Arts Council England Launch Digital Culture Network

About the Digital Culture Network

We offer direct 1-2-1 support for organisations in receipt of – or eligible for – Arts Council England funding, as well as a series of training sessions, events and webinars. We’re also building a resource bank which will be available online soon (and have produced a range of resources in response to the current Covid-19 crisis on topics such as Remote Working, Livestreaming and Income Generation).

Support usually consists of an initial diagnostic meeting (30-60mins) with a discussion around your current activity, what you are hoping to achieve, strategy development, prioritisation of areas of work and potential next steps or solutions. Following this the Tech Champion might email you support material, signpost you to relevant resources and/or arrange a follow-up call or support from another Tech Champion. Once the support has been completed, we ask you to fill in a satisfaction survey to help us improve our offer. The support is bespoke to your organisation’s needs, meaning we tailor solutions and advice to be in line with your capacity and resources.

Our nine Tech Champions have specialist backgrounds in:

· Box office, ticketing and CRM

· Data analytics

· Digital content and streaming

· Digital strategy and marketing

· eCommerce and merchandising

· Email marketing

· Search engine optimisation and marketing

· Social media

· Websites

Need more convincing? Read some testimonials we’ve received over the past 12 months:

The [Tech] Champs have come into our meetings to share their advice, delivered webinars and audits for us, sent over reams of helpful information, and sensitively provided expert feedback on our digital profile. They are busy, and so are we – now more than ever – but even occasionally extending our team in this way has been invaluable, and we often refer back to their advice. This service is a great asset to small companies like ours: not only are the Tech Champions very knowledgeable, we know for sure that they’re batting for us.

We really didn’t know where to turn for advice and felt completely isolated and being dictated to by an agency who were ‘blinding us with science’ and not taking the time to explain technical issues to us for a project that was costing us a considerable amount of money.  Our gut feeling was that there was another way and we too were confused by the seeming contradiction re the video/YouTube issue. We now feel we have a better understanding and can challenge with facts and information that we trust.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming events and sector support offers!

Marc Burns

Tech Champion, Digital Culture Network

Arts Council England

Tel 0191 2558517

Mobile 07919367867

E-mail marc.burns@artscouncil.org.uk

Digital skills for the arts and cultural sector

Sign up on the website:Digital Culture Network

Accessing Access by Paul O’Donnell

A theatre maker’s attempt to make his work more accessible, and how venues/organisations might be able to help

Paul O’Donnell is a solo theatre maker and over the past year, has been using Talking Birds‘ accessibility tool The Difference Engine to deliver captioning and audio description on every performance of the UK tour of his show We’ve Got Each Other. With funding from Arts Council England, he has created a resource pack for artists, companies and organisations to share the learning and experience he gained during the project. It also includes case studies and a list of other resources.

The Fear of Access

Hello, I’m Paul O’Donnell, a solo theatre maker, performer and producer who has set out on the task of trying to make my solo show We’ve Got Each Other more accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. The show was captioned and audio described using Talking Birds’ Difference Engine, which is covered in more detail on page 4.

My journey started at the East Meets West Symposium run by Little Earthquake in 2017, where I timidly raised my hand in a discussion about access. I explained that I, like a lot of artists, wanted to make my work more accessible, but felt there were two things that were preventing me from doing so: 1. the fear, and 2. the cost. I believe that these two barriers are prohibiting artists like me from giving it a try for fear of getting it wrong, saying/doing the wrong thing or being branded ‘tokenistic’, or being unable to sustainably resource access as an integral part of their practice; the cost of making the show more accessible for the 2019 tour consumed a big chunk of my under £15k ACE application – more on this later.

But, in that room the response I received was “Well, isn’t it better to do something than nothing at all?” and so I thought, “I guess I’d better do ‘something’ then”. My terrifying journey into ‘access’ had begun and I realised that to combat that fear of getting it wrong, I had to dive in head first, make all the mistakes and learn from them. I am still learning.

“Isn’t it better to do something than nothing at all?”

Since then I have:

  • Engaged in a process of making the audio descriptions and captions for We’ve Got Each Other a creative rather than just functional output.
  • Captioned and Audio Described all 23 shows in my 2019 UK tour of We’ve Got Each Other using the Difference Engine.
  • Welcomed in 38 audience members who usually wouldn’t be able to access my work.
  • Engaged 3 deaf or blind focus groups to refine this service and my understanding.

I should note that I am not deaf or blind myself and that I understand and believe that deaf and blind individuals need to be leading on discussions around their access requirements. I do however feel that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that access for all is considered in their creative work. In this pack, I am particularly following the social model of disability with the belief that deaf and disabled individuals are only disabled by the systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusions that society presents. This pack is me doing what I can to challenge and change those barriers.

This pack is in part me sharing the lessons learnt through this process with you, in the hope that if you were to consider embarking on your own journey, it might be just that little bit easier. I also hope to share some of the issues independent artists like me are facing in making access a natural part of their processes. Ironically enough, for independent artists like me access currently feels a little… inaccessible.

For venues/organisations, I hope this might also encourage you to consider what support you can offer independent artists to help combat these barriers in order to make this a sustainable part of all of our practices. I truly believe it can only be achieved as a sector-wide effort, and have to remind us that technically, by law, we all should have started ten years ago now (Equalities Act 2010).

Accessing Access Download the guide by Paul O’Donnell PDF 1,207kb Download