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Digital Culture Award Winner case study: Open Clasp

Carly McConnell is the Creative Producer at Open Clasp Theatre Company. Carly was quick to recognise the opportunities for the company with digital, which has grown the reputation of Open Clasp by successfully reaching beyond traditional theatre audiences. Join Carly as she tells Open Clasp’s winning story.

Open Clasp is a women’s theatre company based in the North of England that makes a nationwide impact. We collaborate with women and young women excluded by theatre and society to create bold and urgent theatre for personal, social, and political change.

We are deeply conscious of our responsibilities to our communities and their cultural life. Our communities are those on our immediate doorstep in the West End of Newcastle, our workforce, those affected by the criminal justice system, and the women we work and collaborate with nationally and globally.

Image from 'Sugar', Open Clasp Theatre production

Sugar, Open Clasp Theatre production (c) Topher McGrillis

Your winning project

Changing the World, One Play at a Time is a digital strategy that ensures Open Clasp can reach its diverse audiences and advocate for social, political, and cultural change.

We engage current and new audiences by developing and creating captured theatre and films highlighting social justice issues to raise awareness and give voice to the women who collaborated with and inform public debate. We deliver training and provide digital resources on the issues raised through our work, through screenings, training courses, workshops, conferences, and collaborations. Key to distribution is our partnerships with the third, public, community, and education sectors.

What did you want to achieve?

Our goal was to raise awareness of the issues raised in our work and to make change a reality for women and girls locally and globally.

For two decades we toured live shows to community venues in the North of England at a subsidised rate, bringing high-quality, professional theatre to those communities. We told stories that came from the women themselves that explored issues like domestic abuse, homophobia, racism, and sexual abuse. As funding for community venues, services, and youth programmes decreased we created and embedded a digital strategy to continue to reach our audiences and policymakers.

What happened?

Key to distribution is our partnerships with the third, public, community, and education sectors. We take a hyperlocal marketing approach through champions at a grassroots level, who help shape the ‘call to action’ aligning the work with current campaigns to target relevant government policies and laws. We communicate with over 800 women’s organisations globally about our digital work. For example, our Rattle Snake campaign in November 2019, partnered with key women’s sector organisations and activists to reach over 22,000 people globally as part of the UN Campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls.

What have you learned?

Building relationships and partnerships are key to a good distribution strategy. Open Clasp has cultivated relationships with women’s organisations and frontline services nationally and internationally for over two decades nurturing trust in our process and art created.

Through evaluation forms given to our partners, we understand who our audience is, however, there is difficulty in truly knowing your audience via third-party platforms. We are developing a plan of action to address this.

What was the impact?

Our content and distribution model has saved lives by raising awareness and making a direct impact through our training.

“Since the training [using Rattle Snake] I am more conscious of the issue, am able to identify ‘tell-tale’ signs at a much earlier stage, and support my team to start and ask the ‘right questions”. Children’s services staff member Durham County Council.

We continue to make change, for example, a new partnership with the University of Cork to create a Continuing Professional Development module for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying sociology and criminology, police, and social workers using Sugar.

Find out more about Open Clasp’s work

Watch #ChooseToChallenge – a piece written by associate artist Jessica Johnson and Inspired by 2021 International Women’s Day.

16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls – Watch Our Digital Collection Online

Watch this video learn what it’s like to work with Open Clasp: How would you describe working with Open Clasp?

Visit our website:

Twitter: @OpenClasp

Facebook: @OpenClaspTheatreCompany

Instagram: @OpenClasp

TikTok: OpenClaspTheatreCo

Further support

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up for our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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