral Quar­ter and the wider city. Like other vi­tal ser­vices, the arts sec­tor has felt the fi­nan­cial strains of aus­ter­ity and the tight­en­ing of the pub­lic purse.

We will al­ways make as strong a case as we can that the arts are a ser­vice just like in­fra­struc­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and health, and de­serv­ing of pub­lic fund­ing and pub­lic sup­port. A city that val­ues its cul­tural of­fer­ing is one that is out­ward look­ing, pro­gres­sive and am­bi­tious — and that’s ex­actly the sort of so­ci­ety that we all want to live in. That mis­sion is cen­tral to the MAC’S ethos.

At the same time we are keenly fi­nan­cially aware and are mak­ing strides to­wards a model of sus­tain­abil­ity that in­volves not only pub­lic fund­ing but in­creas­ing our own means of in­come through cor­po­rate re­la­tion­ships, com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity and even bring­ing a spirit of en­trepreneur­ship to how we run our or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The cre­ation and en­joy­ment of ex­cel­lent art is at the heart of our busi­ness model, but we also have a com­mer­cial side to the busi­ness which we are fur­ther de­vel­op­ing.

The MAC opened in 2012 and in the short pe­riod since has hosted ground break­ing ex­hi­bi­tions and shows in­clud­ing David Hock­ney, Gil­bert & Ge­orge and Andy Warhol. We have at­tracted over two mil­lion peo­ple through our doors and we have forged a new Belfast in­sti­tu­tion.

Now, six years on we have come to a point where we can as­sess what we know about our cus­tomer base, about how to meet their ex­ist­ing needs and how to at­tract new visi­tors to the MAC. We are essen­tially mov­ing into the sec­ond phase of our evo­lu­tion. That means plan­ning for the long-term and do­ing all we can to en­sure our long-term sus­tain­abil­ity.

There are some con­crete ex­am­ples of this new spirit of en­trepreneur­ship. We are cur­rently in the process of bring­ing our cafe, bar and hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness in house.

We have a full un­der­stand­ing of what our cus­tomers want and need and we think we are well placed to de­liver that.

So, a num­ber of changes are on the way — we have brought in some new staff, re-de­signed our food of­fer­ing and looked at our ser­vice style to cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence that we hope will work bet­ter for the MAC and our cus­tomer base — new and old.

Last month we re­mod­elled our ground floor theatre into the Lu­mi­naire Club. This was an in­vest­ment which al­lows to move be­yond tra­di­tional theatre-style seat­ing to a cabaret for­mat.

Since the open­ing of the MAC we have de­vel­oped strong and last­ing re­la­tion­ships with cor­po­rate North­ern Ire­land.

These con­nec­tions have re­sulted in suc­cess­ful spon­sor­ships for our shows, engagement pro­grammes with schools that have been di­rectly funded by lo­cal com­pa­nies, and im­por­tantly the de­vel­op­ment of a sig­nif­i­cant venue hire busi­ness.

In a very short time the MAC has be­come the venue of choice for busi­ness sem­i­nars, team meet­ings, prod­uct launches, for­mal din­ners and awards cer­e­monies.

Our aim is to en­sure we max­imise the po­ten­tial that ex­ists within this fan­tas­tic and ver­sa­tile space in our cor­ner of the Cathe­dral Quar­ter. As Belfast grows, our strate­gic plan will en­sure that in­come from com­mer­cial venue hire will grow also.

It is not widely ap­pre­ci­ated that the arts sec­tor de­liv­ers a sig­nif­i­cant re­turn for what is a small bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion from the pub­lic purse. This eco­nomic im­pact is driven by job cre­ation, visi­tors spend­ing on ho­tels, restau­rants and trans­port, the pur­chas­ing of goods and ser­vices lo­cally as well as the at­trac­tion of for­eign and di­rect in­vest­ment.

With­out that pub­lic sub­ven­tion we would not ex­ist and cer­tainly could not pro­vide the arts pro­gramme and eco­nomic im­pact we do. By merg­ing our artis­tic in­stincts with a busi­ness fo­cus, we can help en­sure the MAC im­pact is here to stay.

In­ter­na­tional Day of the Girl, cel­e­brated ear­lier this month, high­lighted that a stag­ger­ing 98 mil­lion ado­les­cent girls around the world are not in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. There was a rally of sup­port glob­ally from celebri­ties who used their voice to high­light this is­sue.

They all recog­nised that, when girls re­ceive an ed­u­ca­tion, amaz­ing things start to hap­pen. Poverty goes down. Economies grow. Fam­i­lies get stronger. Ba­bies are born health­ier. And the world, by all ac­counts, gets bet­ter.

Un­doubt­edly, ed­u­ca­tion un­leashes a young per­son’s po­ten­tial, nur­tures their imag­i­na­tion and is fun­da­men­tal in open­ing an end­less world of op­por­tu­ni­ties for fu­ture ca­reer prospects.

Busi­ness­women know bet­ter than any­one that chil­dren are our fu­ture, and a great econ­omy will come from an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that val­ues the po­ten­tial of each and ev­ery child.

Our chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion needs to in­clude and recog­nise the im­por­tance of val­ues, ethics, at­ti­tudes, team­work and prob­lem-solv­ing, and as busi­ness lead­ers our con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to these prin­ci­ples will guide us to achiev­ing suc­cess.

In­deed, in or­der to pro­duce the skilled, ded­i­cated and tal­ented em­ploy­ees and en­trepreneurs that our fu­ture econ­omy needs, we need long-term in­vest­ment in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

This is im­pos­si­ble with­out a func­tion­ing Ex­ec­u­tive in North­ern Ire­land, and this lack of lead­er­ship is re­ally let­ting our chil­dren down and hav­ing a po­ten­tial detri­men­tal im­pact on the fu­ture econ­omy.

Cur­rently women re­main un­der-rep­re­sented in higher po­si­tions of power within the work­place, and I was dis­ap­pointed and ashamed to learn that only two of North­ern Ire­land’s top CEOS are fe­male.

I re­ally can’t see how we ad­dress this is­sue if our lead­ers do not re­group for the wider good and if busi­nesses do not step up and sup­port women to achieve their full po­ten­tial.

It is no se­cret that gen­der-di­verse work­forces are good for busi­ness — a 2015 Mckin­sey re­port found a cor­re­la­tion be­tween gen­der-di­verse com­pa­nies and bet­ter bot­tom line re­sults. In fact, com­pa­nies in the top quar­tile for gen­der di­ver­sity are 15% more likely to have fi­nan­cial re­turns above their re­spec­tive in­dus­try me­di­ans.

The North­ern Ire­land Gen­der Di­ver­sity Char­ter Mark, which was launched last year, com­mits busi­nesses to sup­port the pro­gres­sion of women. The char­ter has achieved sup­port from some of North­ern Ire­land’s lead­ing busi­nesses at a se­nior level, which have recog­nised that ad­vanc­ing gen­der equal­ity de­mands com­mit­ment and ac­tion from all em­ploy­ees and at all lev­els of the or­gan­i­sa­tion — in par­tic­u­lar, from CEOS and those in se­nior roles.

Too many or­gan­i­sa­tions are miss­ing the mark on gen­der equal­ity ef­forts by fo­cus­ing gen­der ini­tia­tives solely on chang­ing women.

These in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic ap­proaches to solv­ing gen­der in­equities over­look sys­tem­atic struc­tural causes and re­in­force the per­cep­tion that these are women’s is­sues, ef­fec­tively telling men they don’t need to be in­volved.

At Women in Busi­ness, we want men to join the con­ver­sa­tion and have a seat at our table. With­out the avid sup­port of men, sig­nif­i­cant progress to­ward end­ing gen­der dis­par­i­ties is un­likely.

We strive to in­clude men as we strive for gen­der equal­ity. For ex­am­ple, our awards are tak­ing place on Novem­ber 8 and this is not an ex­clu­sive event for fe­males. We urge men to join the de­bate and be part of cel­e­brat­ing all of the amaz­ing women that are part of our busi­ness net­work.

As the chief ex­ec­u­tive of one of North­ern Ire­land’s most pow­er­ful busi­ness net­works, I am call­ing on our lead­ers to re­spect the power they wield and pri­ori­tise our chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tional needs — it is through them that we can change be­hav­iour and achieve a truly di­verse work­force.

Busi­nesses must also step up to the plate — not only is a gen­der di­ver­sity good for busi­ness, it is the right thing to do.

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