Latest round of R&D Fund projects place audience inclusion centre stage
It's a happy coincidence but all five of the recently announced projects supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts are focused on audience inclusion in one way or another.
Circus Starr will create a re-usable app that parents of autistic children can use with their kids to alleviate any fears and enhance their enjoyment of live performances (which can be scary for them). With around 1.1% of the population estimated to have autism, this project has enormous potential to increase accessibility and enjoyment of the arts by families across the UK.
artsdepot are experimenting with a membership service targeted for the over 65s, designed to encourage participation in the arts through social media. They plan to work with audiences from three urban and rural areas - artsdepot, Warwick Arts Centre and the Brewery Arts Centre - to ensure the findings can be applied nationally.
Extant will explore how live performances can use touch as a way of providing new audience experiences - especially where use of touch might replace or displace the more usually provoked sense of sight.
Coney and Yorkshire Dance are testing 2 different approaches to engage audiences online. Coney is developing ways for audiences to interact with a live performance, which in many ways builds on Punchdrunk's pilot R&D project for Sleep No More.
Yorkshire Dance will test putting Liz Lerman's Critical response process online, enabling audiences to help shape new performances - likewise, building on the work undertaken by BAC with the Scratchr project. It's good to recognise that both of these projects can take some valuable lessons from these original projects to build upon - one of the benefits of making knowledge created by the Fund freely available.
I used the term "audience inclusion" deliberately. It's a convenient catch-all phrase to describe these projects in the round. But the experimentation done by this generation of projects, like many others in the Fund, is likely to span the areas of accessibility, iteration and some co-production with audiences.
In other creative disciplines, such as service design or online publishing, it is widely regarded as fact that designing accessible services from the start, with opportunities for co-production built in, produce "better" services, products or experiences for everyone. It will be interesting to see how some of these projects can bring strong insights into this theory in the world of the arts.