“I first came across Mel during a three-day Arts Marketing Association Small Scale Development course held in Liverpool. As one of the programme deliverers, she was enthusiastic, inspiring and professional, I felt that she really ‘got’ working in the arts with a small budget, and offered a creative way of thinking. Afterwards, she was my assigned mentor which I found a really useful element of the ongoing professional development part of the course. The one to one discussions helped formulate the next steps in the strategic planning of our future as an organisation and the up and coming application for further ACE National Portfolio Organisation funding.
WYPW was about to hold an ‘Away Day’, consisting of Board, staff and volunteers, the day was to consolidate our future thinking and embed this within the NPO application. We wanted a facilitator who had an understanding of a small arts organisation, our challenges and one who had an interest and insight into the visual arts. It didn’t take much to realise that this person was someone who already had been mentoring me with regards to addressing the future sustainability of our organisation, and that was Mel. Whilst the Board had specific areas they wanted to explore, the results were not predetermined, this would be led by the participants on the day. An external facilitator would encourage discourse, without prejudice, across the whole of the organisation and this is where Mel fitted in.
A date for the away day was agreed. During a video conference call with Mel to discuss the day’s timings and outline, she really pushed me to think about what I as the Chief Executive wanted from the day and more importantly the outcome. I realised at this point that there was a depth of understanding by Mel into my role and the forthcoming task of writing the ACE NPO application.
Throughout the discussion process, Mel didn’t lose sight of the fact that we are a visual arts organisation and our first task of the day was to make some art! With a particular emphasis on printmaking, doing this had two outcomes, one, as an icebreaker and two, to reinforce our USP and the use of printmaking as a tool for expressing our hopes for the future of the organisation. The end result of the activity was for each participant to say a little bit about what they had created and why these pieces of art informed the basis for the agenda for the rest of the day. It was this aspect where having an experienced facilitator such as Mel really comes into its own, she was able to structure the day accordingly and consolidate our thinking. With regards to results, the successful outcome of our NPO application is the most measurable.
Working with Mel, not only as a mentor but as a facilitator has been a two-way relationship giving advice, guidance and focused feedback. During the process, she gave honest and constructive feedback plus unbiased, friendly support. I would not hesitate in working with Mel in the future and would recommend her to any arts organisation.”
Julie Gaskell-Johnson MBA, CEO, West Yorkshire Print Workshop, 2017
“I was thrilled when Mel Larsen agreed to address the ‘Mapping Black British and Asian Shakespeare’ Symposium at Warwick University in July. Mel’s well-presented illustrated talk drew on her professional experience of marketing theatre while pinpointing the personal triumphs and challenges she had faced. The audience, a wide range of actors, directors, researchers and lecturers was understandably enthralled, amused and impressed; she has the light touch sense of humour and the depth of knowledge to spur debate.”
Dr. Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Research Fellow, Warwick University 2013
“Mel Larsen is more than a sought after professional in market research/planning and an authority in word-of-mouth marketing within the arts sector. The reason Mel stands out from the crowd is the way she puts her extraordinary skills to use: totally focused on how to add value to the client, always looking for ways to empower both the organisation and the people touched by it, always ready to make the extra effort to make the project a success. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Mel, whether her work is directly for StillArt or our clients.”
Magnus Still, CEO, StillArt International
“Mel and her team exceeded my expectations. She was given the ‘Shop in Streatham’ campaign at short notice and turned it around on time, delivered a quality service and product and was professional throughout. I was delighted with result and would not hesitate to come back to Mel Larsen & Associates in the future”
Angelina Purcell MBE, Streatham Town Centre Manager, 2012
“Mel is one of the most creative thinkers we call on as a consultant and collaborator. She has helped us to formulate and deliver a number of events, multi-partner projects, consultancy and evaluation. As a collaborator, she manages to be generous and supportive, yet challenging and innovative. As a consultant, she is both an intelligent strategist and a reliable, sensitive project manager. She has an extraordinarily wide experience of leading and observing engagement practice – from networking to community activism. This has given her unique and valuable insight into what makes people tick: audiences, participants, partners. She is also great at building the confidence of those around her. I would recommend Mel to anyone needing to think differently and clearly about a complex challenge or needing to find ways to engage partners and audiences.“
Anne Torreggiani, CEO Audiences London
“I am constantly looking at new ways to increase footfall and sales. The Crafts Council matched us up with Mel Larsen to help us achieve those goals. Not only did Mel have the marketing background and experience with crafts, but she was also very easy to talk to. We’d just had a poor Christmas (sales) and staff morale was down and the future of the Craft Shop was uncertain. However, when Mel came to visit us to get a better picture of the shop and its environment, she also helped to bring our team together and was very inspirational to us all.
The support was great from Mel (and the Crafts Council) and we were able to look at our displays as an outsider and make significant changes to help bring customers into the shop – thinking outside the box!
Mel’s advice was always welcome but she challenged me into making the decisions myself, which was very empowering. She helped me find a way of getting the results that my boss wanted in a way that meant something to me… This also involved looking at the business plan in great detail to help focus me and my team. This boosted my self-confidence enormously because it is something that I can always refer to if things get a bit tough.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with Mel and can still appreciate the work that we did and the changes that we made. I have more confidence in the decisions that I make because I know that I am doing them for the right reasons – referring back to our business plan.”
Rachel Noone, Manager, Craft Shop, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
“STW engaged Mel because of her ability to understand the complexities of the issues relating to The Complete Works and her strong track record. Mel had worked for us before and delivered excellent results. What really worked for me was the fact that although she maintained objectivity, she also cared about the lack of representation in mainstream UK poetry publishing. That brings something extra to a project and for me, made the final evaluation report exceptional. Mel is warm, approachable and very sensitive. She delivered on time and was always a pleasure to work with.”
Emma Hewett, Director, Spread The Word
“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with Mel Larsen on delivering an audience development plan for Winchester Museums. Before Mel came on board I have to say I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of what we were trying to do. But Mel’s clear and strategic thinking provided a way forward for us. She made a seemingly unmanageable and unwieldy project manageable and achievable. She was a sensitive team player within the museum team and an empathetic and approachable facilitator of our non-user focus groups. She quickly grasped our vision for the museums and has enabled us to, through the plan to begin to realise that vision. On a personal level, I found her encouraging, approachable, dedicated and I cannot wait to work with her again!”
Sher Kent, Museum Services Manager (April 2010) Winchester Museums
“Mel Larsen is an articulate, intelligent, creative and dynamic partner in business development. In my journey from Sole Trader to Director of a company of 5 experts specialising in ‘Safeguarding Children’ training and consultancy, she has absorbed our culture, cut to the heart of our principles and values, inspired us to think big and assisted us in realising a vision. She is an inspired visionary, experienced in the practicalities of business.“
Catherine Rushforth, Director, Catherine Rushforth & Associates
“Mel has been both a Coach and a Trainer for the AMA. Feedback from our delegates and participants is always incredibly high. Delegates described her as ‘inspiring’, ‘approachable’, and ‘great fun’ – and we’d agree!”
Julie Aldridge, Executive Director, The Arts Marketing Association until 2016
“Mel has been a breath of fresh air to the National Trust. She has been really supportive and appeared always to be on the end of the phone when we needed her. What struck me and quite a few other colleagues is how important it is for a consultant to truly understand what a ‘customer’ wants and she did just that plus more. Mel has delivered sessions around Community Ambassadors and also was a Keynote Speaker at our National Skills Sharing day. More recently I asked Mel on behalf of two NT properties to design and deliver sessions around Inclusive Language – a potentially contentious subject. Mel managed the sessions extremely well and carried out a lot of research to ensure that the properties got what they wanted. I would work with Mel over and over again as she makes it all incredibly easy.”
Sajida Aslam, Audience Development Manager – Whose Story? National Trust
“My company Tamasha hired Mel to do a brand positioning exercise for us with the operational team and Board. As a result of her rigorous, probing yet sensitive questioning, I realised that we actually needed to have a conversation around change management. I was so completely impressed by Mel’s commitment to the preparation of this day – making sure at every turn that she understood precisely what was required at this very critical moment for our company. The preparation paid off….. the three-hour session was exactly what was required and the concise, fast-paced way the day was delivered was enormously beneficial. Mel again applied her excellent listening skills, showing great care and concern to follow the twists and turns of the conversation. She slightly adapted planned moments in the conversation as required and ultimately helped us find a tangible plan for the next steps of this journey. The conversation between ten people was handled with the utmost care and skill. The combination of her gentle approach with her robust enquiry and well-developed skills set gives her a huge advantage over others I have experienced in facilitated conversations. On leaving, one of my Board members whispered to me ….. ‘she has a very fine touch.’ I could not recommend her highly enough.”
Kristine Landon-Smith, Artistic Director, Tamasha
“The London Hub of Sustained Theatre engaged Mel as a facilitator to run a planning and strategy session designed to take our network to the next level. Her preparation before the session was thorough and well researched. On the day the session there were many topics to discuss and elicit clear outcomes for and Mel’s focus on keeping to time whilst getting the group to deliver the outcomes was impressive. She more than fulfilled the brief that was set and delivered it in a warm and professional way.“
Pauline Walker, Hub Producer, The London Hub
“Mel listened carefully to what we wanted, asking questions and ensuring she totally understood what we wanted to achieve. She then came up with a really relevant, useful day. She had real empathy for the businesses we were asking her to work with, and showed a genuine interest in what we and the business we were supporting were trying to do. She showed a brilliant ability to mix her inspirational thinking with a well grounded and experienced understanding of putting things into practice….The attendees to our session all left feeling inspired rather than weighed down with just more information – they came away with tools they felt comfortable with and each had received some personal attention and insight into their businesses, they left feeling like individuals rather than one face in a training room! …I hope we have the chance to work together again”
Catherine Zoll, Market Development Officer (May 2010) Crafts Council
“Mel Larsen is an exemplary workshop leader whom I would definitely work with again at BAC. Mel devised and led a series of workshops as part of BAC’s participatory schools programme, which were carefully and collaboratively planned and successfully delivered all the outcomes we had hoped for. Mel is a warm, creative and approachable workshop leader and the feedback we had from the teachers and pupils was overwhelmingly positive – they were just sad the workshop with her hadn’t been longer!”
Sophie Bradey, Project Manager, Battersea Arts Centre
“Every student I spoke to said your workshop was a real highlight of their week and that they had thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a really enriching experience for the students and fitted in so well with the overall aims of the week. I appreciate that a successful event means there has been excellent preparation beforehand, and thank you and your team for all you did behind the scenes as well as on the day”
Clare Constant, Head of English and Literature/Director of Teaching and Learning, Thames Christian College, London