During last Summer, I had a few brainwaves and drafted a proposal for a venue-based digital broadcasting scheme. At the heart of it is a research question to investigate whether medium scale producers of arts and cultural work can move beyond the tradition of the theatrical stage and reinvent themselves as part of an emerging content economy.
After a few twists and turns along the way, Arts Council England South East have accepted the project and offered to financially support it’s development with a grant of £141,000 over three years. In these times of austerity, when arts and culture organisations are being put under a great deal of stress with radical cuts to their public subsidy, this is a great sign that good progressive ideas can still gain some traction, and that ACE Still have the flexibility to recognise and support a development project that tackles emerging and somewhat untested approaches to audiences and technology.
With the background of my Gene Pool:Digital Culture podcast productions and several other unsuccessful applications to ACE for development support, my thinking on this topic has been bubbling away for some time – the title of a recent episode featuring artists that are exploring live steams, social media and viral marketing is the same as the one used for this blog post. Gene Pool is an entirely voluntary project which draws on artists and contacts I make during the course of programming and hosting a series of commercial creative technology events and workshops. The added benefit of recording the thoughts and actions of the people who come into this orbit, currently means that the broadcast reaches another 35,000 people in downloads, live stream and to-air broadcast per year. See it as audience development and that’s not a bad number for something done for free.
During the project delivery, many additional skills will be developed inhouse, as well as being brought in to the venue, and I’m happy to also report that our venue management has acknowledged the need for the originator of the idea and a digital thinker to be involved in delivery of the project on it’s behalf. One of the turns that came home to me which are starkly different to the life of a freelancer, is that the ideas you offer up to your employer are immediately lost to you and become actionable by them. Without the right staff structure this can easily lead to wasted opportunity.
I’m determined to get good value out of this investment, though we are largely jumping into the unknown. But it certainly feels that the time is right to liberate our arts and culture productions from the grip of the fraying theatre seat, and send it out to the sofas and dens of the world to excite and engage audiences with the best authentic content that we can produce.