Who is Keith Diggle?

KEITH DIGGLE has made no small contribution to the way in which arts organisations approach the challenge of finding and building audiences. He has published three books on Arts Marketing (a term he coined in 1970) and his first, Marketing the Arts, published by The City University, London in 1976, was the first such work to be published in the world, beating the USA’s favourite arts marketer, author ofSubscribe Now!, Danny Newman, by several months. Keith’s Guide To Arts Marketing was published in 1984 and his ARTS MARKETING in 1994. The advent of the internet has made it, he believes, unnecessary to consume even more paper when the job can be done just as well with a website – so no more books in print.

His publishing life has been paralleled by his lecturing work. Indeed it was an invitation to give a talk on Publicity in the Gateway Theatre, Chester, that led him to produce a paper for the Standing Conference of Regional Arts Associations which he presented to the Summer Conference in 1971. He has lectured in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, the Phillippines, Spain and Hungary.

Everything he has written on the subject of marketing the arts has emerged from a lifetime of putting on shows of one sort or another. He has on his study wall a poster for his first attempt at attracting an audience which took place when he was a schoolboy in Oundle, England; it is dated 17 June 1955. He moved on to teaching mathematics where his love of jazz led him to present a large number of jazz concerts in his school hall his headmaster at the time describing him as ‘our Mr Diggle who teaches Jazz with some maths’. A colleague, Neville Dilkes, the head of the school’s Music Department, was at the time launching a professional chamber orchestra, the Midland Sinfonia, and seeing Keith’s large audiences for jazz persuaded Keith to join him in the task of establishing the new orchestra. It was not long before the orchestra needed fulltime management and Keith gave up the day job in favour of the then very risky business of orchestral management. Eventually the orchestra changed its name and became the English Sinfonia.

From promoting all the orchestra’s concerts, including its London debut on 28 February 1968, establishing regular tours around the Midlands, concerts in London sponsored by John Player and Sons, he moved on to take up the post of Director of Merseyside Arts Association, based in Liverpool, where his policy of development was founded on the direct promotion of performing and visual arts events. This was where he started to lay down the ideas that formed the basis of first his lecturing on arts marketing and then his writing on the subject. He also started to contribute feature articles and interviews for The Guardian newspaper and began lecturing on his subject for post-graduate courses at the then Polytechnic of Central London.

After a brief spell as number two in the John Player and Sons PR Dept. in charge of arts sponsorship (a job he learned to dislike although his boss was a fine fellow and the apparently unlimited supply of free cigars was much appreciated) he, his wife and his two small sons, took a break of nearly two years living in Tuscany, having published his first arts marketing book before departure. They returned to London where Keith met Tony Gamble who was in the process of setting up a company to publish a news magazine for the classical music industry. The two decided to work together and nearly thirty years later, in July 2007, they both retired from the publishing company they had founded.

The development of a new publishing company did not pay a living wage in the first ten years or so. Keith lectured on the one year post-graduate courses run by The City University for many years and then he and Tony Gamble started an arts marketing consultancy service based upon the ideas of the American Danny Newman, calledSubscribe Now! UK. For several years Keith included consultancy work and lecturing in his itinerary as well as working flat-out on making the new business work. The ‘sideline’ of consultancy gave Keith considerable experience in dealing with the problems faced by arts organisations in need of improved audience levels and reinforced his belief that a new book offering a structured exposition of how best to approach audience building was needed. The company publishedGuide to Arts Marketing in both hardback and paperback; both editions sold out thus showing the demand that existed. Ten years later saw the publication of ARTS MARKETING (note the italicised first word – this reflects what Keith saw as the need to establish where he stood in the face of growing competition from what he called ‘the baked bean boys’. Keith was saying, ‘With the Arts it’s different’).

In 1997 he published his memoirs, Not Heavy Enough To Win A Prize?, a piece of vanity publishing that he still regards as being the best piece of writing he has ever done. People who read it like it.

Now retired from publishing Keith has returned to the subject that still interests him. He offers this website as a way of understanding his approach and also gives visitors the opportunity of reading an online version of ARTS MARKETING REVISITED.