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Live streaming captures new audiences for South East arts organisations

  • Date: 4 December 2012
  • Artform: All, Combined arts, Dance, Libraries, Literature, Museums, Music, Theatre, Visual arts
  • Area: South East
Jack and the Beanstalk, South Hill Park, 2012 Jack and the Beanstalk, South Hill Park, 2012, Photo: South Hill Park

Christmas sees even more cheer with news that South Hill Park will be streaming pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk to children's hospices, hospital wards and respite care homes this December.

The live streamed panto marks the start of an exciting new three-year live streaming programme for the Berkshire venue and Arts Council England National portfolio organisation called SHPLive, supported with a £140,000 Arts Council England Grants for the arts award.

Over the past year, other National portfolio organisations such as Glyndebourne and Brighton Dome & Festival have introduced live streaming as part of their programming offer to audiences while others such as Lighthouse and now South Hill Park will be offering artists, venues, producers and others the chance to live streaming hands-on and learn from the industry's most respected professionals.

This September, Arts Council England Creative Economy and Digital Relationship Manager Jon Pratty wrote an article for Arts Professional about the exciting take up of live streaming here in the South East during 2012. As Jon writes, 'Live streaming isn't just about showing your work for free. It offers arts organisations the potential to create and present work in new ways and develop new income streams.'

Live streaming in 2012

In March 2012, Brighton digital organisation Lighthouse Arts & Training received £10,000 Arts Council England development funds to develop and administer a series of free seminars about live streaming for arts organisations learning about live streaming and digital broadcast technologies.

This series, called Streaming Out, saw its first seminar take place during this year's Brighton Digital Festival, which saw industry case studies from leading cultural organisations, followed by a second seminar this November.

Sian Habell-Aili Green, Project Manager, Lighthouse says: 'The Streaming Out sessions have been fantastic for bringing together experience, thinking and ambition from across the sector. We've heard success stories from the likes of Glyndebourne, Picturehouse Cinemas, Tate and The Space, and from smaller in scale but equally inventive ventures from Tyneside's Pixel Palace.

'What is most exciting is the feeling from all the speakers that we've barely touched the surface of what is possible. Ideas sometimes move faster than technology, but what's clear is that there is no shortage of imagination! Moving forward, and learning from the successes (and failures) of those experimenting with streaming, we are starting to form a picture of what makes a successful stream, who watches, and above all, how it presents financially viable opportunities for the arts sector.'

Brighton Dome and Festival live streamed a selection of Festival events from their website during May, including 5 x 15, Matthew Bourne, The Music and Legacy of Joy Division, Granta: Is Britain Still Great, and New Writing South's Alain de Botton Lecture, with the help of City College filmmaking students.

Live streaming in 2013

Now with 2013 offering even more chances for a range of artists and organisations to get involved, we take a look at what's ahead.

This Christmas will see Glyndebourne and the Guardian working together to offer viewers a free streaming of Glyndebourne's legendary production Tristan und Isolde from 26 December to 6 January 2013, in honour of Wagner bicentenary in 2013. During 2013, Glyndebourne will continue with another year of partnership with the Guardian for their opera season, which will see Ariadne auf Naxos conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, Donizetti's Don Pasquale and Rameau's Hippolyte among the new productions to feature in the festival's summer season - all filmed and streamed live on the Guardian's website.

South Hill Park's live streamed panto will give hundreds of seriously ill children the chance to experience a unique interactive show. The online pantomime includes a pre-recorded introduction from the show's director, who is also one of the main characters, and throughout the panto, the cast will do special shout outs to the children online, who are invited to connect with Julian the Pantomime Dame via Twitter (@Old_Ma_Donald).

Emma Donald, the Digital Media Centre's co-producer, has been working on partnerships for the pantomime project and reports how fulfilling the process has been: 'The cast has been fabulous. We've been asking the actors to do more than they would normally do - signed Christmas cards for our online audience, more photo calls, more filming including a special feature introduction that's directed at the online audience.

South Hill Park has a few plans up their sleeve. During 2013, the centre will hold a series of concerts as part of their Embedded programme, which will feature a small live audience with musicians and will be live streamed giving the online viewer exclusive close ups and angles for a 360 degree experience.

Martin Franklin, Programme Manager for SHPLive and Digital Media Manager for South Hill Park, explains, 'There needs to be added benefit to the viewer when watching online. That's why we're engaging with artists to encourage research and development of new work for this platform with events like our "Beyond The Stage" ideas lab. Production for live stream can be expensive, but we're also trying some very economic and effective approaches, like our "Embedded" season of late night improvised music performances. '

Lighthouse will follow up their popular Streaming Out series with a final live streaming workshop in early Spring 2013. Later in May 2013, Brighton Dome & Festival plan to launch another selection of live streamed events during this year's Festival.

South Hill Park's Media Centre will trial its first Idea Labs this December, and a follow up one in summer 2013. These labs aim to bring together artists and performers to develop work that has an awareness of the possibilities of the responsive online environment that live streamed work will inhabit. The first Idea Lab sees writers, animators, directors and other fascinating live streaming experts including dancer and choreographer John Darvell, whose Dare You Watch performance used viral techniques to guide a new audience toward a performance devised specifically for online viewing.

Emma Donald gives the following advice to organisations considering trying live streaming for the first time: 'Decide what you want it for and what you want to achieve. Why is it better than TV? Why is it better for my artists? Anyone can stick a camera up and stream it, but it needs to be high quality content with added value, so that people who can't get to the venue will make the effort to watch it online.What's the point of doing it otherwise? You're not doing any favours for yourself. It takes a lot of planning, but now has never been a more exciting time to try it out!'

To find out more about South Hill Park's SHPLive programme, see