From London 2012 to Hull 2017, digital specialist David Watson tells us about his career so far.
Head of Digital, Hull UK City of Culture 2017 (from July 2015)
After ten years in London, I moved to Hull to take on this exciting, wide-ranging role – a rare opportunity to bring together all of my skills and experience. I have quite a broad remit but, ultimately, I’m responsible for ensuring digital is at the heart of everything we do.
Hull won UK City of Culture 2017 status in 2013. We’re planning 365 days of events and activity right across the city and beyond – varying in shape, type and size – with something happening every single day,
We’re currently building the ultimate what’s on guide that will not only provide listings, but integrate a city-wide, one-stop box office too. We’re also using digital, technology and innovation to amplify and extend the work being done by our programming team.
One of the things about digital is that it doesn’t just work for one department, it works across all departments. We collaborate, support, and try to offer good advice at the highest level where we can.
Digital Media Manager, English National Ballet (2013 – 2015)
English National Ballet is a real institution. It’s small and lean, but ambitious, and this really was a wonderful career move.
When I joined the company, Tamara Rojo had very recently taken over as Artistic Director. I previously knew of Tamara (and her incredible talent) from my work at the Royal Opera House. The scale of Tamara’s ambition, determination and commitment always spurred me on to take the same approach to my own work.
I worked on broadcast and streaming projects such as Le Corsaire, and collaborated with the BBC to livestream Dust by Akram Khan on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury.
Digital Media Manager, London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies (2011 – 2012)
As with my current role at Hull 2017, this job was time-based. These kinds of project attract some incredible people and you are exposed really quickly to the best of the best, which means you learn so much.
Being part of something this huge was incredible. It came down to colleagues who truly believed in your ability and vision, and provided you with ongoing support to help you realise those ambitions.
I worked on the content production and dual-screen experience for the shows. This meant synchronising an online ‘reveal’ of the shows that people could access digitally whilst the live shows were broadcast on TV. We also offered background footage, so people could find out more as part of their online screen experience.
Another part of my job was to develop an archive of the shows. Over the four ceremonies, we captured 80,000 individual images and 300 hours of footage from rehearsals. These ranged from rehearsals with the Spice Girls in a Dagenham car park, to a top-secret, midnight practice run with the iconic Olympic flame ‘cauldron’ of petals.
The London 2012 ceremonies were the most connected, the most watched and attracted the greatest response, with four billion viewers watching all over the world. The sense of pride from sitting in that control room was very special. I’ll never ever forget that job.
Web Content Manager / User Experience Manager / Digital Designer, Royal Opera House (2008 – 2011)
I was nervous about taking this job. I was joining an organisation that was very prestigious, but I was aware that I wasn’t from an opera background – I was from a ballet and digital background. The challenge for me was to broaden my artform knowledge.
I joined as part of a digital team of just two people, serving 1,000 employees. Through working in a more commercial way – generating revenue – the digital team has now grown to 15 people.
Web Manager, Rambert Dance Company (2007 – 2008)
As a former dancer, I couldn’t have been more excited to join Rambert. I was also quite fortunate that digital wasn’t as engrained in everyday life as it is now. This was an opportunity to develop a career, to listen and to learn how to be a line manager.
My role was to develop a new digital strategy, lead on major digital redevelopment projects and use digital platforms and content to enhance engagement with new and existing audiences.