‘From the sea to the land beyond’ via Doc/Fest

The Queen was in Nottingham on the 13 June for a two minute wave on the balcony of the Council House. I imagined that she had been so impressed with Derrick Buttress’ Market Square Memories that she thought she’d chip down and take a look for herself. Unfortunately I was to miss this rain-drenched spectacle as I was heading up the M1 with Paul Fillingham to Doc/Fest. Tom Gatis very kindly offered free tickets to every organisation that had been commissioned by The Space, so we took him up on the offer.

The event we attended was called the Crossover Summit which explored new commissioning opportunities online and across other platforms; this included speakers from ARTE, The History Channel, Discovery, Arts Council, TSB, YouTube, the BBC, Channel 4, the Museum of London, Screen Yorkshire, the Wellcome Trust, the BFI and a panel discussing The Space. It was absolutely brilliant. All of the talks took place inside The Chapel and we were positioned close to the live Twitter feed screen which was oddly exciting. I’m slowly falling in love with Twitter and finding it the easiest way to make journalistic links, but more of this in another blog.

Most of the talks focused on new media which was really useful in thinking how we address the social media aspect of our Sillitoe commission. Three points in particular struck home. Firstly, that new media is biological in nature and adapts to its environment which made me think of the way our audience is interacting with our content. This point was addressed further by Steve Coulson of Campfire, the man responsible for the apocalyptic reality show The Colony, who described three types of online audience; skimmers, dippers and divers. Each category related to the emotional investment each user gives to social media. I am probably a skimmer, someone who is after minimal information whereas our Sillitoe project is trying to target divers, people who have an emotional investment in a project and go to great lengths to build up facts and attachments when online. The third intriguing point concerned reinventing data visualisation from Mint Digital who worked on the C4 experiment sexperience. This basically enables people to find out unique data from a national sex survey by blending together specific filters. For example, how many one-night stands do twenty-year old hip-hop fans have on average in South London or how many females in Norwich use nipple clamps. Perhaps due to the subject matter this seemed really fun but I did love the way that you could tailor results to your specific needs.

In all honesty, I’ve been a little disappointed with the interactivity on The Space. Yes, it does work across platforms and it does use a variety of art forms and it’s certainly given a more visible presence to the arts, but it does feel like a very slick website. At present, our interactivity takes place via the Silltioetrail website as there is a certain level of gatekeeping on The Space. I was expecting something more like the superb Channel 4 experiment Foxes Live, whereby the public has a more visible presence next to the content and there’s a greater sense of immediacy and presence.

But I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Arts Council and I wouldn’t be in the enviable position of constantly thinking about how to perfect a project if it wasn’t for the BBC. So I’ll shut me pan and end with a bit of magic. The Crucible hosted the world premier of From The Sea To The Land Beyond, which took us from the piers to the pavilions and the factories to the furnace on a 100 year journey of the life of the British coast. The film was directed by Penny Woolcock and accompanied by British Sea Power playing an especially composed soundtrack live. If our Sillitoe: Then and Now project is able to capture the changing face of Nottingham with just a tinge of the tenderness displayed here, our heads will remain well above the water.