SMALL SCREEN BIG IDEAS
Updated: Mar 2
We never really thought of ourselves as a digital content producer.We create opportunities for our local community to develop their creativity, or learn business skills. We run a successful world music venue and have 80,000 square feet of space filled with every sort of artist you can imagine. We are about relationships. We talk over coffee in our restaurant or unwind with artists over a beer after a gig. We may be a local arts organisation, but we have connections with artists and communities across the globe.
Challenges during Covid...
But then in March 2020, the world changed. We sensed that COVID-19 was going to be a big deal. So, we closed the venues and face to face programme a couple of weeks ahead of the lockdown. We then sat down and created a risk assessment and emergency business plan.
We prioritised: the safety of our team & the people they serve; the livelihoods of professional artists in our art spaces; supporting the mental health & wellbeing of our community, using participatory arts approaches to encourage chronicling these extraordinary times.
Our enterprise team was on-line in 7 days. They’ve supported creative businesses in Tottenham and worked with women of colour from our Heritage Lottery Fund project, whose careers had been impacted by the pandemic.
Our previous programmes had seen many of our trainees developing livelihoods, but the shutdown hit interns and newly appointed posts hard. In December we secured a Kickstart contract.
Our Community team worked with over 90 London-based Black, Asian and ethnic minority women who were especially impacted by COVID-19 on a series of mental health-supportive projects. Our literature development team facilitated women who are isolating, to produce lockdown diaries. Our drama team created 8 Lockdown Monologues, 12 Lockdown Diaries, 5 compositions and 3 discussions including one targeting non-binary and LGBTQ+ women of colour – exploring discrimination and missing voices in media. 7 Kurdish filmmakers are under commission to produce short format films to support English (as a second language) training for isolated Kurdish women. Due to Covid, we established a delivery partnership to make the films in 2021/22.
Our youth team negotiated with parents struggling to make adjustments to the lockdown. It went online in April and face-to-face resumed between September and December. Collage was the only arts organisation in the borough to continue work in school and online in the summer term and face to face in the autumn term. We started to work with young people in foster care and residential care. In January we started to consult on options for on-line delivery until we can return to the building.
What's the problem?
As we reviewed our project portfolio, we realised that we could expect 120 pieces of digital product to be ready for sharing in the period to Spring 2021. As we worked to get the products online, we were struggling to put the work into a suitable context. The work we wanted to share was strong, but they differed between a poem by an aspiring professional writer read by an Olivier-winning actor, to a sketch produced by groups of 8-year-olds, newly recruited to our youth programme.
We also realised we were missing something else...
How do we guide people affected by the issue in our content to someone in our network who could help?
How do we encourage viewers of our content to feel confident to have a go and create something themselves?
How do we encourage collaboration, support, digital sharing and an online network that offers personalised recommendations for content, topics or organisations?
We want our online sharing platform to reflect our personality and build a relationship. We also knew that one thing people have become experts in, is how viewing platforms like BBC I-player, ITV-hub, or Netflix help you find genres or themes amongst vast catalogues of work, which we want to emulate.
We had another issue. We placed work on sharing platforms with no idea how they would add adverts, or link to other content. We also felt that all the care and attention we put into face-to-face events wasn’t replicated online.
When we explained to organisations in our network that we wanted a platform that addressed the issues mentioned above, they said, you know what… this could be really good for us too and could support our audiences and participants to get new experiences online or in our partner venue. We got very excited at this prospect.
Luckily we won the lottery...
We applied for National Lottery funding to work out what our audiences needed and how we could best serve them. We were supported by CAST and Founders and Coders on a journey to specify the challenges we face.
In December 2020, we heard our application had moved into a second phase of development which starts around Valentine’s Day. We are excited by the fact that we will be able to work towards solving our challenge of creating an on-line sharing platform that our audiences will love.
And because we are using lottery funds we have committed to share everything we have learned, throughout our journey to create the platform. We have also committed to sharing any code, templates, audience research and other materials. So, in the spirit of this, below are two documents that sum up our journey so far, plus a newsletter version of this blog post.
We hope that this will excite you too. We also hope that if you have ideas or observations, you will share them with email@example.com.
Duncan Sones heads up communications, strategy and new business development within Collage Arts.