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Case Study: King's Lynn ‘Let there be light...and sound, and stories’

21/03/2018

‘This was incredibly immersive and I love the melding of the past and present.’ King’s Lynn Resident 

‘Something really different for King’s Lynn; we need more arts projects like this!’ King’s Lynn Resident 

‘It's been a great opportunity to work with new creatives and Collusion. Sharing ideas and skills together and grown my passion and knowledge for art and design.’  Creative Participant 

‘When Collusion came to town everything changed’ Councilor, BCKLWN   

Introduction

For residents and visitors to King’s Lynn walking through the historic Town Centre, the vibrant outcomes of this project were hard to miss, and easy to enjoy. Across the last weekend of September 2017, as night fell, four notable buildings in King’s Lynn became playgrounds for the curious and adventurous, as familiar landmarks ranging from the Custom House to Greyfriars Tower, became illuminated by projectors in King’s Lynn Town Centre. Buildings and walls were not just sites for projections, but were reimagined as games, audio sequencers, and storyboards for tales of love and King’s Lynn’s history and future. http://www.collusion.org.uk/kingslynn 

The four projects 

Sounds, images, data, film and archives feature in the R&D projects created by four teams of artists and creative professionals for the Lynn Lumiere light projection sites. The projects included: 

1.  FLOW by BellArtLabs (King's Lynn Art Centre): a multimedia art presentation which links the “past, present and future” of King's Lynn utilising archive audio and film from the region revealing the story of people's lived experiences. 

2. Assemble by Payne Hurt (Tuesday Market Place): a three player audio sequencer using sounds and imagery taken from in and around Kings Lynn. 

3. Voyager by Elements (Greyfriars Tower): an AI system which scans historical data from medieval manuscripts and physical graffiti to biological data to pieces together a love story over time and discovers its conscious self. 

4. Moment by FishGills (The Custom House): a simple but graphically engaging challenge through the latter half of the 20th century, with an added emphasis on modern-day King’s Lynn.

Being in Collusion 

These wonderfully engaging projects were the result of an invitation and a challenge. Collusion invited local artists and creative technologists to put themselves forward to take part in an R&D challenge. These creative participants then took part in a series of masterclasses, designed to inspire and challenge them to come up with new ideas through which they could apply their skills to the creation of new interactive R&D projections in King’s Lynn. 

For example, Mark Faulkner and Ross Ashton, from The Light Surgeons (a boutique production company that specialises in creative audio visual content for live performances, installations and experiences) worked with the group, describing their creative work and approach. http://www.lightsurgeons.com ; https://vimeo.com/lightsurgeons 

As well as stimulating their thinking and supporting skills development, the masterclasses encouraged the local artists and creative technologists to respond to some key opportunities offered by this project, including: 

- Developing and testing ideas that could, through further investment, be developed into larger scale and/or longer term works 

- Creating public spectacles at keys points in the year 

- Imagining the future of King’s Lynn 

In return Collusion offered support and professional development for the four teams creating these ambitious, interactive R&D projection projects, with the aim that these action-based projects would support the development of new practice, skills and networks in King’s Lynn. For the creative teams involved, Collusion were offering precious commodities; cash and carefully calibrated support to the teams taking them through the development phase through to the realisation of new works. The Art of Engagement Public art at its best surprises and captivates a wide spectrum of the public, reaching people who may not normally attend a cultural event or activity. The evaluation data confirms that this project fulsomely produced these outcomes. 

Over 500 people attended these installations over three nights. At each of the four sites a member of the Collusion team conducted short surveys using a tablet, asking members of the public to provide basic information about themselves, respond to key statements, and provide any other comments. In total 188 audience surveys were completed across the four sites, confirming that the public had really enjoyed these immersive experiences and that they would like to see more of this type of cultural activity in King’s Lynn. 

What the audience said about the project

The survey asked audiences to score the following statements out of 100 using a slider. The average scores across the four sites are noted below, with the statements ranked below from high to low. The scores, which average 77-90%, indicate that the project was very well received by audiences and that they are keen for more! 

ENTHUSIASM - I would come to something like this again: 90/100
LOCAL IMPACT - It's important that it's happening here: 87/100
ENJOYMENT - I had a good time: 87/100
CAPTIVATION - It held my interest and attention: 86/100
DISTINCTIVENESS - It was different from things I've experienced before: 86/100
ORIGINALITY - It was ground-breaking: 79/100
UNDERSTANDING - It gave me new understanding and perspective of art: 78/100
INNOVATION - It introduced me to new ways of using technologies: 77/100 There was one section of the survey that allowed audiences to add their own comments.

Out of the 188 surveys, 121 people left comments. 

Here’s a representative sample of 24 comments from across the four sites: 

It was epic! | It should be permanent | Excellent - need to keep going for longer than one weekend | Fantastic displays and lovely staff, my 6 year old had a great time! | I like the creativity and am looking forward to more interactive displays! | Something really different for King’s Lynn, we need more art projects like this! | BCKLWN could use the projections to enhance the Christmas shopping experience to support businesses | Really engaging for younger ages and nostalgic for older generations | Completely original and exciting | Travelled into a different time and space, captured the atmosphere of the area and we need more of this | This was incredibly immersive and I love the melding of the past and present | Well done everyone, please repeat | Great idea, original public entertainment | Nice way to draw attention to historic monuments and mix the new with the old | Very cool | Fascinating | Absolutely fantastic, most interesting arts display I've seen in this complex | Highly impressed with every part of the presentation | This was so innovative, immersive and thoroughly enjoyable | Really cool AND works great in this public space | Fantastic project, brilliant way to show children different art mediums | It’s different and well worth visiting | This is absolutely amazing | Good to see so many families enjoying it together. 

These quotes help explain why the events scored so highly, particularly in terms of enjoyment, distinctiveness, and local impact. Audiences were clearly delighted to see work of this kind taking place in King’s Lynn. Importantly, the project attracted people who don’t usually take part in the arts: 30% of audiences usually only go to an arts event every six months or less. It was also notable that people travelled to King’s Lynn to see the project, with 29% coming from more than 10 miles away. The project was well profiled in the media, including on the front page of the EDP, and many people shared comments and photos on social media. 

Collusion’s Twitter reach in the week of the event increased by 270,999 to 629,244 and the mention reach to 390,125, a difference of 338,709 as compare to the previous non-event week. Creative Development and Stretch: for artists and audiences For Collusion, the experience of the creatives teams they are supporting is a vital successful factor in all their work. Strikingly, what stands out from the participant feedback is their enthusiasm, with 90% of the participants saying they would get involved in something like this again. Collusion were also delighted to see that the participants felt supported (89%); had new and distinctive experiences (86%); had felt comfortable trying new things (82%); and that it was very important to them that a project of this kind was happening in King’s Lynn (88%). 

As Rachel Drury, Collusion Director, commented: ‘We were pleased that the artists and creative participants had a really positive experience, and we admired the huge amount of effort they threw into the projects. We felt that they really seized the opportunity, producing hugely ambitious and stretching projects given the resources available. For the creative teams and the King’s Lynn audience to have such positive experiences is hugely gratifying. For example, we had an eighty-five year old man who told us he had never entered the park at night before, but had been inspired to do so by the Grey Friars installation. So socialising and reclaiming public spaces so they felt welcoming and interesting to local-residents was also a very powerful outcome of the process.’ 

The legacy of the project for participants is likely to be a very powerful one. Many of the participants talked positively about how it has opened-up their thinking in terms of their creative plans and practice; has developed their skills; has motivated them to seek further funding for this type of work; and that they would be willing to work together and support each other in similar type initiatives in the future. These major impacts on skills and creative self-confidence were well captured by the survey data for the creative participants. The survey asked the participants to score the following statements out of 100 using a slider. 

The average scores are noted below, with the statements ranked below from high to low. 

ENTHUSIASM - I would come to something like this again: 92/100
SUPPORT – People in the group supported each other: 89/100
DISTINCTIVENESS – It was different from things I’ve experienced before 86/100
PLATFORM – It has the potential to inspire other artists and artforms: 83/100
EXPERIMENTING – I felt comfortable trying new things: 82/100
CONTRIBUTION – It felt like my contribution mattered: 82/100
ACHIEVEMENT – I was amazed by what we achieved: 82/100
INSIGHT – It helped me gain new insight or knowledge: 81/100
SKILLS – I gained new skills: 71/100

To help provide interpretative context to these survey results, there was one section of the survey that allowed the creative participants to add their own comments. These very positive survey scores were mirrored in the comments from the participating team members, which included the following: ‘I feel that this project has opened up and consolidated my thought process in the act of decision-making and art/sound design. Therefore, I would explore this further.’ This is the first project where I have addressed and conceptualized on the use of data and all its implications. This is certainly an area that I will continue to approach in my practice. ‘[I will]… apply for funding to develop and realise the project as a large-scale public artwork.’ ‘It’s been a great opportunity to meet new people and push my practice in a collaborative direction, and it’s great to be able to show that with help I can make work that is well received by the general public and now having done this I would feel more confident in making work on such a scale in the future.’ ‘Above all it has rekindled my skills as a team worker and networker. I really enjoyed that. Finally I enjoyed doing a project that made a difference to the people of the borough.’ These are vital outcomes for a project of this kind. They suggest that Collusion was highly successful in creating the conditions which supported new ideas to happen, and in which creative teams were provided with an effective mix of professional development that encouraged and embedded skill development and knowledge transfer for the creative participants. The project has built greater creative ambitions among those who took part. 

As a result, what may have felt previously unimaginable now seems attainable for artists and audiences in King’s Lynn. Partner perspectives King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council (BCKLWN) were vital supporters of the project, working with Collusion to support the creative visions of the teams. They proved to be a tremendously supportive partner to the whole process, in terms of their flexibility and by keeping their operational ‘red-lines’ to a minimum – namely: No projection displays can go across a public highway Don’t endanger the town’s CCTV infrastructure The quality of the four creative projects powerfully demonstrated that when a Borough Council really commits to being an enabling partner, as King’s Lynn were in this project, a comparatively small budget can help nurture ambition and achievements well beyond the initial expectations of everyone involved. King’s Lynn Borough Council’s progressive approach and can-do mindset was a vital cog in sustaining momentum and expanding the sense of what was possible. They really seized this opportunity, and in my experience their approach felt uniquely open and creative for a Borough Council of this size. 

The Council themselves were delighted with the reach and impact of the project, with Cllr Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy leader of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk and cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and Health, commenting: “Collusion have brought a fascinating project to King’s Lynn which we are delighted to support. West Norfolk’s history is an invaluable resource, and these artists and creative professionals are combining it with cutting-edge design and technology to spectacular effect. Each of the four teams involved has designed their project around research carried out in King’s Lynn; at the Borough Archives or True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum. The showcase weekend was a chance for the artists, and the public, to see and interact with the work projected onto four of our beautiful buildings. It was wonderful to see the showcase attracting so many people, of all ages, into our town centre.” 


The Multiplier Effect 

A clear insight from this project is that mutual stretch creates powerful multiplier effects in a creative R&D challenge like this one. The project outcomes exceeded the expectations of all the partners and participants, with the scale of ambition displayed by the creative teams challenging partners to be at their best in terms of supporting and enabling the delivery of the project. 

As Richard Hall, Collusion’s Project Manager commented: ‘The project stretched everyone. The teams really stretched themselves in terms of how ambitious they were; that really stretched us in terms of how much support we had to offer in terms of going beyond pure R&D to scale the ideas; and it really stretched the Borough Council and other partners who had to be flexible to enable their visions to be realised, and to get the best of their existing projection assets and resources.’ 

The partners proved able to stretch each other because they forged a strong common vision, and quickly built trust and strong team-working behaviours. It is therefore no surprise that Collusion and King’s Lynn Borough Council are already working together to build on the outcomes of this R&D programme to produce a longer-term project of national significance and impact in King’s Lynn. They are now building on firm foundations. This project has revealed that King’s Lynn’s creative talent and audiences are clearly hungry for more of these types of cultural activity in the future.  

Aspirations, skills and networks have been built to support future creative projects and King’s Lynn audiences have demonstrated an appetite for the new and unexpected. King’s Lynn is now well placed to become the regular home of both in its developing cultural offer. About the in_collusion programme The in_collusion programme, a three year talent development programme, is helping creative people and businesses to develop new skills and ideas around three emerging technologies - artificial intelligence, data culture, and virtual/augmented/mixed reality. Collusion is working in King's Lynn alongside five other hubs across the region: Wisbech, Cambridge, Peterborough, Huntingdon and Bury St Edmunds. 


This case study on the King’s Lynn R&D Challenge was written in_collusion with John Knell, Director of Culture Counts and one of the UK's leading thinkers on the changing face of work and organisations, and he has an international reputation as a cultural policy consultant.

 

Collusion is using the Culture Counts, an evaluation tool which works to measure the quality of cultural leadership, audience and participant experience, and their wider cultural, economic and social impact on key communities of interest and practice.