Digital Snapshot Q&A | Clare Reddington

Our digital Q&A series continues with Clare Reddington, Creative Director at Watershed, Bristol.

The second of our Q&As with leading arts digital experts features Clare Reddington, Creative Director at Watershed in Bristol.

We caught Clare during a rare free moment in her busy schedule, while in the middle of a traffic jam in Lagos, to bring you her thoughts on digital innovation in the arts.

Q. Tell us a bit about your background and current role

I studied Drama, Media and Cultural studies at Birmingham University and got my first proper job at Cheltenham Arts Festivals in the development department. I moved on to organising the first Cheltenham Science Festival, which I ran for five years - developing a love of working in the spaces between things. I joined Watershed ten years ago on a six-month contract to work with HP Labs on a creative technology R&D project and haven’t left yet. My role as Creative Director means that I am responsible for setting the strategy, culture and business model of the creative programme and leading the Pervasive Media Studio, Engagement and Cinema teams.

Q. What role do digital and innovation play at the Watershed and what value do they bring?

We don’t tend to use the digital word very often any more - but our work often uses creative technology to connect and enable audiences and artists. Our emphasis is on interdisciplinarity, accessibility and open innovation, which means that diversity is a driving force within our work. We believe that to release the true potential of an idea, you must draw from the widest possible pool of collaborators - and particularly work with people unlike yourself (in discipline, cultural background, age and ability).

Our emphasis on curating difference is most obviously manifest in the Pervasive Media Studio which was launched in 2008 - The Studio is a shared creative technology research space which brings together a network of over 200 artists, creative companies, technologists and academics working on emergent ideas, experiences and applications with both cultural and commercial potential. Practically, there is an open programme of commissions, residencies and support (as well as academic research and teaching) designed to support talented people and deliver culturally distinctive work.

Q. What advice do you have for others who want to work in a creative innovative way within their own organisations?

Setting out to be innovative is probably less interesting than fostering curiosity, open-ness and collaboration. What is innovative for your organisation may not be innovative for the sector - but that doesn’t really matter, as long as the question has energy for you. So, be curious - figure out the questions you want to explore (rather than the answers) and reach out to other people working in the area to see if they want to collaborate. Realise that innovation inevitably requires culture change - and be ready and open for that within your organisation. Don’t try to do everything at once and realise that doing things differently needs investment and a healthy appetite for risk. Oh and forget art form boxes, silos and labels. They are not your friend.

Q. What current projects are you working on?

I am writing this from a traffic jam in Lagos - where we are running a 10 day Playable City Lab with UK and Nigerian creatives, in partnership with British Council. We launched Playable City in 2013 to engage creative people and citizens in designing the future city. We currently run an annual international award and a programme of Global Labs, which we have also delivered in Recife, Brazil and Tokyo, Japan. Soon we will also launch an international network, so other cities can join us in being Playable. Being in Lagos is so exciting - the city is vast and bustling and playful - but with real challenges around traffic and mobility.

Q. Finally, books: analogue or digital?

Analogue for me definitely. I am a fiction junky and read to be transported away from a work setting (ie screen). However - there are lots of brilliant projects that don’t use screens but which blend literature and the written word with technology (see Circumstance’s work for instance) to create new kinds of art forms and experiences, I just wouldn’t call them books.

Follow Clare on Twitter: @clarered / @wshed