Arts Connect’s unique and entirely free digital programme has been designed to support arts and cultural organisations and individual artists to develop a leadership role in their digital practice as creators, instigators and deliverers of new digital practices, models, products and ideas. Harnessing their insights, ideas and contacts from across the digital sector the programme was developed by our Film and Digital Programme Developer, Rebecca Hardy, alongside Susan Goodwin, Associate Director, Cultural Sector Partnerships. Launched in November 2020 it will run throughout 2021, culminating in a sharing event in autumn 2021.

Thirteen students are currently on the course and come from a wide range of arts and cultural backgrounds, including animators, musicians, dancers, theatre companies, community arts companies and heritage sites. Students will work alongside industry partners developing and testing new digital strategies for their organisations, which will enhance their artistic and cultural practice and the vision, reach and impact of their organisation in the medium to long term.

The course started with a two day remote workshop on 11th and 12th November, with follow up remote workshops due to take place in February and June. Speakers and deliverers over the first two days included: PDR, a world leading design consultancy and applied research facility, Jeremy O’Hare from the British Library, Harmeet Chagger-Khan from Surfing Light Beams, game and immersive experience designer John Sear and Ju Row-Farr from BAFTA winning Blast Theory who create interactive art.

Each student has been paired with a digital mentor to support them on their creative digital leadership journey and these mentors include: John Sear, Harmeet Chagger-Khan, Ju Row Farr and Catherine Waddington – digital artist and executive Director at Abandon Normal Devices.

The overall aim of the programme is to support the arts and cultural sector to develop an exciting, creative and innovate portfolio of digital practice which works in partnership with their live activity and live, audience based programming (as and when the current situation with Covid19 enables us to return to live performances.) It is hoped that the work carried out by our students can be used to inform and inspire other organisations from across the region and the UK.

“In a rapidly developing digital world, this programme has come at a perfect time for me, and has opened my eyes to the vast amount of digital possibilities there are. It has also helped me to understand that it’s absolutely okay not to know everything about the digital world.. because it’s huge and ever changing! The time with my mentor, Ju, has been extremely valuable. After just one session, she has enabled me to think more about our digital capabilities, identify our digital audiences and ambitions in more detail, and asked many fantastic questions that supported me in coming up with new ideas and new ways of thinking.”

Grace Smith, Creative Enabler, Open Theatre.

“The Creative Digital Leadership Programme has already been incredibly useful to us at Meadow Arts. The opportunity came exactly at the right time and will enable us to both reflect and plan more for the future. During the training we saw some really inspiring case studies which were aligned to some very solid practical work. My mentor Harmeet Chagger-Khan has been a mixture of being helpful but also offered real insight into our work and future offer. Thank you for inviting us on to the scheme.”

Steve Wilson, Education and Engagement Manager, Meadow Arts

“I am always impressed with the depth of content and organisation of Arts Connect’s CPD courses and the Digital Leadership Programme has been no exception. It is a great opportunity to reflect on my current practice and think about new ways of working digitally during Covid-19. In the Autumn, our first Lab was a mix of talks and ideation workshops. We spent two days in small teams brainstorming ideas for an imaginary digital museum, to see how those ideas could transfer to our own work. Normally full day zoom sessions can be incredibly tiring. However, Rebecca Hardy organised the sessions brilliantly, with constantly changing formats and tasks moving between the whole cohort and smaller groups, which kept the pace up and made the day go really quickly. The session inspired lots of new ideas which I am now exploring in more detail with Harmeet Chagger-Khan during one-to-one mentoring sessions.”

Ruth Hopkins, Director, K’antu