Learning to be responsive #DigitalLab

Learning to be responsive #DigitalLab


Katy Vanden, Producer, Cap-a-Pie says it's OK to change focus, start small and remain agile as new opportunities arise. Part of her Fellowship at Digital Lab.

Blog 1: Learning to be responsive

My original idea for an experiment to conduct during the Digital Lab seemed simple to me. I’d track where our audiences were coming from as they attended our upcoming online shows ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’.

We especially wanted to find out which promotion partnerships were most effective at generating interest. I chatted with my mentor and we both agreed it seemed like a good experiment for me. My mentor was really helpful in getting me to start putting some concrete steps together. 

However, as ideas seem to do, it grew. I was now going to be running ads on social media, forging partnerships and tracking all of the data on Google Analytics (which I have a very basic grasp of), at the same time as producing a large schools engagement programme and theatre for film production. I realised I might be biting off more than I can handle.  

Last night I attended the first of my peer sessions. One of my peers talked about how they had shelved initial experiment ideas to react to new opportunities that presented themselves. This was a real light bulb moment for me. I thought again about what Cap-a-Pie is doing right now, and what experiments could be shaped around this activity 

We are currently finalising an education pack for schools which features creative activities exploring the history of a cholera outbreak in Gateshead and Newcastle in 1831. We’d originally planned to be in schools delivering this project but with external visits difficult for schools right now we replanned this project for teacher led delivery. Lessons will be supported by some excellent films of actor Adam Donaldson playing John Snow, an 18th century surgeon who was in Newcastle at the time of the outbreak and went on to discover how cholera was spread in 1854. The lessons are fun and creative with space for pupils to make links with their experience of Covid-19 today.  

I realised that maybe this project could hold potential for a similar experiment. We could ask our partners to share the school resources and I could use Google Analytics to track where teacher sign ups come from. This feels a lot more manageable. And I can get started right away. I’m still very committed to doing the other experiment. I’m almost seeing this experiment as training for the bigger experiment next year. It will let me get a handle on Google Analytics and get in the habit of collecting and analysing this data.  

I think my experience of the past week really shows the strength of the Digital Lab experience and how we can all learn from each other as we progress. I’m really looking forward to spending time with rest of my peers and hearing about what they are up to. 

Blog 2: Small steps

These last few weeks have been a bit of an uphill struggle. Any chance of new year energy quickly hit a wall with the announcement of lockdown 3, this time with school closures.  

Prior to the festive break we had been working hard on plans for creating our new show ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’. This show brings to the stage hopes, fears and ideas from children in our community. We are working in partnership with schools to make the show, and although we knew we weren’t going to be allowed into classrooms, we had plans for teachers to deliver creative activities and send children’s ideas and responses back to us.  

Now with most children and teachers not allowed to be together either we had to quickly decide to re-think or postpone the project. We felt like it was a good opportunity to try something new so our Artistic Director worked very hard to create resources for children learning at home as well as those in the classroom. We’re so grateful to the teachers who found time to chat with us around all the other things they had to do. 

Alongside this I had to apply for the upcoming round of the Cultural Recovery Fund. This application took so much time and energy as I tried to get 15 months’ worth of projected finances to add up. 

The numbers of people dying each day is just awful. I’m so angry that we are back to this position.  

This week I managed to take a few steps that felt in the ballpark of what I imagined I might do in Digital Lab. Through this year I feel like I’ve had to be so reactionary it was nice to put some things out, even if this was just a mail out to teachers and doing some grouping in our Mailchimp audience. Massive thanks to the peer support session for inspiring me to do this. Small steps. 

Photo: © Lindsay Duncanson

Katy Vanden,Producer, Cap-a-Pie

Katy Vanden is Producer at theatre company Cap-a-Pie. She enjoys bringing people from different backgrounds together to collaborate in a shared creative process. The company regularly collaborates with school children, scientists, artists, researchers, community groups and others to create theatre that makes you think differently about the world. 

Resource type: Articles | Published: 2021