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UK art festivals join to create Digital Democracies 

Small Global, D-Fuse at Frequency Festival 2019. Photo credit Electric Egg.

In a time of unprecedented reliance on digital technology to connect people, we're proud to be part of a pioneering two-year national public art project called Digital Democracies.

Northampton-based Threshold Studios has been awarded £195,000 to lead Digital Democracies, the first commissioning consortium of its kind in the UK. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Digital Democracies connects three of the UK’s leading art and digital culture commissioning festivals, including Freedom Festival, Frequency Festival in Lincoln (Produced by Threshold Studios) and Brighton Digital Festival (Produced by Lighthouse and Brandwatch).

Digital Democracies will pioneer the development of democratic and innovative digital work online and in public outdoor spaces, helping to welcome audiences back to our shared civic spaces following the coronavirus pandemic.

The two-year development programme will create opportunities for art and technology to intersect in a reinvention of the civic and social role of public space. Facilitating and establishing partnerships for the testing of new ideas and work, the project will include community workshops, technology masterclasses and tools to inspire new approaches to making art. New commissions will then be showcased to audiences in the public realm, both online and offline, through an extended network of partners and collaborators across the UK.

The first in a series of co-commissioned works, “A Portrait Without Borders” - presented by Kaleider - will be shown at Freedom Festival, 4-6 September 2020. Brighton-based Lighthouse, will also commission an artist to create a new work for Digital Democracies as part of Re-Imagine Europe programme in Autumn 2020. More information about the open call for proposals will be announced soon.

Donna Close, Associate Director of Threshold Studios, explained: “Bringing together expertise in outdoor art, digital innovation, social impact and place-based partnerships, we’re really excited about this project.

Digital Democracies will ensure that audiences across the UK can benefit from innovative digital art in the public realm - working with artists to explore and share their own sense of place, identify and society.

“Festivals are incredibly well placed to lead the development of this exciting area of work. The experience of outdoor democratic spaces, audience diversity, place-based partnerships, and collaborative working are part of their DNA.”

Digital Democracies responds to the opportunity of collaboration for cultural transformation, as set out in the Culture is Digital report and Arts Council England ten-year strategy. Providing research and development opportunities as well as radically inclusive public cultural experiences to create and test new commissions with public audiences.

Mikey Martins, Artistic Director and Joint CEO at Freedom Festival Arts Trust said: “Although we find ourselves navigating uncertain and challenging times, we’re excited to be involved in this project, working alongside our friends at Threshold and Brighton Digital Festival. At a time when interest in digital work has never been greater, we’re keen to share our experience as a leader in outdoor art to create exciting new democratic digital work as we connect artists, technologists and audiences to high quality digital pieces which will transform public places and spaces.

“People are becoming more aware of the impact that festivals and culture can bring to public spaces and to the audiences that encounter them. Culture and the experiences it offers can have a deep and lasting effect on places and the people who live in them, as well as attract tourists to a place and strengthen the local economy. We’ve certainly seen this first-hand in Hull.”

Our public spaces and the people that animate them are the engines for both place-making and community development, and the crucible where our individual and collective identities are forged. Through diverse multi agency partnerships Digital Democracies explores the possibilities of the place- making agenda to increase positive social impact and innovation.

The project is supported by Place Partners: University of LincolnUniversity of Brighton, Hull Libraries, Centre for Culture and Creativity, City of Lincoln Council, Lincoln BIG and NN Contemporary Art Northampton; as well as esteemed Tech Partners: the digital consumer intelligence company Brandwatch, along with hubs for digital innovation Lincoln Science and Innovation ParkC4Di Hull and Wired Sussex.

Samantha Lindley, Director of Programmes, Threshold Studios and Co-Director, Frequency Festival continued: “Working with a diverse set of producers and artists Digital Democracies aims to understand the challenges within the landscape helping shape commissions and opportunities to build a sustainable and inclusive UK-wide community-of-practice in digital and combined arts.

“Support for the creative industries to build on the UK’s international reputation for creativity is increasingly important. Our national cultural ecology must in turn be strengthened by talented artists from all communities, who have been given equal opportunities to develop their individual creative potential.

“By connecting partners from across the technology sector, universities, local authorities and artists, Digital Democracies aims to support, strengthen and invigorate digital innovation in the cultural sector. It will improve and diversify the opportunities afforded by technology through democratising access to networks, expertise and opportunities for artists, producers and audiences.”

For more information about the project, commissions and opportunities click here.

Follow #DigitalDemocracies on social media for announcements.

Digital Democracies is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and by Threshold Studios, Freedom Festival Arts Trust and Lighthouse through their partners and funders.