Family Explorers North East began as an NGCV project in 2013, setting out to help families become more culturally confident. Now there are over 10,000 people in the Family Explorers community and it is supported by 15 cultural organisations across the North East. It runs the North East Family Arts Network and delivers the Family Arts Campaign’s Ambassador Programme for the region.
The project takes a research-based approach, underpinned by analysis from Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and Flo Culture which found families were more likely to try a new cultural experience if it was recommended by peers. They also wanted more practical information before making a visit and felt overwhelmed by the choice of places to go, preferring instead to stick with places they already knew.
Family Explorers helps families overcome these barriers by providing a platform to share recommendations with others through a Facebook Group and curates cultural events suitable for families both through posting on the group and a regular e-newsletter. Participating organisations, offering 40+ venues and a festival, are listed on the website and all are required to sign up to the Family Arts Standards so families know to expect a warm welcome.
Group members can directly ask one another for advice, not only on where to visit but also about practical aspects of visiting. Questions that could make or break the success of an outing are instantly answered by a trusted peer, enabling families to overcome the perceived risk of a new experience.
At the same time, the venues involved in the project can learn from the families’ Facebook conversations and use it to inform their family offer or post call outs for families to participate, for example in focus groups, photo shoots or press events.
In October 2019, the North East Family Arts Network was boosted by funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation via the Family Arts Campaign and joined with six Ambassadors across England who are sharing best practice, nurturing partnerships and proactively expanding and diversifying family audiences for culture over three years.