The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art anchored the culture-led regeneration of Gateshead waterfront, which would later include the Sage Concert Hall and the Stirling Prize-winning ‘winking eye’ bridge.
With months to go before an immoveable launch date, both Trustees and the Arts Council were anxious about the project’s operational readiness and financial stability.
Fourth Street consultants were appointed to work with the management team to ensure that all the necessary systems were in place to ensure a successful launch.
Due to the scale and importance of the project, and the short timescale to opening, there was a measure of urgency attached to this project, which required a bespoke methodology and approach.
Fourth Street consultants were embedded within the management team, basing themselves in Gateshead for almost the full duration of the project.
Mornings were spent working alongside individual department heads to understand, catalogue and prioritise all the pressing issues that needed to be resolved in haste. In the afternoon, we would translate the morning’s work into a short, ‘actionable’ memo which we discussed with the Director and Deputy Director.
In parallel to this work, we produced an operational financial model which allowed us to test the financial implications of any recommendations / actions in near real-time.
Key issues that we addressed included organisational structure; recruitment and on-boarding of volunteers and front-of-house staff; finalisation of catering contracts; shop design and retail merchandising; ticketing and queuing systems; and financial management. In the week prior to opening, we conducted a full operational audit of all internal systems, including security, health & safety, visitor management, queuing and booking systems, as well as staffing rotas and training manuals.
The Baltic opened successfully and on-schedule, exceeding – by a large margin – its Year One visitor and financial projections.
We were later asked to report on ‘lessons learned’ from this successful launch to a wider set of Arts Council England officers and stakeholders.