Performing Arts Venues: The Interplay Between Local Networks and Innovation in Experience Creation
Thorburn, Eilidh Fiona Sarah
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Experience creation is essential for driving and maintaining urban destination competitiveness. More frequently, innovative experience creation is accomplished in collaboration with others. This study employs exploratory qualitative methods to investigate the interplay between a performing arts venue, local networks and the potential for innovative experience creation. Culture creates a point of difference for cities, and enhances the attractiveness of urban destinations. A new performing arts venue (Auckland Savings Bank Waterfront Theatre) has recently opened in the heart of the Wynyard Quarter, a regenerating urban precinct on Auckland’s city waterfront. There are opportunities for the performing arts venue to link with others at the destination to create innovative experiences for both visitor and local; however, this cannot happen without local actors creating linkages and understanding how to collectively construct memorable experiences. There is limited literature on how the arts sector links to tourism, with most research focussed on networking in one sector, for example, the cultural or the tourism sector, rather than between the two different industries, a gap this research seeks to bridge. This thesis investigates the relationships that underpinned the creation of the performing arts venue, and explores whether there is potential for a network to form around innovative experience creation at the destination. Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were undertaken with; participants from the performing arts company; stakeholders connected the performing arts venue project; actors at the destination including experience suppliers; governmental actors and others in the cultural sector. The research highlights that diverse relations underpin experience development, and actors must have a positive attitude towards collaboration to take full advantage of these. An opportunity exists for the performing arts venue to work with others at the destination to deliver a holistic experience. This is reflected by strong levels of enthusiasm among participants to link to one another, and a positive attitude towards collaboration. Ideas of how the performing arts venue and others could collectively create experiences include; coordinating activities at the destination, experience bundling, creating moments of positive surprise across visitor touch points and participating in a design thinking workshop centred on experience creation at the destination. This thesis contributes to the literature on network formation by applying a process of translation to understand how and why networks form and develop. There are opportunities for actors to strengthen links in the locality, and build friendly relationships, and the research suggests that the interplay of diverse actors and ideas has potential to create innovation via the mixing of different expertise. The findings indicate that memorable experiences rest on human (rather than technological) interaction and the fulfillment of social needs. The discussion cautions against taking these social needs as ‘already achieved’ in creating ‘transformative’ experiences. The research lays the groundwork for future studies of the Wynyard Quarter (as a baseline/control), to note the influence of networks on experience creation over time. The approach and methods can be replicated elsewhere to strengthen the body of knowledge on the interplay between performing arts venues and local networks in experience creation across different contexts.