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Behind the bright lights – our illuminating experiment

This blog was posted by Marge Ainsley on May 27, 2015 as part of the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy. You can find out more about the project here.

LeftCoast is a Creative People and Places project, funded by Arts Council England to increase participation and attendance from those who have previously no, or little engagement with the arts. We’re based in Blackpool and work across the town and neighbouring borough of Wyre.

CJGriffiths Photography

CJGriffiths Photography

Thanks to additional funding from the Coastal Communities Fund, we’re working closely with Blackpool Council team to transform the famous and much-loved Blackpool Illuminations.

Our experiment aims to address two challenges. Firstly, how to data capture visitors during their visit to the Illuminations (taking place outdoors, in the evening, and in often blustery and rainy conditions). And secondly, how to provide a more interactive rather than passive experience for those visiting the lights.

It feels timely. Our work responds to current calls in the sector around creating purposeful, sociable encounters through both the physical environment and digital experience (coined as the ‘phygital’ at recent MuseumNext conference and blogged about by Marge here).

So we’re looking at how we can use play or gamification within various spaces across the Illuminations (particularly the comedy carpet, collection points, and town centre events) to increase participation – whilst simultaneously capturing data. We need to build an email database, but we also need to understand more about the visitor experience (whether that’s satisfaction, motivation or influential communication channels).

Blackpool Illuminations

CJGriffiths Photography

And for us it’s about creating a sustainable user experience legacy through our experiment. This is a great opportunity to pilot creative digital methodologies for data capture and engagement which – if successful – could be formally rolled out for the Illuminations in 2016 (and used for other LeftCoast outdoor projects).

It’s early days for our experiment here at LeftCoast. We’re talking to visitors about our ideas, developing potential solutions with our stakeholders and pitching for additional funding to help us deliver our pilots.

But we’ve already gained a lot from the process. The DMA has given us ‘permission’ to reflect and evolve our ideas based on action learning and research, rather than going at it full throttle and developing something ‘finished’ which may never have come under such scrutiny before its launch. This Agile way of working in short burst iterations (blogged about here for cultural organisations by CogApp) is quite daunting, but also really liberating.

Marge & Duncan, LeftCoast

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