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Support for five new digital arts projects

Date: 07/10/2013

Nesta, Arts Council England and Arts and Humanities Research Council today announced that a further five arts and cultural projects will receive funding from the £7 million Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Each of the R&D projects are testing the use of digital technologies to widen audience access and engagement in the arts, with the purpose of developing useful products, services and knowledge for the wider the arts and cultural sector.

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts is a fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers who want to use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. The open call for expressions of interests to the fund was announced in 2012 and is accepting applications until the 7 January 2014.

The arts and cultural organisations that are being supported:

  • Circus Starr — is a charitable organisation that supports disabled and vulnerable children across the UK. They are being supported to create an app to open up access to the arts to children with autism enabling them to gain prior understanding of an arts event and encourage attendance by alleviating the fears associated with unknown experiences
  • Artsdepot — a North London arts venue, will launch a Silver Service digital membership scheme encouraging greater arts participation by older people. The development of this innovative service will be based on research of social media and digital technology use by the 65+ age group.
  • Extant — Britain's only professional performing arts company of visually impaired people, will create an immersive installation exploring how people use their senses to engage with the arts, and develop new haptic navigation devices (devices that use the sense of touch) that aim to break down barriers between visually impaired and sighted cultural experiences.
  • Coney — interactive theatre makers, will create an online platform offering new ways for people at home to interact with a live show and its audience. Coney will make the first stages of a new performance using these tools, so people at home can collaborate, interact, influence action on stage and explore the live performance in new ways.
  • Yorkshire Dance — will build a responsive online platform that will encourage audiences and the wider public to become more actively engaged in the creation and interpretation of contemporary dance. The technology will enable participants to interact directly with artists; share their feedback and interpretations of artistic ideas and works-in-progress; and exchange their ideas with others on the site.


Jon Kingsbury, Digital R&D Fund for the Arts Programme Director at Nesta said: These five new and exciting projects are brilliant examples of how the R&D Fund is supporting digital experimentation in the arts and cultural sector. They were selected because the insights, practice and results from them will benefit not just the organisations receiving the funding, but also many other arts organisations wanting to explore how digital innovation might help them better achieve their core mission.

Since the launch of the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts it has given funding and support to 24 digital projects. These projects range from Nottingham City Museums' augmented reality mobile app and Script's project that will test the commercial viability of mobile apps as an album format to Sheffield Doc Fest's experiment in connecting artists and audiences using 4G and high speed broadband. To find out more about the projects funded to date and the ongoing learning that is being captured, please visit the Digital R&D Fund Native website.

The fund is also supporting a Cheltenham Festivals project to create a new digital form of evaluating cultural events, enabling real time event feedback called Qualia. Qualia is currently open to user testing and can be downloaded here if you have an iPhone or here if you have an Android phone.

To apply for the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts visit the fund website.

For further information, please contact:

Danielle Moore-Chick, AHRC: 01793 416021 d.moore-chick@ahrc.ac.uk

For further information on the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts contact:

Christine Crowther, Nesta press office, 020 7438 2611 / christine.crowther@nesta.org.uk

Notes to editors

Further information on the projects:

  • Circus Starr with Therapy Box and Dr Tracy Piper-Wright from Glyndwr University (£124,735)

    Circus Starr is a charitable organisation that supports disabled and vulnerable children across the UK through a 75 venue tour held three times a year.  Circus Starr is developing Show and Tell; an interactive ‘Social Story’™ app designed specifically for autistic children, their parents and carers, to enhance the experience of autistic audiences at arts events.

    Show and Tell will investigate how digital technologies can assist autistic children by creating visualisations and coping strategies. It will enable children to gain prior understanding of an arts event and so encourage attendance by alleviating the fears associated with an unknown experience. The app will also be used to assist concentration, understanding and engagement with the event helping to enrich children's enjoyment of a performance prior to, during and after the event.
  • Artsdepot with Ingelby and Dr Amanda Windle from University of the Arts London (£117,600)

    Artsdepot will establish a web-based silver membership service for the over 65s providing promotional offers at artsdepot and at local restaurants, such as complimentary drinks receptions, restaurant vouchers, and ticket discounts. On the site, members can select events that they are attending and once a ‘pre-set’ target of members has been reached for an event all will receive discounts and offers.

    Artsdepot recognises that older people have sensitivities around using social media and throughout the project they will work with their research partner to find effective ways of reaching and engaging with them through this medium.
  • Extant with Haunted Pliers and Dr Janet van der Linden from the Open University (£125,000)

    Extant will explore how cultural experiences could be created so it makes no difference whether you are blind or sighted. They will create an installation that will be set mainly in total darkness to represent the absent third dimension, and encourages sighted audiences to focus on using their other senses. The installation will feature live actors, a physical set and pre-recorded and live audio delivered through headphones and speakers. Within this immersive world of sensation and sound, the aim is to integrate and test a personal haptic navigation device – this device makes use of the sense of ‘touch’ - which guides visitors through.
  • Coney Ltd with Showcaster and Dr Marco Gillies from Goldsmiths University (£125,000)

    This project will develop a set of tools to give audiences at home a new way to engage with live performance, offering engagement between the performance, an audience in the space and an audience online.

    They will develop a new performance with interactive potential at its heart. The piece, provisionally called Better Than Life, will be a theatrical experiment in collective imagination and happiness. It will blend traditional ‘live’ magic, suggestion and story-telling with a technologically enhanced world around the audience. The technology partner, Showcaster, will be building on their existing live-streaming platform to develop this technology, with academics from Goldsmiths leading the research.
  • Yorkshire Dance with Breakfast Creatives and Dr Ben Walmsley from University of Leeds (£125,000)

    Respond is a project that actively encourages and enables people from different walks of life to engage directly in the making and understanding of new contemporary dance pieces by feeding their response and opinions into the making process via a website.

    A new website will be created that is easy, fun and intuitive to use, to let people watch dance, (virtually) meet the artists and hear their ideas, find out other people's responses and opinions and give their own to the dance being created. The artist then has a chance to use these collective responses in future artistic endeavours.

    The website will allow people to become actively involved in the artistic creation process of contemporary dance.


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