What ever happened to the online revolution?
How can reclaim the reach and access we gained by making online and hybrid work, now that we no longer “need” it?

Attendees: Caron, Helen, Frankie, Helen F, Tanya
On Whereby and in person

Some scrappy notes from the session

Starting points:
Post pandemic / audience dynamics / what is the online and hybrid experience?

Caron brings the following word to the space:

propinquity /prə-pĭng′kwĭ-tē/

Proximity; nearness.
Similarity in nature.

She describes it as being a useful way to think about the relationship of bodies in space.

We talk about technologies that allow us to be with each other in some kind of space (whether in person, online or a mix). Caron specifically notes a work they’re involved in that holds an audience in VR, including up to 4 who exist in the theatre space wearing headsets.

Frankie: Technology isn’t the core of the problem. Tech will get better and better, more realistic (?) - notes cheaper holographic hardware is on the way.

Helen: Think about partnerships with technology companies, commercialisation, monetisation.

Jason: At its core hybrid and online is an audience development problem. (This is a point that comes up more than once, what is the responsibility of bringing audience/participants to the stage and where does it lie).

Misc thoughts from the floor:

o Online presence will never erase completely the experience of being in the room
o Capturing something of the presence / energy of live performance
o (again) if the artist asks a venue or festival for a hybrid space the responsibility to make it work always seems to rely on the artist - where is the industry wide support for this?
o How can venues be encouraged / forced through regulatory processes to provide access (whether this is captions, bsl, audio description, hybrid/streamed work to facilitate audiences who have mobility/childcare/neuro to deal with)

Helen F: Theatre doesn’t stage work in such a way that rural audiences, audiences with childcare and/or transportation needs can attend. Few matinees. When your audience can’t be in the space - how can your work be for them?

It’s not a competition between online and in-person. There isn’t or shouldn’t be a single pot that we all fight for.

Jason: I sometimes think that there should be an access budget line across all civic society. Something that theatre would tap into but so would all other public spaces.


We did, as is completely expected in this context, have a bunch of connectivity and other technical issues.

Misc thoughts from the floor:

o How to create and maintain connectivity (venues/spaces)?
o Creation of local networks to share technical and demographic information
o place/venues taking on board need to facilitate infrastructure that individual artists and companies cannot afford or put in place

Helen: Possibility of Corporate Social Responsibility funds (CSR), tech companies want reach and visibility of their products. Sponsorship?

How can the technical and practical application of online/hybrid/access be embedded in artists learning - for example in Drama or Performance schools.
Is there an argument to extend the idea of IT and/or IT related skills (networks, video conferencing, whatever) into the core things that venues provide?

Jason: “A budget is a political document” in which we make choices as to what we spend money on. Access stuff is often the first to be cut out.

Helen F: The responsibility of discovering a local theatre’s audience no longer seems to be with the theatre itself, increasingly it’s put upon the artist to do this work. There is labour involved that is assumed and unpaid.

Where is the venue’s responsibility to both discover their audience and share that information with the artists who are touring into the venue. (This ofc applies to in-person, hybrid, and online shows!) Also runs hand in hand with the audience development problem.

Helen: Often theatre marketing departments are a low paid intern.

Could there be a regional post? A collectively agreed and paid for audience dev/ marketing / data person who’s responsibilities extend to information gathering and dispersal!
Creation of, cultivation of, and maintenance of micro networks

Some of these points should be part of a modular toolset that provides much needed infrastructure, viz:

o Appropriate IT / network / tech literacy for performers and venues wrt: access and streaming/hybrid provision
o Local or regional hubs / funded posts for curating data about audiences specifically for touring artists (whether the work is in-person/hybrid/online)
o Pressure for regulatory and fundraising support to make the above possible

Finally to wrap up, my favourite quote from Saturday:

“I’m not sure I know the way, but I’m happy to walk with you” - Morven Macbeth