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The Space set to continue as a freely available digital arts service


It was announced that following a successful pilot phase, The Space, the new freely available digital arts service developed in partnership between the Arts Council England and the BBC, is to continue for a further six months. The pilot is being extended to 31 March 2013 to allow more time to conduct a full evaluation of the existing service and to explore the potential of a permanent digital service for the arts.

The Space provides live, free and on-demand access to the work of artists and arts organisations, and went live at the time of the extraordinary summer of arts 2012, allowing visitors to experience and enjoy the events of the London 2012 Festival and the wider Cultural Olympiad. It was designed to change the way people connect with and experience the arts, and to build digital skills in the arts sector through a new commissioning programme and expert mentoring scheme.

During this next phase, The Space will continue to:

· Offer live streaming providing wider audience access to selected performances and events from some of the UK’s most exciting artists and arts organisations.

· Open up more of the nation’s rich arts archive and cultural treasures through its partnerships with the BBC and other partner organisations.

· Be experimental and accessible, featuring innovative new approaches exploring new digital art forms and finding new ways to connect with audiences.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: “We are delighted that the BBC has agreed to continue on this experimental journey with us so that we can build on the lasting legacy left by a great summer of arts, and continue to showcase the vibrancy of UK culture on the world stage.

“The Space is a game-changer – it has changed the way audiences perceive and access the arts through the use of digital technology; it has enabled artists and arts organisations to capture and distribute their work in an exciting and innovative way; and it has created a new model for arts commissioning. Our long-term ambition for The Space is to provide a dynamic, imaginative open arena for artists, producers, creatives and technologists to work together to produce exciting new work in new formats specifically for the main digital platforms; and to increase access to the nation’s great art”.

George Entwistle, BBC Director General said: “The Space is a shining example of a public partnership which has delighted audiences and extended the value of the public investment in the UK’s creative sector. I am looking forward to developing our relationship with Arts Council England during this next phase of the project, and ensuring that arts and culture continue to command a proper place in a fully digital world”.

The Space has been a deliberately experimental project where the arts can sit together, across the genres, in a lightly curated place and where the work of artists and arts organisations involved can be explored and captured for ever. Arts Council England invested £3.5 million in new arts commissions which lie at the heart of the offer and earlier this year, the Arts Council announced that it was setting aside £8 million from its digital innovation fund to invest in the future of The Space to encourage artists and arts organisations to further build their digital expertise.

During the first six months, The Space has succeeded in:

• Providing unique access to live and full-length performances which otherwise far fewer people could have enjoyed, eg the Globe to Globe season of 36 Shakespeare plays performed in 36 different languages:Les Troyens live from the Royal Opera House; and the Scissor Sisters’ BT River of Music concert.
• Demonstrating a creative use of some of the nation’s great cultural archive, eg John Peel’s record collection, Faber and Faber’s Jubilee Lines: 60 Years in 60 Poems, and the Arena Hotel.
• Encouraging artists and arts organisations to experiment and innovate with new formats, eg Britten Sinfonia’s Twitter project, the Philharmonia’s “mix your own” version of the Planets, the London Review of Books’ digital essay written by Will Self and the New Radiophonic Workshop’s Sound Of The Space.

A comprehensive evaluation has been commissioned for The Space with results due in the New Year, but initial evidence reveals promising statistics for the brand new service, and an overwhelmingly positive response from both arts organisations and audiences. Since launch, The Space has attracted over 900,000 visits and over 2 million pages views. A quarter of visitors are encountering new artists or arts organisations for the first time whilst journeying around The Space.

The multiplier effect on live audiences has been encouraging with broadcasts of live events on The Space attracting significant audiences to otherwise sold-out events. For instance, for the UK premiere of the Helicopter String Quartet, which was streamed live from the Birmingham Opera Company’s production of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht, 33 times the live audience were able to experience it live and on demand on The Space.

The Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival illustrated that the arts and cultural sector in the UK produces some of the most exciting work in the world. Over the last six months The Space has captured many of these performances and festivals, as they happened, for global audiences to experience free and on demand so providing a lasting legacy for generations to come.

The Space can be accessed via on pc, tablet and mobile. It is also available on Freeview HD channel 232 and Freesat channel 908.

Notes to Editors:

The Space is an on-demand digital arts service. Available free of charge via the internet, smartphones, tablets and connected TV, on Freeview and Freeview HD, it has been developed by the Arts Council in partnership with the BBC.

The Space is transforming the way people connect with and experience arts, music and film and is giving artists space to innovate and experiment.

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better.

Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

The BBC aims to provide the broadest range and depth of distinctive music and arts programmes across television, radio and online with a wide range of performance complemented by original, fresh discussion and documentaries.

The BBC has a long tradition of non-commercial partnerships with the arts sector that go beyond broadcast, from sharing expertise to widening public engagement in the Arts – for example with the Royal Opera House, the Southbank Centre and the Edinburgh International Festival.

The Space is the result of the 4 year Public Value Partnership between the BBC and Arts Council England. The joint ambition outlined in that document was to create a new era of public engagement in the arts, and to build digital capacity and skills within the arts sector.

In the last 4 years this has led to a number of joint initiatives including projects designed to encourage new talent, showcasing the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad and the introduction of the BBC Academy “Building Digital Capacity” programme.


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