We’re thrilled to introduce the winners of the 2022 Digital Culture Awards!
Each brilliant category winner adapted to new circumstances by embracing technology and finding new ways to tell their stories. From organisations using their data and income to improve their businesses and become more resilient, to those forced to close opening themselves up in creative and exciting ways by engaging directly with their communities or becoming more accessible to those who need it – these organisations and individuals have cemented themselves as digital leaders in the arts and culture sector, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
Head to the Case Studies page or keep scrolling to learn more about your Digital Culture Award winners.
Content Creation and Distribution
Content Creation and Distribution – Special Commendation
Emerging Digital Leader
Use of digital for impactful storytelling to engage audiences, achieved by use of one or several connected narratives across digital media platforms with a strong audience-focused voice and story.
Winner: Chinese Arts Now and Two Temple Place for ‘Digital Exhibition and Immersive Performance’
Chinese Arts Now mixed gaming and 3D technology to create a ‘virtual gallery’ and immersive performance, addressing both the experience of migrants and the history and architecture of Two Temple Place, a Victorian building in London built for William Waldorf Astor in the 1890s.
Audiences were able to choose an avatar and explore the gallery after hours, in a theatrical/art gallery/video game hybrid spanning dance, music, art and spoken word. During the performance, they could interact with each other as they experienced stories of William Waldorf Astor, one of the richest men of the time who migrated from America to England, and the contrasting experience of Chinese immigrants.
The gallery and performance also featured a livestream version with subtitles and BSL interpretation where some audience could choose to sit back and enjoy the gallery and performance without the need to interact as avatars.
How to power up your digital storytelling like CAN and Two Temple Place:
- Being ‘digital’ doesn’t mean you have to abandon the physical space. Think about the best bits of your physical performances/exhibitions/interactions, and whether they can be replicated in a digital environment.
- Think about how to bring your story to life with modern ‘hooks’. By setting their performances in the opulent Two Temple Place, CAN were able to give audiences a direct understanding of the wealth and privilege of an American migrant, while using art, music and spoken word to give contrasting perspectives from much poorer Chinese immigrants at the time.
- Break down the digital divide. What features do you need to consider – captioning, BSL interpretation, audio description, colour contrast, easy reads etc – to make your work as accessible as possible? Think about how you can include everyone, and include those features in the early stages of your planning.
Want to learn more about telling the best digital story? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Chinese Arts Now and Two Temple Place – Digital Exhibition and Immersive Performance
- Crack Magazine and Landmrk – Everything Is Music – a new location-based digital tour for mobile
- Manchester International Festival – MIF21 Online
- Rural Media – Rural Media’s Point Of View Project
- Wild Rumpus CIC – Sounds of the Forest
- Dante or Die Theatre – User Not Found Video Podcast
- Extant – Flight Paths
- Focal Point Gallery and South Essex Homes – Contemporary Elders: Digital Connectivit
- Horniman Museum and Gardens – Afro Historyscapes
- M&C Saatchi x The Commonwealth War Graves Commission – CWGC – War Graves Week
- The Margate Bookie – A Different LENS
Innovation to widen access to artistic engagement.
Winner: Open Sky Theatre for ‘MicroPlays’
Open Sky Theatre was also chosen by Kanya King CBE to be this year’s Winners Winner.
In 2020, between lockdowns, Open Sky produced five short plays -‘Microplays’ – written by diverse female playwrights, filmed to be shared digitally and aimed at audiences who are traditionally disengaged with theatre. But rather than relying on their audiences to visit them (not least because of the pandemic, but also because of traditional geographical and socio-economic barriers to attending theatrical performances), Open Sky shared these performances on the platforms most used by 18-25 year olds.
Inclusion was at the heart of their artistic strategy, and Open Sky put their performances directly in their audiences’ pockets by distributing them for free via social media. Crucially, this was not a case of simply filming performances and sharing them on social media channels: every performance was optimised and created especially for the relevant platform. This meant creating shorter content to fit in with the typical content and attention span, and making sure the size and crop of each piece of content was right for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.
Open Sky also made sure their diverse audiences were represented by the creatives they were watching on screen, and made a conscious effort to employ a truly diverse cast and crew, across gender, sexuality, socio-economic background and ethnicity.
How to ensure you have inclusion at the heart of your work like Open Sky:
- Think about your cast and crew as well as your audiences. Diversity and inclusion best practice needs to be modelled from within. Which groups of people are not represented in your creative teams and how can you remedy this? Can you increase representation among marginalised or underrepresented groups in your in-house team and freelance workforce?
- Match the content to the platform and look at how your audiences are consuming that content. If you know your audiences are only watching the first three seconds of your videos, how can you make them continue watching for the rest of the video?
- If your content is designed to be consumed on a mobile phone screen, are you maximising the space? For example, sharing a YouTube video natively on Facebook does not take up as much space on the screen as if the video is square. Whereas sharing a square video on Instagram stories could take up more of the screen if it were shared in 1080×1920 ratio.
Want to learn how your organisation can champion digital inclusivity? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Chichester Festival Theatre – Empowering young people through digital inclusion and outreach
- Open Sky Theatre – MicroPlays
- Pyramid of Arts – Development and facilitation of Leeds ‘Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network’ (ALaDDIN)
- Unicorn Theatre – The launch and first full year of Unicorn Online
- Utopia Theatre – Utopia Theatre Creative Hub
- Cornwall Museums Partnership – Audio Archives
- DanceEast – DanceEast’s Digital DanceHouse: widening access to high-quality dance for all
- Furtherfield – The People’s Park Plinth
- Music Masters – Friday Live! – A creative response to lockdown from Music Masters
- Scenesaver – Scenesaver
- Surface Area Dance Theatre – SUBPAC, Choreographic Explorations and the Feeling of Sound
Innovative digital revenue generation, monetisation or income diversification.
Winner: Opera North for ‘From Couch To Chorus’ – Read the Case Study
When the pandemic hit, Opera North’s priorities were to stay connected to audiences, supporters and participants, to keep making music, and to replace lost income. But the ‘From Couch to Chorus’ project was much more than just an income-generation exercise: it helped Opera North build community and had an impact on their education and outreach programmes.
The project was a ‘virtual choir’, where participants could learn to sing opera choruses via Zoom. With no income from in-person ticket sales, it could have been tempting to charge a fixed price for these workshops, but Opera North experimented with a ‘pay-what-you-feel’ model to allow as many people to access the workshops as possible. 5,000 unique bookers from all over the world took part, with 48% of these people being new to Opera North.
The relatively low cost of the workshops allowed Opera North to experiment and learn from their data, using their website to split test options and working out what time to send emails to generate the best results.
How you can experiment with income generation strategies like Opera North:
- Analyse, analyse, analyse! Experimentation is important, but make sure you invest time and energy in understanding the results of every campaign. Spending a small amount of money to get performance benchmarks is important, and you can learn what’s working and what you can change in future campaigns.
- Understand your return on investment (ROI). How much are you spending, and how much money are you making as a result? Make sure you try and keep track of all costs, actual or estimated, and be clear about which costs are specific to your digital project: if you are live-streaming a production, what are the extra costs on top of the existing production budget to bring this to a digital audience? If you are creating something from scratch, will you account for ‘staff time’ as well? Be consistent in how you cost up your projects so you can compare like with like.
- Don’t be afraid to change your revenue streams. Offering content for ‘free’ (/pay-what-you-feel) might have an initial cost attached but if you measure your ROI and ensure you are able to recoup your costs, you might be surprised how much money your audiences and supporters are willing to donate if you delight them with free content.
Want to understand how you can maximise your organisation’s income? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Arvon – Arvon at Home online programme of creative writing courses and events
- Opera North – From Couch To Chorus
- The Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre – Sherlock In Homes – An innovative digital murder mystery
- Cornwall Museums Partnership – Beyond Digitisation
- Heart n Soul – Heart n Soul Shop
- London Philharmonic Orchestra and Marquee TV – Streaming Partnership between London Philharmonic Orchestra and Marquee TV
- Music Masters – Music Masters – Instruments of Change in a time of change
- Real Ideas Organisation CIC – Real Ideas Membership and digital platform
- The Tank Museum – Tank Museum Online Shop
- The York Early Music Foundation – Early Music Online
Use of data to create meaningful organisational change or support strategic decision making.
Winner: Sound and Music for ‘Using data to understand barriers to, and create opportunities for, new music’ – Read the Case Study
When the purpose of your organisation is to reach as many people as possible and maximise the opportunities for them to create new music, it’s vital you know who these people are, how you’re reaching them, and how you can learn from those who aren’t interacting with your work.
Sound and Music quickly adapted how they used data to understand the needs of their audiences; some of it was collected from a new survey, delivered in collaboration with Musicians’ Union and the Ivors Academy, to find out how composers had been affected by the pandemic. This data showed that composers outside of London had been disproportionately affected, so Sound and Music were able to act quickly and ring-fence funding for composers living outside of London.
Through regular KPI reporting and by digging into the data they already collected as an organisation, Sound and Music saw they had a low number of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse applicants to their New Voices 2021 programme. This meant they could make changes to their application forms to ensure they were accessible to these groups, and quickly saw an uplift in applicants.
How you can use data like Sound and Music to improve outcomes for your audiences and organisation:
- Ensure you have clear KPIs agreed across the senior management team and board, with regular reporting to keep you on track.
- Use this reporting to spot any areas for quick wins. Are you trying to reach a particular demographic, but your reporting shows your social media content is only being consumed by audiences you’re not targeting? Think about who isn’t consuming your content, visiting your website or in-person projects, or engaging with you as an organisation. Is there a reason these groups feel excluded, and can you change anything about how you present your content to make it appeal to them?
- Audience surveys are useful to get a snapshot of who is engaging with you, but these can be expensive. Consider collaborating with partners, or taking a deeper dive into the data you already have at your fingertips.
Want to learn more about how you can become more data-led? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- BOM (Birmingham Open Media) – Queens Baton [PDF]
- Sound and Music – Using data to understand barriers to, and create opportunities for, new music
- Insights Alliance: A partnership between Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards and One Further – Culture Restart Toolkit
- BH Live – Data Driven Organisational Change
- Coventry City of Culture Trust – Coventry Cultural Place Profiler
- Manchester Collective – Building audiences for new music experiences using data
- ZU-UK – DATUM – Addressing inequalities, human rights and sustainable consumption through augmented audio and game-design
Use of digital to reach, grow and engage existing and new audiences.
Winner: Black Country Living Museum for ‘Engaging new audiences with creative video and social content’
If your audience can’t come to your museum… bring your museum to your audience! the Black Country Living Museum was the first UK-based museum to join TikTok, and used the platform to share their history and heritage with teenagers and young adults aged up to aged 24.
These young people were unlikely to have much knowledge of the BCLM, so the team experimented by combining their historic stories with modern internet culture, and the results were explosive: the TikTok channel has reached 30million people globally and currently has 1.3million followers, with the vast majority being people under 30 who had never interacted with a museum on social media before. What’s more, BCLM have seen a direct increase in young people visiting the museum in-person as a result of their TikTok fame.
How can you ‘be social’ like the Black Country Living Museum:
- Think like an individual, not a brand. Whilst creating a parody of a recipe video or jumping on trending topics might feel far away from your organisation’s more formal content, there’s no harm in finding new ways of sharing the essence and ethos of your organisation with a pinch of humour.
- Distil your organisation into a few key themes. What do you want to be known for with this audience? If it’s ‘high quality historic content’ and ‘stories from the past’, think about how this can translate onto the platform you are using.
- It’s ok to start small. Whether you are launching a TikTok channel, experimenting with a new tone of voice on Twitter, or creating a new content strand, not everything will work the first time, and that’s more than OK! There’s no harm in trying a few different things consistently and gradually adapting what’s working.
Want to learn more about using your social channels to grow your audience? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Black Country Living Museum – Engaging new audiences with creative video and social content
- Street Factory CIC – See Me
- York Museums Trust – #CuratorBattle
- English National Opera – English National Opera’s Instagram Campaign
- Firstsite – Art is where the home is
- FORMAT QUAD in Derby – #massisolationFORMAT
- Leeds University Library Galleries – From Special Collections to TikTok Sensation
- National Youth Orchestra – #NYOdeToJoy
- Together! 2012 C.I.C. – Together Online! Disability Arts goes digital
- ZU-UK – Binaural Dinner Date
Development of creative content and innovative uses of digital technology to distribute cultural content into homes, cultural venues, community spaces or further afield.
Winner: The Old Vic for ‘OLD VIC: IN CAMERA’
While many arts organisations were forced to pause the creation of live performances throughout lockdown, The Old Vic pioneered a new project to keep the experience of live theatre alive when audiences couldn’t leave the house.
By collaborating with Zoom, The Old Vic was able to adapt the platform to cope with multi-camera streaming, and remained committed to ensuring every performance was fully accessible, with live captioning and audio description to reach hundreds of thousands of people across the world.
These performances also required new ways of communicating to audiences: at the start of lockdown, customers were accustomed to watching pre-recorded performances, available for a limited time, rather than tuning in for a live performance.
What can you learn from The Old Vic’s experimentation with live-streaming?
- Start small. The pandemic has radicalised what people expect from live-streamed performances, but this can be daunting if you haven’t streamed live before. Experiment with a smaller, single-camera setup before branching out to a bigger production.
- Find the right partners. If you don’t have the skills to deliver a multi-camera production in-house (few organisations do!) then speak to other, similar arts organisations who have ventured into the world of streaming and see if they have any recommendations for partners to help you get streaming off the ground.
- If you are already live-streaming your productions, or creating ‘as live’ performances of footage from your archive, take your thinking to the next level. How can you find ways of reaching more people with this content? Can you encourage the performers to share it in their own networks? Could you approach schools and youth networks to offer them free access? What specific interest groups will find the content of the show relevant to their audiences? Your audiences aren’t limited to the people who can get to your venue and back in a day, so now’s the time to reach further afield if you can.
Want to learn more about live-streaming? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Alexander Whitley Dance Company – Digital Body Project
- Open Clasp Theatre Company – Changing the World One Play at a Time
- The Novium Museum – Virtual Field Trips
- The Old Vic – OLD VIC: IN CAMERA
- Ark Schools – Summer Sounds hybrid arts festival for the Ark network of schools
- CEDA (Community Equality Disability Action) – When The Wheels Come Off
- Complicité – Can I Live? Online tour of filmed performance
- Kirklees Libraries (Part of Kirklees Council) – #libraries from home: connecting with our communities during lockdown and beyond
- London Philharmonic Orchestra – ‘In the Stream of Life’: London Philharmonic Orchestra 2020/21 Season on Marquee TV
- London Transport Museum – Digitising our Hidden London programme
- National Theatre – National Theatre at Home
- Opera North – Song of Our Heartland
- RNLI Grace Darling Museum – Immersive multi-channel film installation: attracting new audiences by using emerging technologies to shine a new light on a national story
- The Spark Arts for Children – Secret Stories from Belgrave in Leicester
- The Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre – Sherlock In Homes – an innovative digital murder mystery
- Vamos Theatre – How Hard is Waving?
Special Commendation for the impact of their distribution strategy.
Open Clasp Theatre Company for ‘Changing the World One Play at a Time’
Open Clasp Theatre Company are masters of distributing their content: they find innovative new partners to help them reach the audiences with the greatest need.
The company tour their productions to community venues in the North of England, telling stories from women exploring issues including domestic abuse, racism and sexual abuse. But they have also found ways of spreading this content further and wider than just the venues they are able to attend physically, particularly in the face of funding cuts and Covid restrictions. By capturing their performances on camera, they have chosen to make the most of two key ways to share their content: through sharing on their own channels and with artistic partners to reach new and existing audiences, and through grassroots partnerships.
By looking at the themes of their artistic output and matching it with the people they wanted to reach, Open Clasp Theatre Company thought outside the box and approached a range of partner organisations, including schools, youth centres and prisons to share their powerful messages through their productions.
This means their content is watched by their existing followers and fans of theatre, as well as brand new audiences, with free screenings to raise awareness of domestic violence, and train frontline services.
Top tips from Open Clasp Theatre Company’s approach to distribution:
- Can you take your content directly to the people you really want to reach? If you really want to engage young people, can you stream directly to schools or youth centres, for example? This gives your content a second chance at connecting with an audience, once it has been seen ‘live’.
- Consider which of your content is ‘evergreen’. Don’t assume because you have shared your content once that it is no longer valuable to audiences. Can you repurpose it, share it with different partners, re-release it, or organise opportunities to share it again. (But make sure you have cleared the rights beforehand!)
Want to find out more about how to best distribution you digital content? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
Organisational digital adoption and transformation.
Winner: National Student Drama Festival for ‘NSDF went online and welcomed in the world’ – Read the Case Study
Long before most of the world had experienced their first “Zoom”, the National Student Drama Festival re-launched their annual festival, pivoting to host it entirely online, just two weeks after the first 2020 lockdown.
But this was a festival with a difference: an online room can be a ‘bigger room’, and this meant more than 10,000 people attended free online masterclasses from world leaders in the arts. After all, with a pandemic cancelling work across the world, a remarkable number of voices were free and keen to take part.
In the 18 months that followed, NSDF produced 503 online events reaching thousands of attendees across the world, increasing their annual participation by young artists.
Now, NSDF is an entirely repurposed organisation, using digital technology to become a producer of digital works and using partnerships to ensure anyone traditionally excluded from the arts can be at the heart of their new works.
How can you blaze a digital trail like the National Student Drama festival?
- Dig into your organisation’s values, vision and mission. Are the activities you’re currently undertaking reaching the people you want to reach, helping you live out your mission? Or are you simply ‘doing what you’ve always done’?
- Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions to artists or collaborators who seem out of reach. If you want to work together, reach out! You might be surprised at who is available and keen to be part of your projects.
- Experiment with new platforms if they help you achieve your aims as an organisation. There’s no point in jumping on bandwagons for the sake of it, but if a new platform emerges (like Zoom!), think about how you can use it to your advantage to reach your target audience.
Want to learn more about how you can be a digital trailblazer? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Kingston Council – Digital Transformation of Kingston Libraries
- Noise Solution CIC – Digital youth work, informed by Self Determination Theory
- National Student Drama Festival – NSDF went online and welcomed in the world
- Ascendance – A new digital strategy & integrated digital technology
- Create (arts) Limited – Create Live!
- Creation Theatre – Pivot of Drama Teaching and Professional Theatre production to digital
- Open Sky Theatre – The Digitisation of Open Sky Theatre
- Sadler’s Wells – Sadler’s Wells: Digital Stage and Beyond
- Tribe Arts – Off/Stage Zine
- Unicorn Theatre – Launch of Unicorn Online
Inspiring individual contributions to driving improved performance, making change in an organisation/project or increasing audience reach and engagement, with digital technologies as the enabler to this change.
Winner: Michael Hardy – Digital Engagement Curator, Barnsley Museums
By embedding digital processes across the Barnsley Museums team, the museums’ first ‘Digital Engagement Curator’, Michael Hardy, encouraged experimentation with playful content and tone of voice across their social media channels. By fitting content into people’s daily routines and listening and responding to what the audience are saying, Barnsley Museums’ content has reached nearly 17million people over the past 18 months.
Michael’s experiments with content and tone have marked a shift in the way the museums use their social channels, with a more conversational output ensuring more people get involved in sharing and interacting.
What can you learn from Michael’s digital journey at Barnsley Museums?
- “It’s more than okay to be fun and informative at the same time”, says Michael. This is a great starting point for organisations who feel trapped by the prestige of their brand or artform. There’s nothing wrong with playing playful, while maintaining good standards of historical accuracy, or posting something factual.
- Think about who your audience is and what you want them to do. It’s likely only a tiny percentage of these people will be physical audience members or in-person attendees. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in high quality, engaging content to entice people to engage with your digital platforms.
- If you want to experiment with your tone of voice on your social channels, try building up gradually. There will be things your audience love about your channels (which is why they follow you!), so make sure you look at what’s working well before sharing something a bit different from time to time to see how it performs. You might need to persist over a few months to see how your audiences’ behaviours shift and adapt, and see which new followers you pick up along the way!
Want to power up your digital leadership? Our network of Tech Champions can help.
- Lucy Askew – Chief Executive, Creation Theatre
- Michael Hardy – Digital Engagement Curator, Barnsley Museums
- Sophie Waddy – Marketing and Communications Manager, Little Angel Theatre (now at The Albany)
- Daniel Alicandro – Head of Digital, English National Ballet
- Simon Baker – Technical Director and Digital Producer, Wise Children
- Joanne Karcheva – Communications Director, Manchester Collective
- Richard Loftus – Director of Sales and Marketing, B:Music Ltd
- Hayley Pepler – Head of Content and Digital Broadcast, Coventry City of Culture Trust
- Maxime Pons Webster – Live Screening Producer, The Living Knowledge Network, the British Library
- Kenneth Tindall – Artistic Director of Digital, Northern Ballet