- Nick: future: festivals will have to be better, know their speciality, have a personality
- Nick: festivals coming to rely on passion: of organisers and audiences
- Claire: in a digital age festivals have a role in providing a connection between authors and readers, while high street shops close down, etc.
- Lisa: agrees with Nick that the current festival boom won’t last forever
- Lisa: festivals bring people together, a focus for debate and connections, a site for fun too – leading to a more relaxed type of event with more engagement and a move away from the lecture plus q and a model
- Lisa: festivals need to know what they’re for and who they’re working with, what their expectations are
- Claire: commenting on uses of social media to widen the audience for an event, even though it breaks the physical link
- Nick: says he has a journalistic role, editing an event to meet a variety of different audiences and interests; but also present a world view that brings some degree of consistency and focus to the event
- Nick: flags up the differences between festivals of different scales, what can you achieve with the larger festivals?
- Lisa: Emerging Writers Festival in Australia: lots of work with social media, redefining the structure of the event in order to bring in the audience and their expertise, alongside a Twitter audience
- Lisa: Twitter has facilitated a community around the festival, giving people a chance to contact others – including enabling Twitter users to meet each other
- Lisa: resistance to Twitter? Festival board brought some resistance to the idea, so needed convincing, but once it was shown to work it built up steam; recommends not apologising and just going for it
- Nick: resistance: notes that some feel that tweeting during events is annoying; Nick appeals for the joy of losing yourself to the experience of an author and an expert chair – tweeting is great, but the key to the event is the quality of the conversation on stage
- Claire: financial sustainability: different models of book sales – giving it over to a company like Waterstones, or doing it yourself? What sort of revenues are possible through digital books?
- Nick: envisaging that festival boards are likely to be asking their festivals what their ebook strategy is… such as eibf who are trying to delay the switch to move to digital. Switches focus to production rather than consumption: what do authors demand of their authors and will this change as people’s commitment to reading changes?
- Lisa: believes that festivals and bookshops should provide means by which customers can get hold of books
- Nick: media driven by what people have written, whether it be social media or mainstream news, which helps reinforce the value of the book as a generator of these news cycles
- Lisa: books as an antidote to the sound bite; sophisticated audiences who can engage with numerous ideas through different media
- Are pure festivals de
ad? More cross genre festivals to reflect our lives? Lisa: maybe yes… cites Latitude, though it’s still a way away; though notes Adelaide writers festival is part of the wider arts festival
- Nick: doesn’t see an end to the literary festival, examples exist of successful festivals around the world which have their niche
- Nick: reflects on 2012 Writers’ Conference as a shift in focus from books to writing, authors talking about why they write
- Claire: what of those who don’t want to engage with all the new event types? There will be some authors who are not as effective on stage, whose work is effectively less favoured in the festival model
- Lisa: agrees that festival producers need to reflect on what works best for each author
- Nick: it’s about giving each author the opportunity to present their work; programming is about a conversation with authors – what works best for them?
- Aspects of science that have made their way into popular culture
- Methods and media: broadcast, publishing, museums, hands-on science centres and festivals
- On science centres: engagement is generally between human and machine, while human to human is more engaging
- Science events: stealing from other performances ??? theatre, etc. Kids performing fake operations with real kit. Dad dancing… based on testosterone levels?! Coffee event: what’s the science behind the drink?
- Festivals: good sci festivals have allowed those with enthusiasm for science to find an audience that otherwise they couldn’t reach
- Examples: Genoa learnt from Edinburgh; Abu Dhabi using Edinburgh, aimed at children, with the same activities being toured to different places; New York (‘World Science Festival’) commissioning major artistic works based on science, performed on Broadway
- Beyond science festivals: Uncaged Monkeys is mainstream; Secret Cinema; Guerilla Science popping up at other festivals… science outside the ghetto
- iPhone apps: Dream:On, from Richard Wiseman, getting social neurology into the public eye, finding a massive sample for research
- Things are changing: science is reaching out and is being done professionally
- What’s driving the change?
- Very few trying to do it for money…
- …but there are various stakeholders who want to see it happen:
- Economic impact: councils, etc. want to attract investment in science: knowledge based economies, with talented people attracted to your location. Notes that the richer a country gets the less likely its population is to want to work in science and technology. There’s a role for festivals in providing opportunities for kids to experience science and find their vocations
- Recruit young talent
- Engage with public: governments aware that they need to get public support for spending on science, so they spend a lot of effort explaining what they do to try and win over the public. Note recent controversies that have seen the public oppose science
- Educational desire: formal and informal
- Scientists keen to share and find and audience: see Richard Wiseman at Science Festival; Richard Dawkins wanting to get his message out
- The market?
- These audiences have to be created and found ??? they’re not there to be pinched from others
- Once you’ve found an audience you can put stuff in front of them in new ways
- Bring someone else’s audience to you: bring in stars, the BBC, existing brands
- Identifies a local, not national audience: stakeholders want to attract a local audience, although tourism is on the horizon
- Abu Dhabi: benefits Edinburgh through money, opportunities to see talent around the world, a need to sharpen your game to meet high expectations
- Reaching out to new industries: forging links to new stakeholder groups from the arts to new university departments
- Science take up: anecdotal evidence that science festivals increase take up of academic courses… but very tough to provide evidence on a firmer basis
- The growth of science communication as a recognised profession
- Notes that there’s a learning process: to get from a homespun event to something that looks great
- Go the extra mile to produce something wonderful and it becomes truly engaging and magical
- Recipe: science, communication, training, working together
- The lack of functioning markets in this content: other cultural areas have an established market, but it’s hard to see where this is for science festivals; without the market the industry is lacking, a market will speed up the trading of ideas, content, performers and buyers
- Some events can be pretty techie, but if you know your audience and you can put them in the right environment you can be ambitious
- Competition: pitching yourselves against others in the same quadrant: high participation + high impact
- Work with
your competitors: the zoo, theatre companies, shopping malls, etc.
- Edinburgh: very competitive, so you gotta be good to survive in this city; but you can learn from the other festivals; the city helps set Edinburgh apart, likewise their work with families
- International contracts
- Plans to invest in training teachers
- Continuing to be good, rather than pushing for growth
Here are some notes on two projects I’ve recently been involved with – shame on me for not getting this onto the blog before now. On consecutive weekends I attended Culture Hack Scotland (Glasgow) and Citizen Relay training (Edinburgh).
From Culture Hack Scotland (27-28.04.2012)…
//April 27-28th//SocietyM, Glasgow//Come make stuff//#chscot
Culture Hack Scotland is a fast-paced and highly creative event that challenges designers, technologists and artists to make innovative new culture-related projects in just 24 hours.
…that about sums up the premise: get some very talented, creative folk together in an environment that breeds collaboration and experimentation, then (to some extent) let them get on with it. This is the second hack weekend in Scotland with a cultural theme, so I’d imagine the organisers were able to apply some of the lessons learned from the first running and be more ambitious. So I don’t think there was a coding workshop last time around, but charged with their inaugural success they knew they would be catering for a wider audience.
Then from Citizen Relay (06.05.2012)…
#CitizenRelay is a participatory project which relies on the involvement of people from across Scotland to effectively report on the untold local stories and creative ways that Scotland’s citizens are interacting with the Olympic Games.
…it’s another project that relies on people getting stuck in and creating work: collaboration through the kit in your pocket and the tools at your disposal. Led by staff and research students at University of the West of Scotland it taps into existing networks (through academia, etc.) in preparation for the imminent arrival of a newly applied connective tissue, soon to be sutured onto the winding roads, villages, cities and suburbs of Scotland: the Olympic torch relay is coming.
Three questions for this blog to address:
- What did I do at these events and why?
- What’s the bigger picture?
- What could be the upshot… what happens to this work?
Ivory Tower Syndrome has a tendency of catching up on me from time to time: I view in awe and wonderment the folk who get on and do stuff, rather than reading, writing and talking about it. The chance to make a small contribution to these projects was too good an opportunity to pass up therefore, drawing on both some academic knowledge and expertise, as well as my former life spent working with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (managing box offices and so on). The nature of the Fringe cycle, as with many an annual event, is of course that you get to know a lot of people very well for a few weeks or months… and then you go your separate ways. It can be a powerful way of working and often breeds an intensity of effort and a willingness to get the job done that might look out of place in a ‘regular’ job. (One without quite so many trips to the pub perhaps.)
For me one of the biggest differences between Fringe work and entering academia has been a greater degree of autonomy, matched with more personal responsibility. Collaborative processes are not always at the heart of my job, or at least I don’t perceive them to be: if I’m not ready for a class no one is going to step in and solve that problem, but within a box office you work together to build the events on your system, refer customers to your colleagues and so on. Of course there are collaborative projects in academia, but the teams tend to be smaller and there’s less overlap of skills – each person has their own expertise, it isn’t such a ‘flat’ structure.
All of which leads back to those experiences of working together in order to keep the festival moving, day after day after day, living in each others’ back pockets. Until it ends. So the project we conceived and started building at Culture Hack Scotland sought to provide an online space to maintain those links, as well as retrospectively piecing together the communities of old. Thanks to the expert design prowess of @rufflemuffin (Sarah) we pieced together an interface that would allow users of the website to add their memories to a piece of Edinburgh festivals history – maybe a festival in a particular year, perhaps a venue within that festival, a show that was performed there… ultimately even individual performances would be ripe for photos, written memories, perhaps video clips and links to other sites and contributors. It’s a way of recreating the collections of administrators, performers and audiences that made the festivals hap
pen: last year, the year before and right back to the 1940s.
I spent over a decade of summers in one bit of the festivals or another, and loved almost every minute. Back in the olden days there was no social media to link people together once they’d drifted apart, you simply didn’t know what had happened to most folk until miraculously half of you gathered together again at the allotted time to do it all over again the following year. So there’s a community aspect to it, with its attendant social capital potential, but there’s also an archival opportunity – I have a couple of degrees in social history, so that sort of thing appeals to me. Right now where can people get their online fix of Edinburgh festival history? There’ll be a few annual reports kicking about for sure, as well as a barrel load of reviews, previews and old news from the last decade or so; but further back? Not so much. We envisaged our site being populated with some curated content: pictures, listings, perhaps some documents and the like …a unified hub for this information with the scope for constant improvement, investment and development at the hands of anyone with a connection to the festivals – ‘citizen curators’ if you will.
At which point I turn to Citizen Relay, with its growing band of citizen journalists, getting tooled up to hit the streets and cover the Olympic torch relay from the host communities’ perspectives. Until the training day I wasn’t aware that the project is part of the Cultural Olympiad, so to an extent officially sanctioned to go out and deliver some Games legacy whether Scotland wants it or not. There’s less of the historical archive at the heart of this project, at least not yet – this is about real time coverage of the biggest peace time event the world will have ever seen, yet one which risks remaining out of reach for most of the UK population apart from fleeting glimpses of a torch and the mediated spectacle of the competitive action. #citizenrelay will be despatching reporters and interns to all parts of Scotland as nation speaks unto nation through the catalyst of the torch relay – it’s a great project made possible thanks to the small pieces of technology so many folk carry with them every day in their pockets and bags.
As for the upshot of all this relay coverage, there’s a particular Scottish motivation for this work because as with everything Olympic it’s just a dress rehearsal for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Does that mean Glasgow and Scotland stand a better chance of delivering enduring legacies from its mega event after this learning experience? The trial run isn’t going to do it any harm that’s for sure. (Either way I’ll have had time to learn even more about what can be done with a humble smart phone.)
The Culture Hack project may well have a legacy too, beyond the bleary-eyed show and tell that ended the hack weekend. One of the contributors, Jennifer, works for Festivals Edinburgh… the perfect organisation to take this sort of idea further, give it some funding and get other partners on board. Who knows, maybe Jay (the patient programmer we worked with) will adapt it to work for mega sporting events as well as cultural celebrations.
Update: now with added logo!
It was very good to see a large audience for the 2011 ‘Digital Audience Development‘ session at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Run by Inner Ear Ltd. again on Thursday 4 August, this was the second time I’ve seen them present ideas and case studies to help those who would like to use social media to spread the word about their work. The presenters were Dougal Perman (@dougalperman)and Anny Deery (@adeery).
body expected??? the internet to take us: to the town hall meetings that Putnam felt were important in generating the ???bridging capital??? which binds a disparate society together. Instead we are shepherding in as much ???bonding capital??? as will squeeze into an online session: we associate with folks like us and to a larger extent than before, not so much destroying the disparate and complicated public space as neglecting it to wither away. We fail to engage and therefore we and our society are diminished as a result.