The Space: the BBC and Art Council England’s digital arts “communal playground”

Arts Council England and the BBC today announced the successful commissions for The Space:  an experimental digital arts media service that aims to transform the way people connect with, and experience, arts and culture in the UK.

The Space will launch in May, with a range of artists and arts / cultural organisations having been challenged to collaboratively create cultural experiences which draw inspiration from the London 2012 Olympics and the wider Cultural Olympiad.  The Space also coincides with the year of digital switchover in the UK.  Arts Council England is investing £2.5 million of its strategic digital innovation funds.  The BBC have committed a £2 million support package including the technology platform and delivery, and training and mentoring for the 52 successful applicants.

The programme is designed to encourage experimentation, innovation, and provide an opportunity to connect audiences with arts and culture using digital technologies. The service will focus on four digital media platforms: PC, mobile devices, tablets and IPTV.  Beyond content, The Space aims to build the digital skills and capability of the arts and cultural sector:  currently only 4% of Arts Council England funded companies are producing high quality digital content.

From 750 applications, the 52 successful commissions include:  Shakespeare’s Globe  – capturing the Globe to Globe festival which will see all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed by 37 different international theatre companies at the Globe Theatre; Tom Morris, Director of War Horse and Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic, will present a unique and interactive way of replicating the emotional experience of watching live performance using the pioneering techniques developed by the BBC Natural History Unit; John Peel Centre for the Creative Arts – an interactive online museum housing one of the most important archives in modern music history; Faber & Faber – a digital journey of 60 Years in 60 PoemsThe Philharmonia Orchestra will pioneer a radical way for audiences to explore the  role of individual instruments within the orchestra, in partnership with The Science Museum; Alan Sillitoe Committee – a GPS-enabled mobile ‘trail app’ that will explore the Nottingham of author Alan Sillitoe’s most famous work; and an experimental re-imagining of the literary essay for the digital age, from the London Review of Books.

After a year of negative news for arts funding in the UK, The Space is a very interesting and potentially impactful development for cultural and artistic digital innovation.  Arts Council England’s chief executive Alan Davey called it “a communal playground” for arts, organisations, artists and audiences.  Davey said: “…organisations have (often) been working in isolation as producers and distributors.  What’s really exciting about The Space is that it will provide a communal playground for arts and cultural organisations, for technology wizards, and for audiences – anyone who’s open to new ways to connect with culture – to come in, to be creative, and to feed back about their experience. Embracing the potential of digital technology is essential to achieving the Arts Council’s mission of Great art for everyone”.

Download the full list of successful commissions here.

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