Download the AOH Manual
If you would like to open or download a pdf file of the complete AOH Manual please click on the arrow below.
Contents: A Guide for New Houses
- The AOH festivals
- Artists Open Houses (AOH) -who we are and what we do
- Benefits of taking part in AOH festivals
- A brief history
- Taking part in AOH festivals
- Why join a trail
- Your venue listing
- AOH leaflet and brochure distribution
- Opening your house
- Costs of opening your house
- Sharing cost with artists showing in your house
- Extra publicity
- House flyers and mailing lists
- Individual house websites
- Further useful info
- Opening times
- Layout of your show
- Pricing and framing
- Private view
- Meeting and greeting
- Paying for work
- Trail Contacts details
The AOH festivals
Artists Open Houses (AOH) - Who we are and what we do
Artist Open Houses (AOH) promotes and markets the AOH festivals through its brochures, leaflets, website (www.aoh.org.uk), social media, pr and marketing, throughout the year. It organizes two annual festivals: one in May to coincide with the city’s Brighton and Fringe Festivals and a smaller festival at Christmas. The May festival runs over the first four weekends of May, Saturdays and Sundays, and the Christmas festival covers the last weekend in November and first two in December.
The AOH festivals cover the 01273 telephone code area and are open to any practicing artists and craft makers in this area. (Third party intermediaries are welcome to host venues exhibiting artists’ work, but may not promote their businesses as part of their AOH listing or sell work other than that made by the exhibiting artists and makers as part of their exhibition. They may, however, additionally take an advertisement in the brochure to promote their business.) It is an inclusive festival, welcoming all artists at any stage of their career.
Many open houses invite ‘guest artists’ to show work alongside them in their houses and to share the costs involved in taking part. Guest artists coming from any geographic area are welcome to exhibit in the open houses.
Payment for a listing is by venue, rather than artist, unlike some Open Studios in other parts of the country, this means that costs can be divided up amongst all artists exhibiting in one venue.
Printed brochure listings can be either a single listing, ie a quarter-page, containing a single image, or a double listing, ie a half-page containing two images. Online listings, however, can be enhanced so that all artists exhibiting in one venue can have an image of their work on their venues online listing page, as well as a link to the artists website and contact details.
AOH Ltd is a not for profit, stand-alone organization, soon to become a charity. Its role is to promote and orchestrate the co-ordination of Open House events taking place in May and December. It is run by a small, but dedicated organizational team, each with a responsibility for a specific area, eg admin, ads sales, sponsorship, marketing, finance etc. some of whom devote a part or all of their time voluntarily.
As you may imagine, coordinating and marketing a large event such as this, is a massive undertaking. Just like any other not-for-profit organisation, the core members of the team are paid a rate for the job. Where necessary, we outsource work to outside professionals to undertake such jobs as PR, web development, distribution and design. In doing so, we always source the most cost effective route, whilst never losing sight of the importance of quality.
We keep our costs and the entry fees for houses as low as possible by not having an office and by working hard to attract advertisers and sponsors and other private bodies, without whose funding we would not be able to provide the service we currently do. The Open Houses festival at present receives no grant funding of any kind. A few team members work on a voluntary basis, while some receive only the commission on the advertising and sponsorship revenue they bring in. Anyone is welcome to offer their services on a voluntary basis if their skills and experience match a need.
If you would like more information on getting involved in AOH, you can contact: email@example.com
Benefits of taking part in AOH festivals
- An experienced organisational structure, with extensive links to similar organisations and external consultants
- A complete professional brochure and leaflet distribution service, citywide, London and throughout the south east
- Your listing featured in 50,000 brochures, 60,000 leaflet maps
- A further 30,000 brochure copies printed as a pullout section in The Latest Homes magazine
- Your listing featured in the online listings section of the AOH website
- Online enhanced listing facilities for you and your guest artists
- Online venue search with optional artists and media search
- Dedicated trail maps and travel info
- Online registration process for venues to upload their listings
- A regularly updated website - with social media including facebook, twitter flickr and blog
- Full web support
- Open House first-timers advice manual
- AOH i-phone app
- Professional marketing campaign,
- Regular e-newsletters and e-mailouts sent to artists and visitors
- PR providing extensive local and national media, press, TV and radio coverage (comparative worth: £32,000 advertising, £96,000 editorial)
- Joint PR and marketing campaign with Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe - funded by VisitBrighton (£8,000)
- Cover and editorial pages in Latest Homes magazine
- Reciprocal ads in publications such as Pallant House Gallery Magazine, Selvedge, Aesthetica
- The Latest film offer
- Best Open House Award
- House Open at the Dome exhibition, including the Brighton Festival £600 prize
- Annual AOH launch party
- Invitation to attend feedback focus groups and take part in online surveys
- The opportunity to join a local art trail
A Brief History
Brighton’s open house phenomenon began in 1982, when Fiveways artist, Ned Hoskins, opened his front door to the public, inviting visitors into his home to view his own work and that of a group of friends. Other artists in the area followed suit, to form the Fiveways Artists Group. Soon other trails sprang up around the city and the Open Houses were born. Initially appearing as a brief listings section within the early Brighton Festival brochures, open houses were subsequently moved to the Brighton Fringe. However, as this brochure contained neither images nor maps for open houses and the listings were buried within its many performance pages, trails were ultimately reliant on producing their own leaflets to market and promote themselves. Visitors to the Open Houses had to collect up to around 13 different trail leaflets from around the city in order to cover all the disparate trails.
Hence Artists Open Houses (AOH) Ltd was set up in 2004 by a group of open house artists, acting on the necessity of producing a brochure uniting all the individual trails. The initial idea was simple, but soon expanded to include a website, pr, marketing, distribution and had grown into coordinating a full-blown festival in its own right. The clear, single brand identity for all the open houses made it much easier for visitors to have a strong image of who we are and how to find the venues, resulting in audiences figures greatly expanding over time accordingly.
Although the Artists Open Houses festival now stands as an important festival in its own right, it does not forget its roots, ensuring that procedural decision making is inclusive, by consulting extensively with participating artists via regular focus groups, trail feedback and online surveys carried out with open houses throughout the year.
Taking part in AOH festivals
Why join a trail
Open House trails cover most areas of the city and beyond. They operate autonomously, setting their own membership criteria and joining fees (which are used to promote the trail and are not paid to AOH). It is each trail’s own decision as to who may and may not join their trail, also, if and how much they want to charge as an annual fee for trail members – some trails charge no fee and have no membership conditions.
Each trail nominates one or two Trial Contacts, who are the initial point of contact for new members wanting to join a trail - their contact details can be found at the end of this manual, as well as on the Contacts page of the AOH website (www.aoh.org.uk). Trail Contacts also organise their trail’s brochure introduction page content and the trail members’ collection of their AOH brochure and leaflet allocation from a given distribution point.
Many people like to join a trail as it can help to make life easier, especially for first time open houses. Having fellow trail members can be useful in filling any gaps you may have in your knowledge when opening your house - such as hanging and pricing work, private views, opening times etc. Trail meetings provide an opportunity for trail members to discuss issues and prompt one another as deadlines approach. Each trail has a different way of working, but most provide a good degree of support and reassurance for new members.
You are also likely to receive more visitors if you are a member of a trail. Many visitors like to follow a designated route and enjoy the identity and presence of a trail. Although AOH provides a full marketing and promotional service for all open houses in the festival, some trials like to add a little bit more, creating a trail website and producing a joint trial flyer. By being a member of a trail you may benefit from this joint trail publicity and the trail identity created, as well as from the fact that other trail members will often direct visitors to your door.
Once you’ve decided you’re going to open your house and join a trail, you will need to contact the trail contact for your area, (contact details can be found at the end of this manual, as well as on the Contacts page of the AOH website - www.aoh.org.uk). In many trails, being a trail member is not a passive role and can bring certain responsibilities with it. Trails that have worked well over the years are generally those where jobs are divided up between members. For example, some trails raise a small amount of sponsorship from local businesses to cover their trail publicity costs, so requiring fundraisers, and will have a bank account requiring a treasurer. These shared trail tasks are carried out by volunteers.
Trail Contacts, or trail chairs, will be responsible for calling trail meetings and taking meeting minutes – perhaps two or three times a year, starting around Oct/Nov, when trail fees will be collected. Later meetings may include discussion of sponsors, trail websites and flyers and any other issues relating to the AOH festival. At the end of the ‘open house year’, shortly before the festival starts, a meeting will be called to discuss collection of trial brochures and leaflets from the trail’s designated collection point as well as details of the AOH launch party.
Although many people enjoy the sociable and inclusive nature provided by the majority of trials, obviously, joining groups, attending meetings and taking on responsibilities is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you prefer not to get involved in a trail, if there is no trail in your area, or your local trail is not taking new members, you can always register your Open House as an Independent venue (contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more information on this).
NB trails operate for the May festival only – all Christmas festival venues are independent.
Your venue listing
Registration for the AOH May festival opens in early January and closes in mid February.
Houses register individually, by filling in the online registration form and paying online.
The are two listing sizes:
A half page, or double listing, allowing you two images and a 1,100 character description of your venue.
A quarter page, or single listing, allowing you one image and a 550 character description of your venue.
‘Early bird’ payment offers a discount and runs for the first three weeks of registration.
‘Late payment’ continues until registration closes, at a slightly higher price.
In 2012, Early bird rates were: £267 for a single, quarter page listing, £450 for a double, half-page listing,
Late payment rates were: £300 for a single, quarter page listing, and £480 for a double, half-page listing.
Your listing will also appear in the online listings on the AOH website. For an extra £10 per artist, you can enhance each of your artists listings, adding an image of their work, contact details and a link to their website, which will appear in your venue’s online listing page.
You can also take advantage of the online search facility, where open houses are searchable by venue, artist’s name and medium
You can order a banner, bearing the AOH logo, for your house front via the online registration form during the registration period, or online in the artists ‘retail’ section until mid March.
Payment for all facilities is processed using sagepay.
There are clear instructions throughout the registration process on the website, but if you run into problems while uploading your listing, you can email AOH web support at: email@example.com
NB: a frequently asked question when registering, is how to choose a suitable image for your brochure entry. Here are a few tips:
In order to look good when printed in the brochure, images should be quite strong and contrasty: ie neither too dark nor too light, and should not be taken on a mobile phone! Generally, slightly landscape or portrait sized images work better in the design space than square images or extremely elongated images.
You could also try printing out the image at the size it will reproduce in the brochure and see if it looks good, or take a look at last year’s brochure to see what worked really well.
Generally clear, simple and well-defined images work best. Muddy and over complex images look less good: compound images not only don’t work well when reproduced small, but are not accepted in the brochure for this very reason!
AOH leaflet and brochure distribution
The AOH leaflet map (print run 60,000) contains a detailed map showing the location of all AOH venues, a brief address listing and an image. The leaflet comes out earlier than the AOH brochure, giving the festival a presence in the city in early April. You will be given a supply of leaflets to distribute around the city and wherever else you choose. You may like to distribute to eg to shops, cafes, bars, hairdressers and dentists etc in your neighbourhood, and beyond, as well as to your friends and buyers.
The bulk of the leaflet maps are distributed via a professional distribution service to London and throughout the South East. Visitors will use the leaflet map to direct them to the AOH website for further information, or direct to Open House venues where they may pick up a brochure.
The AOH brochure (print run 50,000) comes out in mid April and is distributed throughout the city and region by a professional distribution service, using a targeted distribution strategy, ensuring there is very little wastage of expensive brochures. You will be given a supply of brochures, but these are for you to keep in your house rather than distribute, so that visitors to your house will know that they will be able to pick up a brochure from your venue throughout the festival.
Opening your house
Costs of opening your house
Most open houses choose to share all costs of taking part in the Artists Open Houses festival with their guest artists. How many guest artists you choose to exhibit with you is entirely up to you. The more artists, the lower the costs all round, but the less space you will be able to allocate per artist. Visitors enjoy looking round houses with a good variety of artists and makers – but not when the house feel like an overcrowded ‘shop’!
Costs of taking part will include your AOH festival listing, plus a trail joining fee if you chose to join a trail and the trail has a membership fee.
All other costs are optional, but can include:
An AOH banner
A private view, ie wine, soft drinks, plus printing and mail-out of invites (although costs are greatly reduced if you stick to sending e-invites)
A house publicity flyer and postage to mail-out (an e-flyer saves considerable costs here too)
A house website
Wrapping and sales materials
It is strongly recommended that all open houses take out public liability insurance.
If someone has a serious accident in your house, you could be sued a great deal of money. Most insurance available will cover only public liability, ie injury to people visiting your house, not value of the work displayed.
We recommend taking out insurance with the Artists Newsletter (AN) AIR http://www.a-n.co.uk/air/article/460147/437352 who offer free insurance with subscription to the newsletter. We believe AN AIR operates the only policy dedicated to artists and costs around £30 per year. Depending on whether you are an artist or an ‘individual’, the policy provides around £5m cover. There is a variety of insurance options, so it’s worth browsing the AN AIR site site to check the details of what is covered. Generally speaking it will cover public liability and a small amount of 2D artwork, though not sculpture. The added bonus is that you will also receive the AN newsletter.
Don’t try to add insurance for your Open House to your own regular house insurance - it can raise your insurance payments astronomically!
Sharing cost with artists showing in your house
You may feel slightly tentative, in the first year of opening your house , about charging your guest artists. But, quite apart from the costs you will be incurring, you will also be undertaking the bulk of the work before, and in the immediate run-up to, the festival. This includes going to trail meetings, if you join a trail, designing or organising the design of house flyers and/or private view invites, plus arranging for and hosting the pv if you have one.
Your house will experience a certain amount of wear and tear, even possibly necessitating the repainting of rooms, filling in nail holes etc after the festival, as well as regular hoovering and dusting throughout the festival period!
You have the responsibility for visitor payments for artwork and for paying your artists after the event. And you are effectively providing a gallery space and acting as agent for your guest artists, providing visitors with information about their work and helping to sell it.
Most houses charge around £20 - £50 per artist, depending on the number of guest artists and the cost outlay.
Most Open Houses also request a commission on sales of guest artists’ work. This is generally around 10- 15% on works sold. Guest artists are expected to help out with invigilation, so some houses operate a system whereby those who can’t, or don’t want to invigilate, pay an additional commission, eg 20% on sales.
It is well worth insisting on these charges, as feedback suggests that gaining these, maybe small, amounts of profit from your artists’ sales, will work wonders in preventing any feelings of resentment occurring in very busy or stressful moments.
Buying an Artists Open Houses banner, bearing the AOH logo, to display on the front of your house or garden is an excellent way of making your venue visible and clearly a part of the official AOH festival. Keeping your banner in position throughout the festival draws attention to your house during the week, providing publicity even when your house is shut. You can buy an AOH banner on the website when registering your venue, or at any time up until mid March on the online artists ‘retail’ page – but you must first be registered with AOH.
House flyers and mailing lists
Although by no means essential, some open houses like to create their own publicity flyer to complement the AOH brochure, leaflet, website and other marketing carried out for them by AOH.
You will be able to find a number of companies producing flyers at reasonable prices locally – but your best option is to order them from the AOH website. You will need to order these a few weeks before the start of the festival.
Brainstorming with other trail members may provide ideas for the best places to target with your flyers: eg shops, cafes, other open houses on your trail…. putting them through neighbours’ doors has been a tested and tried method! It can also be a good idea to put your house flyers inside the AOH leaflets and distribute the two together. However, instead of printing flyers, many people prefer to stick to the cheaper option of emailing out e-flyers to their emailing lists instead.
Gathering a mailing and / or emailing list from visitors to your house is a good idea. Leaving a visitors’ book by the door, or asking visitors who buy your and your artists work if they wouldn’t mind leaving their contact details can be effective. The former is more suitable for creating an emailing list, whilst the latter, being more targeted, is suitable for a more personal paper mail-out to the genuinely interested.
Individual house websites
Some open houses like to create their own dedicated Open House website. Obviously this could be an overwhelming undertaking in your first year of opening, but longer term, it can give your open house publicity beyond the festival period, especially via its links to the AOH website, which will direct visitors to your site throughout the year. It’s a good way of providing information for any interested inquiries during the year, and gives you and the artists showing in your house an extra showcase for your work.
You can also upload images of your and your artists’ work on the flick’r feed on the AOH website, add info to AOH facebook, or suggest items for the AOH news-page. The AOH bloggers and tweeters will also include any interesting news angles on Open House artists in their regularly updated tweets and festival blogs. If you have any open house artists’ news to impart, contact:
And if there is anything really newsworthy happening in your house, if you let us know, we can forward the info to our PR team who may be able to provide coverage via the local and national news-outlets of print, radio and TV.
Further useful info
Each trail is an autonomous organisation and makes its decisions accordingly, but quite a few trails encourage - or insist - that all trail members keep the same opening hours. It does seem to work best and is clearer and easier for visitors if trail members agree to open during the same hours. Consistency causes less confusion and irritation for visitors, who will often assume a trail’s opening hours to be the same anyway.
As a rule of thumb, for members of trails who have no set opening times and for independent houses, most houses open 11.00 - 5.00 or 12.00 – 6.00. Longer hours than this can sometimes make the day feel just a bit too long.
Naturally, it’s an entirely personal decision whether or not you choose to provide refreshments for your visitors - a decision that may depend on the size of your kitchen, garden or living area and supply of crockery. But many open houses enjoy providing homemade tea and cake, which can give a house a welcoming feel, encouraging people to stay longer and chat to the artists whilst perusing the work. Some visitors carefully select houses for their quality of cake! However others houses very definitely prefer to keep the focus entirely on the art… and this is up to you.
From a legal point of view, anything beyond tea and cakes – lunches for example – effectively makes you into a cafe and opens you up to the possibility of health and safety inspections. Charging for alcohol is illegal.
Layout of your show
Although people opening their house for the first time are sometimes hoping for some hard and fast advice on the matter of laying out their show, this is really more a decision of individual imagination and preference. One of the pleasures of opening your house is being free to create your own ambience, how you choose – you are the curator of your house. Hopefully people on your trail will be able to give you the benefit of their experience, if you want it, and this can be a useful subject for discussion at trail meetings.
However, it’s definitely good to find a ‘house style’, something that unites all the different work exhibited in your show. This can be done, for example, by uniform labeling or by information sheets about each artist and maker printed in a house style.
Some houses ask their artists to hang their own work, others ask them to drop it off (in good time!) and prefer to decide where all the work should go themselves. This can be advisable: it can help avoid clashes of style or disagreements around fairness of space allocation and gives you the opportunity to work out what would work best where.
Remember, when it comes to space allocation, it’s your house and you are the final arbiter!
Pricing and framing
When thinking about pricing and framing your work, its generally a good idea to visit other open houses exhibiting work similar to yours and noting what you feel works well in terms of the presentation and pricing of the work. A frequently used rule of thumb, is asking yourself whether you would feel cheated if you sold a piece of work below a certain price – and then asking yourself how much you want and need to sell the work. You should also consider the hours spent creating the work and cost of framing, or other costs as applicable.
First time open houses often rightly predict the fun elements of hosting an open house – the sociability, the pleasure of visitors engaging with the work – but are frequently unprepared for how exhausting being on public display, non-stop, for a whole weekend can be. Very occasionally a member of the public may make you feel uneasy. Having friends and guest artists to help out with invigilation is invaluable. Most people prefer to have at least one invigilator in every room that you have open to the public, as a precaution against mishap and theft (which, by the way, is a seemingly uncommon occurrence). However, some think this can be a bit intimidating for visitors. Certainly, if you’re exhibiting small, expensive and easily re-moveable items, it is a very good idea to make sure someone is nearby at all times.
The best way to carry out invigilation is to divide the weekends up into time slots – two per day, and then work out how many slots each of your artists will need to undertake. It is a good idea to suggest to your artists that, once the invigilation rota is agreed and fixed, should they need to change their slot at the last minute, they should contact another of your artists and arrange a swap with them. It’s a good idea if all your artists have a copy of the invigilation rota and each other’s contact details, so that they can do this without involving you!
A private view is not obligatory and some people may feel it is a waste of time and money. But many open houses find that the advantages of holding a private view or opening party for friends, colleagues and previous buyers can be great. It opens the festival on a high note and a well run pv really does promote sales, even those invitees who can’t make it, or who don’t buy anything on the night, are very likely to come back at another time. It can also feel like a reward for your own hard work and can provide a thank-you for the participants in your house.
One suggestion, gained from experience, is to free yourself up from serving drinks yourself, so that you can play the host to visitors. It is a good idea to draw up a rota giving your artists tasks, such as serving drinks, clearing glasses, red-dotting any sold work and taking payment for and recording artists sales.
Meeting and greeting
Something requested by many first time open houses, is advice on how to treat visitors. We’d suggest it’s always good to welcome visitors on arrival. It can be quite daunting to walk into a stranger’s house, even if you’re clearly clutching an AOH brochure, and it is very off-putting to be ignored. After an initial greeting, it’s pretty much a matter of playing things by ear and by judging visitors’ reactions. Some people want space and peace to look at the work uninterrupted and in their own time. But most really enjoy a chat with the artists – within reason.
Don’t be offended if visitors are keener to talk about the colour of your walls than the work hung on them! And hopefully they will be looking at both.
Paying for work
Easy to overlook the first time you open your house, but presenting itself as a necessity, often within the first few hours, is a cash box. This can be improvised with an empty plastic container, but a proper cash box with lock and key is generally a good investment. You will also need to get some small change in advance from the bank - £5 notes are particularly useful as people often pay with £10 notes for small items.
Your will also need a payments book, listing all your artists’ names and carefully writing down all sales for each artist. If possible, it is also good to write down the name and contact details of visitors making the purchases - especially if they are large purchases. How you do this is up to you; some people allow separate pages for each artist and others just write down sales and artists’ names as they occur. Some artists, though, will ask for their payment pages at the end of the festival, both so that they have a list of their buyers details and also of their sales, to check for themselves that they have received the right payment from you and also so that they have the right information for their own accounts.
Most houses don’t have card payment machines - which are very pricey to hire and can’t be rented for a month only. If you live near a cash machine, you can point visitors in that direction, so that they can make their payment to you in cash. Otherwise visitors will need to pay for larger pieces of work by cheque. Generally they will first leave a small deposit to secure the work and will then return at the end of the festival to make the remainder of the payment and to take away the work. Most open houses don’t allow large pieces of work to be collected before the end of the festival, as this will leave large gaps in the show. Although exceptions can occasionally be made if the visitor comes from far away and wont be retuning to Brighton – and can pay cash! But you may prefer to arrange delivery of the work for them at the end of the festival. It is advisable not to let any work be taken away until the cheque payments have been cleared by the bank. And do make sure to always right down and keep all cheque payment details and card numbers.
You may feel it is safest to handle all payment details yourself rather than hand responsibility to your guest artists – unless you have some artists with good experience of taking payments exhibiting in your house. Jewellers and ceramicists frequently have more experience than fine artists!
A few suggestions for things that you might need to buy when opening your house:
* The AOH website offers online supplies, such as cards, flyers, calendars, posters, giclee and photographic prints.
* Cash boxes, red stickers, sticky labels, card for labeling, backing card, files, note and visitors’ books can be bought from Clarkes stationers in Bond Street
* Viking Direct supplies stationery and bubble wrap
* Adam Adams of Shoreham is a florist’s supplier, but can provide bags for eg packaging prints (tissue one side, clear film the other) in bulk, as well as bubble wrap
* 1st For Fittings, just off Seven Dials on Prestonville Road sells brown paper bags in all sizes and tissue paper.
We hope you enjoy the experience of hosting your open house and wish you a good and successful festival.
Central Brighton Mark Lane: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fiveways Eva Wibberley: email@example.com
Hanover Janet Brooke: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kemptown Serena Sussex: Kemptown1@hotmail.co.uk
Newhaven Chris Lewis: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Ouze Valley Michael Cruickshank: email@example.com