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Our Digital Forum took place on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 February in partnership with The Space. #digitalforumie

A programme of four sessions
This event was a modular one consisting of four formal sessions. The Zoom sessions were recorded and these recordings are now available below.

Session 1 – All things digital
Thursday 4 February 10:00 – 11:30, breakout room chats (optional) 11:30 – 11:45
Keynote and introduction to The Space by Fiona Morris. Opportunities and strategies conversation with Lyn Gardner, The Stage; Vicky Featherstone, The Royal Court; Neil Murray, Abbey Theatre; Fergus Sheil, Irish National Opera.

Session 2 – Developing on-line audiences with limited resources
Thursday 4 February 12:00 – 13:30, breakout room chats (optional) 13:30 – 13:45
Focus on smaller scale companies and independent artists followed by moderated panel and audience discussion. Identify your audiences online, decide those platforms on which to focus your energies, particularly to build sustainable communities rather than one-off spikes in engagement. Explore how you define strategically “successful” content for each major platform. Ensure what you produce and publish works as hard as possible, particularly in the context of limited time and budget.
Rob Lindsay, The Space presentation followed by Michael Barker-Caven in conversation with Maura O’Keeffe, Hannah Mullan, Sian Ní Mhuirí, and Peter Power.

Session 3 – Producing, filming and distributing long-form live content
Friday 5 February 10:00 – 11:30, breakout room chats (optional) 11:30 –11:50
Focus on larger scale venues, companies, festivals and their producers. Using indigenous examples, the session includes three discursive presentations about different aspects of producing and distributing ‘captured’ content. Conversation with expert panel including artistic directors and producers to follow presentations.Natalie Woolman, Magnus Dennison, Sarah Fortescue, Dom Kennedy from The Space in discussion with Fergus Hannigan, Abbey Theatre; Anne Clarke, Landmark Productions; and Diego Fasciati, Irish National Opera.

Session 4 – Marketing communications
Friday 5 February 12:00 – 13:30, breakout room chats (optional) 13:30 – 13:50
Focus on marketing and communications teams in mid to larger scale arts centre, festival and production companies. Rethinking how to identify audiences online, deciding which platforms are important to build sustainable communities rather than one-off spikes in engagement and engaging with existing as well as new audiences in 2021 and beyond.  A facilitated discussion with contributions from marketing teams successfully navigating the online environment while deepening and strengthening engagement with audiences.

Rob Lindsay, The Space presentation followed by Heather Maitland in discussion with Mark O’Brien, axis Ballymun; Louise Donlon, Lime Tree Theatre; and Caroline Kennedy, Dublin Dance Festival.

Speaker biogs

Michael Barker-Caven – Artistic Director, The Civic

Michael is Artistic Director of The Civic, Tallaght, and a 10 Irish Times Theatre Awards nominated director of theatre and opera. In collaboration with The Space and a range of Irish partners, in 2020 he instigated PROJECT PROTEAN, a training, mentorship, and production resource agency to support Irish performing artists develop and hone best practise skills in strategically conceived digital dissemination.

Anne Clarke – Producer, Landmark Productions
Anne is the founder of Landmark Productions, one of Ireland’s leading theatre producers. Since 2003, she has produced thirty plays, two operas and a musical – including seven Irish premieres and eighteen world premieres – in collaboration with a number of partners, most notably GIAF and INO, and toured that work internationally. January 2021 saw the launch of Landmark Live, a new online streaming platform to bring the company’s work to audiences, wherever they may be.

Magnus Dennison – Producer and Cinematographer, Meerkat Films
Magnus is a producer and cinematographer who has produced numerous docs, dramas and commercials for major broadcasters including BBC, ITV and Channel 4. In a past life Magnus was training to be an airline pilot.

Louise Donlon – Director, Lime Tree Theatre
Louise is the Director of Limerick’s Lime Tree Theatre and Chair of the NASC venue network, long-time collaborators on programming, touring and marketing opportunities and

Diego Fasciati – Executive Director, Irish National Opera
Diego is an accomplished arts producer and consultant with over 25 years’ experience working in the cultural sector. Originally from Switzerland, he has held executive positions at Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre Company, The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, and Rough Magic Theatre Company. He occasionally uses his linguistic skills as a freelance translator. He holds an M.Phil. in Irish Literature from Trinity College Dublin.

Vicky Featherstone – Artistic Director, Royal Court
Vicky joined the Royal Court as Artistic Director in January 2013. Her most recent work is co-directing the Royal Court/National Theatre Wales co-production of Ed Thomas’ On Bear Ridge, which opened at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff before running at the Royal Court in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs in October 2019. At the Court she has directed Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland, a co-production with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin which also ran at the Public Theater in New York, and which she first directed in 2016. Previous directing at the Royal Court includes Anoushka Warden’s My Mum’s a Twat (as co-director); Simon Longman’s Gundog; Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads; Chris Thorpe’s Victory Condition; Alistair McDowall’s X; Zinnie Harris’s How to Hold Your Breath; Molly Davies’s award-winning God Bless the ChildMaidan: Voices from the Uprising; Abi Morgan’s The Mistress Contract; Dennis Kelly’s The Ritual Slaughter of George Mastromas; Ali McDowall’s Talk Show; Nicole Beckwith’s Untitled Matriach Play and The President Has Come to See You by Georgian playwright Lasha Bugadze. Her other work includes the NToS production of Lee Hall’s Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at the National Theatre and on tour; Enquirer, An Appointment with the Wicker Man; 27; The WheelSomersaults (National Theatre of Scotland); The Small Things; Pyrenees; On Blindness; Tiny Dynamite; Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco; Splendour; and Crave (Paines Plough). Vicky was Artistic Director of Paines Plough 1997-2005 and was the founding Artistic Director of The National Theatre of Scotland 2005-2012. She began her career at West Yorkshire Playhouse and in television.

Sarah Fortescue – Head of Distribution, The Space
Sarah specialises in distribution, working within the broadcast and digital sectors. Her previous experience at the international theatre company Cheek by Jowl.  Her projects have featured on the BBC, Channel 4, The Guardian, UpWorthy and Buzzfeed. Since taking on the role of Head of Distribution, Sarah has worked with commissioned organisations to take work into cinemas, worked with broadcast platforms including Sky Arts and the BBC, and has forged new relationships with digital platforms such as Twitter and Google Arts and Culture.

Lyn Gardner is a freelance writer who contributes to the Stage, Stagedoor and many publications. She is the recipient of a UK Theatre Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre, a Total Theatre Significant Contribution Award, a Tonic Award and an Action on Children’s Arts Award.

Fergus Hannigan – Marketing Manager, Abbey Theatre 
Fergus works in the Communications team at Ireland’s national theatre. He has been in the field of Arts Marketing for 15 years and has previously held positions in Mermaid Arts Centre, The Helix, and the National Museum of Ireland.

Caroline Kennedy – Communications & Development Manager, Dublin Dance Festival
Caroline is the Communications & Development Manager of Dublin Dance Festival and worked with the Festival team to launch the DDF Digital Capsule in May 2020 inviting audiences to celebrate dance and dancers in new ways.

Dominic Kennedy – Distribution Associate, The Space
Dominic is a Producer and Distribution specialist with a passion for history, theatre, music and storytelling. He has a keen understanding of platforms and online audiences, and has worked extensively in supporting organisations to create strategically sound digital work, ensuring that the results reach the audiences that they deserve. His work for The Space has included organisations such as Royal Court, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Google Arts and Culture.

Rob Lindsay – Head of Audiences, The Space
Rob is a Digital Producer and Mentor who specialises in helping creative organisations engage meaningfully with new and developing online audiences. Having worked in digital and marketing roles in arts and broadcast for over fifteen years, Rob focuses on audience responses, and how social content has to behave differently to other media. Rob runs The Space’s Strategic Digital Mentoring Programme.

Heather Maitland – Arts Consultant
Heather is an arts consultant, author, trainer and Associate Fellow at the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick. Heather supported the marketing and audience development of over 100 organisations as head of two of the UK’s audience development agencies. Heather has a particular interest in helping small organisations and individual artists across Europe promote themselves including in Ireland since 2004.

Andrea Martin – Solicitor, MediaLawyer Solicitors
Andrea is an Irish qualified solicitor who has practiced exclusively in media law since 1998 and is recognised internationally for her expertise in the area. As a partner in the firm. MediaLawyer Solicitors, she  advises a large number of the leading Irish independent production companies, writers, musicians, publishers and is the “go to” person on all their legal requirements.

Fiona Morris – Creative Director and CEO, The Space
Fiona took up the role of Creative Director and Chief Executive of the Space in January 2016. She is a music and arts producer with over 25 years’ experience, producing and commissioning programmes which have won a variety of awards. She has extensive experience working with cultural institutions in the UK and has provided consultancy services on the arts and the digital world to organisations including Arts Council England, English National Opera and Orchestras Canada. Fiona is currently Chair of The Cornwall Museums Partnership.

Hannah Mullan – Associate Producer, The Civic
Hannah has been Associate Producer for The Civic since 2019 where she curates and manages Ready Steady SHOW!  Originally conceived as a scratch festival showcasing new work for children and young audiences, over the last two years, Ready Steady SHOW! has grown and evolved into a bespoke Commissioning and Artist Development Programme which has a specific focus on creating transformational arts experiences across both a live and a digital platform for young audiences. She has been awarded a bursary from The Arts Council for 2021 to explore artist development initiatives and examine the role of new technologies, including XR, in the making of live and digital work for the YPCE sector.

Neil Murray – Co-Director, Abbey Theatre
Neil is a theatre producer and executive. From 2005 – 2016, he was Executive Producer at the National Theatre of Scotland where he was instrumental in the creation and expansion of NTS from a standing start into a major international touring company. He is Co-Director of the Abbey Theatre and, with Graham McLaren, has led the national theatre in its transition from a ‘live’, to a blended programme which boldly met the challenges of theatre-making during COVID-19, embraced the restrictions placed upon artists during the pandemic, and provided audiences with unique, intimate and elemental experiences.

Sian Ní Mhuirí – Artistic Director, Super Paua
Sian is writer and theatre-maker, who specialises in socially-engaged theatre and performance in community settings. A graduate of Central School of Speech and Drama, London, she founded theatre company Super Paua in 2013. Sian was a committee member for Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland from 2014-2016, and is an experienced facilitator, regularly leading workshops for primary school aged children (Teacher Artist Partnership, NPAS, Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland), young people and youth theatres (The Abbey Theatre Community and Education Department, St Kevins College Crumlin, Complex Youth Theatre, Dublin Youth Theatre) and adult learners (Exchange House Ireland Mens Mental Health Programme / DCU St Patricks College).

Mark O’Brien – Artistic Director & CEO, axis
Mark is Artistic Director and CEO at axis, an arts centre and a resource for the Ballymun community and its city before and throughout this crisis.

Maura O’Keeffe – Independent Performing Arts Producer 
Maura established Once Off Productions (OOP) in 2004 to provide a structured, supportive and creative producing platform for independent performance artists making ambitious, innovative and collaborative work. Working nationally and internationally at all scales OOP is committed to live art and to bringing performance to audiences in both traditional and nontraditional locations.

She works with a wide range of artists and organisations across theatre, dance, opera and music including Judy Hegarty-Lovett & Conor Lovett/Gare St Lazare Ireland, Michael Gallen/Straymaker, Colin Dunne, Medb Lambert & Donal Gallagher/Asylum Productions, Company Philip Connaughton, Ray Scannell, Peter Power, Corcadorca, Manchán Magan, Ruairí Ó Donnabhaín, Tom Lane, Conor Hanratty, Mel Mercier and others.

She has recently partnered with producer Sara Cregan to set up a new creative producing hub in collaboration with Marketing Consultant Annette Nugent and Production Managers Rob Furey & Peter Jordan to extend the remit of Once Off Productions to a wider range of independent artists and to provide consolidated and resourced creative production supports to the independent performing arts sector.

Fergus SheilArtistic Director of Irish National Opera
Fergus was previously artistic director of Opera Theatre Company and Wide Open Opera. He began working in opera as a conductor, working for all major Irish opera companies as well as fulfilling many engagements internationally. Over the past ten years he has produced over 50 operas in over 30 venues throughout Ireland as well as touring work internationally in London, Edinburgh, New York, Amsterdam and Luxembourg. He has worked in co-production with many Irish festivals, theatre and opera companies as well as several international opera houses.

Natalie Woolman – Development Producer, The Space
Natalie is an experienced television producer, former arts journalist and The Space’s development producer. Her TV credits include producing the BBC Proms on TV, ITV history specials and BBC Four performance films. Natalie produces The Space’s performance capture work and runs the development slate, generating ideas and working with artists and cultural organisations to develop projects for broadcast and digital platforms.

With thanks to Michael Barker-Caven and The Space team for generously sharing their resources and expertise with us and to the Arts Council for their funding and ongoing support of Theatre Forum that makes it possible for us to deliver events.

Photo Credit ©Nicolas LB on Unsplash