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Brighton Digital Festival 2014/15: What Our Bid to Arts Council England Said...

The last three years of Brighton Digital Festival (BDF) has seen it expand and mature significantly. It has experienced considerable growth in terms of the number of events, exhibitions and conferences, as well as an impressive increase in those engaging with the festival in various ways. In 2013, over 40,000 people visited over 170 events, a fourfold increase on two years previously. In other ways too, the festival has improved. We have sharpened up our act in terms of marketing, the website and last year, for the first time, we produced a print version of the festival programme.

It’s the hard work and dedication of a huge number of events producers, volunteers and others that is the main reason for this of course. Without that activity, there is no festival. In addition we have benefited from financial support from a number of quarters including Brighton & Hove City Council, American Express and Rap Interiors. But by far the most significant financial contribution over the past 2 festivals has come from Arts Council England. Without them, it is certain that the festival would have had fewer quality events, conferences and exhibitions (it paid for Lighthouse’s festival programme), little management support (it paid for our Festival Manager Tom Bailey and Festival Coordinator Jesse Mooney) and also far less in the way of marketing and PR.

Last week we submitted a bid to the Arts Council for £173,000 to help support the festival through 2014 and 2015. There are the 3 key themes to this bid:

  1. BDF is about the arts and culture engaging, collaborating and meshing with digital technologies (and vice versa).  Our bid used the Brighton Fuse research as an evidence base to support the value of the festival and to propose what is important and unique about what we want to achieve.
  2. BDF is, at heart, about the self-organisation and delivery of events, but we can help those events become better and more sustainable by directing more resources and expertise towards them. More of the funding (if we are successful) will be used in that way.
  3. BDF needs a governance structure which more accurately reflects what it is trying to achieve and help it move towards sustainability. We recognise that this won’t happen if Wired Sussex is the sole management of the festival. Consequently the bid was constructed around a consortium of partners from the local arts and digital sectors and Wired Sussex will devolve its BDF responsibilities to that group. This consortium comprises Lighthouse, Clearleft, Fabrica, Brandwatch, BHCC, Pure360, South East Dance, Phoenix, FuguPR, Brighton Dome, Brighton Museum, MiniMakerFaire, Brilliant Noise and ourselves.

We expect to hear about our bid in May, but won’t be standing still in the meantime. We’ll be organising meet-ups, town halls and, with the community, preparing for another great festival this year. So if you want to participate or just be kept in touch, let us know..

About the author

Phil Jones

Hi, I'm the Managing Director of Wired Sussex, overseeing our strategy as an organisation and work to promote our membership and its needs to local, national and international stakeholders, including government.

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