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The Space free digital arts service goes live

  • Date: 1 May 2012
  • Area: National

Today sees the soft launch of The Space, a new free digital arts service developed by Arts Council England in partnership with the BBC.

You can access The Space now at thespace.org or by viewing on connected TV or The Space channel (Freeview HD channel 117).

At the heart of The Space is a new commissioning model, enabling artists and organisations to film and make work specifically for the main digital platforms. Some are live-streaming their events, others trailblazing new formats, all with mentoring support and training from the BBC where required.

Work from established organisations of world-renown will sit alongside innovative work from emerging artists to make The Space a laboratory of endeavour, committed to the sharing of new and developing skills.

Over the next six months, The Space will showcase some of the most exciting arts and culture events from across the UK. With something new added every day, the service will gradually fill up to become a record of an exceptional summer which includes the London 2012 Festival, the wider Cultural Olympiad, the Diamond Jubilee, the World Shakespeare Festival and the Edinburgh Festival.

Keep up to date with upcoming content at facebook.com/thespacearts and on Twitter @thespacearts and #thespacearts.

May programme

Visit The Space now to explore a virtual recreation of DJ John Peel's home studio and highlights from his record library. This extraordinary online collection will build month by month, starting with 100 albums beginning with 'A'.

From today, you can also stream the South African Isango Ensemble's carnivalesque interpretation of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis staged at The Globe. This is the first production of Globe to Globe which will see each of Shakespeare's 37 plays performed by a different international company all of which will be available on The Space, most subtitled especially for the service.

Also coming up this month:

  • full performances of David Shrigley's opera Pass The Spoon and Sadler's Well's Breakin' Convention hip-hop dance extravaganza streamed live this weekend
  • a first taste of one of the longest commissions for The Space. The Listening Machine, which features performers from the Britten Sinfonia, uses digital technologies to create a six-month-long soundtrack to what the nation is saying on Twitter
  • the BFI makes available its archive of the very first films from household names including Stephen Frears, Gurinder Chadha, Ken Russell and Ridley Scott
  • the Arts Council opens up its 50-year-old film collection, with the first public showings of its groundbreaking 1990s Dance for the Camera series, co-produced with the BBC

Coming soon

Over the next six months, The Space will give artists the opportunity to experiment with new forms. One example sees writer and presenter Will Self collaborating with the London Review of Books, using Franz Kafka's short story The Country Doctor as inspiration for a new kind of literary essay.

The Space will also make thematic links across genres and between organisations: during the World Shakespeare Festival, the BFI streams four silent Shakespeare productions made between 1899 and 1910, while the Royal Shakespeare Company broadcasts 15 new documentary shorts going behind the scenes of its world-class programme.

And late in the summer the service will feature Birmingham Opera's world premiere of one of the most challenging and spectacular pieces of music, Stockhausen's Mittoch featuring the Helicopter Quartet.

A new doorway to art and culture

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said:

'Today The Space opens a new door into the cultural universe - one that offers a glimpse of a future where people can explore the amazing things the arts can do, whenever they want and wherever they are, and where all sorts of experiences can be easily found in one place.

'To do this, artists and arts organisations need to further develop the skills to understand and experiment with the creative potential of the new digital platforms. We're grateful to the BBC for going on this uncharted voyage with us, sharing their technological and production expertise, and to both the BFI and the BBC for sharing gems from their wonderful archives. We hope The Space will soon build into the place for everyone who makes or loves the arts.'

Roly Keating, BBC Director of Archive Content, said: 

'We've been proud partners of Arts Council England for many years but never before have we worked together on anything of the sheer scale, ambition and energy of The Space.   

'It's been a true journey of discovery for both organisations - a blend of the BBC's digital and production expertise with the creativity of artists and arts organisations of all kinds.  We believe digital can open up new kinds of public space where cultural organisations can collaborate and share ideas more easily and inventively than ever before: The Space is about making that idea a reality.'

Arts Council England has invested £3.5 million in new arts commissions that lie at the heart of the The Space. Specially commissioned works, such as the National Theatre of Wales' Mabinogi/Branches project, NVA's Speed Of Light and Brian Irvine's Nest are also being submitted by Arts Council Wales, Creative Scotland and Arts Council Northern Ireland respectively.

Get into The Space

From mid-summer The Community Channel, the project's linear TV partner, will broadcast specially packaged The Space programmes in addition to selected live content.

You can visit The Space now at thespace.org, or by viewing on connected TV or The Space channel (Freeview HD channel 117).