Arts programming across digital media platforms will be launched to coincide with the London 2012 Festival

Details of £3.5m of grants for digital innovation have been unveiled by Arts Council England (ACE): 53 successful applicants have been awarded in-principle grants worth up to £185,000 to create original commissions for The Space, a new experimental service developed through a partnership between ACE and the BBC that will give organisations the chance to experiment and engage with audiences in a digital environment. The Space will make content available across four digital media platforms – PCs, Smartphones, Tablets and Connected TVs – and will also be available as a red button, video on demand service via Freeview HD. The service will run from May until October this year to coincide with the London 2012 Festival, the wider Cultural Olympiad and the Diamond Jubilee, and to mark the year of digital switchover.

Fewer than five percent of ACE’s funded clients currently create high quality digital content for a variety of platforms and The Space project aims to build the digital skills and capability of the cultural sector, supported by the BBC which is developing the technological solutions and providing mentoring, production, training and skills development. Almost 750 expressions of interest were submitted for a place in The Space, including ACE funded organisations, national museums and other cultural organisations. The diverse arts programming will include the Globe to Globe Festival, with all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed by 37 different international theatre companies at the Globe Theatre; Birmingham Opera Company performing Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet; and Tom Morris, Director of War Horse and Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic, presenting an interactive way of replicating the experience of watching live performance using techniques developed by the BBC Natural History Unit. The John Peel Centre for the Creative Arts will create an interactive online museum of DJ John Peel’s personal record collection, recreating his home studio with his personal notes, home movies, contributors’ stories and filmed interviews with family and musicians he brought to the airwaves; and Faber & Faber will present ’60 Years in 60 Poems’, using BBC and Arts Council archives to explore the past through the prism of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Jubilee Lines’ anthology.

Addressing cultural professionals at the announcement of the grants, ACE Chief Executive Alan Davey said: “Our 2008 research showed that only 4 per cent of our funded organisations produce art in a digital form. We want to significantly increase this number, to capture a snapshot of the hundreds of excellent artistic performances happening every week, all across the country, and share them with much broader audiences… We see this as just the start, not the totality, of our commitment to digital.”