Enhancing Digital Capabilities
The consultancy firm EKOS were hired through open tender to produce an independent evluation report on the Enhancing Digital Capabilities programme which was funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and managed by Festivals Edinburgh. The Programme provided £1m of funding support to enable the 11 Edinburgh Festivals to invest in their digital capabilities to:
- enhance their digital capabilities and strengthen their digital position, while helping the development of collaborative digital commissioning, production, distribution or promotional partnerships;
- increase exposure of British cultural output to international markets to facilitate trade and boost UK exports;
- help to leverage digital platforms and technology, which will help to reach new audiences, improve productivity and skills by increasing knowledge and utilisation of digital commissioning, production, distribution or promotional models and innovations; and
- build on the world-class curatorial and convening power of the Festivals through digital activity that will aid the presentation of work to audiences in the UK and across the globe.
The Evaluation Report identified that an innovative range of new projects were created during the project, including:
- a Digital Marketplace created at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with functionality enhancing the ways in which the arts industry could use such a digital space
- the creation and presentation of digital portfolios on the Digital Marketplace for specialist children’s theatre and dance companies working with the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
- hybrid multi-disciplinary team created at the Edinburgh International Book Festival involving Programming, Tech, Audience and Marketing to design a new hybrid festival approach and embed learning
- digital streaming platform integrated on the Edinburgh International Festival website, attracting thousands of viewers from 60 countries, with 66% being new to the festival
- twelve accessible films using deaf performers, voice and interpretation commissioned by the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, and delivered online as a worldwide festival showcase
- programme of creative experimentation in production at the Edinburgh Art Festival, including livestreaming and use of video technologies to enhance physical artworks and projects
- innovative digital production style developed at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, using animation and voice over to promote the festival
- digital hub created at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival which featured live streamed and pre-recorded concerts, plus a special feature programmed in partnership with San Francisco Jazz
- interactive performance evaluation tool for teachers and pupils created by the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, making a more explicit connection between the productions and the curriculum
- streaming platform (Fringe Player) created at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, together with delivery of full E-ticketing for the first time
The Evaluation Report found evidence of positive outcomes, including:
- Digital Skills: all of the Festivals reported very substantial gains in their knowledge and skills relating to digital, even those already involved in digital working. There is also evidence of shifts towards a more strategic approach to digital working within the Festival organisations.
- Digital capability: the funding helped to develop digital infrastructure within the Festivals, including platforms, system improvements and infrastructure (see over). New equipment and a range of digital work/ content/ assets are also important legacies that will support future digital work, leaving the Festivals in a far stronger position regarding digital working.
- Audiences: the digital activities enabled all of the festivals to attract new audiences, and audiences that would otherwise not have been able to experience the festivals due either to geography or other barriers. This included strong international audiences and new bookers, and the Digital Marketplace achieved strong industry engagement.
- Economic Benefits: programme leverage was strong and there was income generation in areas such as ticket sales for digital events. There is evidence that the Digital Marketplace is starting to facilitate industry bookings even if it is too early to quantify these. The new digital assets and infrastructure will also deliver efficiencies for many of the Festivals.
- Reputation: the funding enabled the Festivals to produce high quality digital content and engage new and international audiences, enhancing further their reputation as world leaders in the field.
The Evaluation Report concluded that the Enhancing Digital Capabilities Programme had clearly improved digital capabilities and had also helped to clarify for the festivals the potential role that digital may play in future delivery. In light of the success of the Programme, the Evaluation Report stated that it would be worth considering a follow up scheme to protect the gains to date and enable the festivals to continue to explore the ways in which digital working can enhance and improve their wider offer, with the Digital Marketplace being a potential star in the making. You can read and download the full Evaluation Report below.