DREEm: (Digital, Regeneration and Experience Economy modelling) is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Covid-19 Rapid Response initiative. The project seeks to reconceptualise consumer value and business resilience in the UK’s creative and visitor sectors and their value chain (from VFX companies, theatres and museums to festivals, catering and accommodation providers), collectively referred to as the ‘experience economy’.
One component of our work is a ‘live compendium’, which gathers material related to the post-Covid, experience economy landscape. The compendium focuses on the creative and visitor sectors, including a range of relevant sub-sectors; it is targeted to practitioners within trade associations, policy organisations, NGOs and businesses across the experience economy. Each month, we will share a bulletin, which briefly discusses some of the most interesting events and insight across the sector, with respect to digital adaptation and resilience. At the end of each bulletin, we include a summary of upcoming funding opportunities, which might be relevant to your organisation.
We hope you find the information useful. Please get in touch with your feedback and insights on any of the elements, herein.
James Harvey, Project Manager, DREEm: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DREEm: will provide updates on the latest developments in Visitor, Performance, Digital and Networks. Follow the links below to find out what’s been happening across the experience economy over the past month.
Cultured Communities, Hyper-local Governance and New Experiences
Arts and culture have always played an important role for place-making and will be crucial for boosting socio-economic recovery post-COVID-19. Councils are the largest overall funder of arts and culture in England, but they have made significant cuts on arts and culture provision, having negative impacts on every region, especially in villages and small towns. Furthermore, funding from support organisations (such as Arts Council England and National Lottery) have not been equally distributed across the country, contributing to the fragility of the sector, which has been enhanced by the pandemic.
With this in mind, the policy report “Cultured Communities” (Cooper, 2020) makes recommendations for central government to devolve responsibility for arts and culture grants to local governments, providing them with funding settlement schemes, placing arts and culture at the heart of currently empty high street premises to regenerate these places, and ensuring that arts and culture contribute to achieving better outcomes in different public services.
Despite these challenges, an increasing number of organisations are expanding their role in supporting businesses (compiling Covid-related resources for small businesses, redirecting existing funding streams, creating new resources for relief). Love (2020) discusses a few such examples from the USA, including The Enterprise Centre’s digital inclusion programme, which expands Wi-Fi and technology access for residents. Overall, this highlights the role of hyperlocal governance organisations as first responders during the crisis and beyond, strengthening existing collaborations and building new partnerships to support recovery, as well as investing in transformative place-making strategies.
The pandemic has also contributed to changing audiences’ behaviours, opening new types of experiences and disrupting the notion of place. For instance, the travel industry has recently recreated the onboard experience without travelling, and with social distancing measures in place. According to Topham (2020), customers have paid £360 per head to eat a standard Singapore Airlines menu and watch a movie on a stationary A380 superjumbo. Surprisingly, tickets for this experience were sold out in less than half an hour. This initiative is also a sign of customer loyalty; people were willing to pay £501 for accessing the airline’s first-class dining experience at home. Moreover, the Australian carrier Qantas recently sold out a “sightseeing trip” on a plane that flew around the country from Sydney and back. Such “flights to nowhere” have proved particularly popular across Asia and have contributed to raising the revenues of airlines, which have collectively lots tens of billions during the pandemic.
 Cooper, B. (Ed.) (2020). ‘Cultured Communities’. Fabian Society. (Online) Available: https://fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Fabians-Cultured-Communities-Report-D4-1.pdf (Accessed: 27 October 2020).
 Love, H. (2020). ‘Transformative Placemaking Amid COVID-19: Early Stories from the Field’. Brookings. (Online) Available: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/04/07/how-hyperlocal-organizations-are-pivoting-to-help-their-communities-through-covid-19/ (Accessed: 28 October 2020).
 Topham, G. (2020). Cabin Fever: Tickets for Meal Onboard Singapore Parked Plane Sell Out. The Guardian. (Online) Available: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/12/cabin-fever-tickets-for-meal-aboard-singapore-parked-plane-sell-out?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Email (Accessed: 28 October 2020).
Image: ‘Flights to nowhere’, Qantas.
Driving consumer spending
Over the past decade, consumers’ priorities have shifted, with a new generation of young adults placing greater importance than before on experiences. Research has shown that 69% of consumers regard experiences as more important than material possessions. Whilst 66% of consumers love trying new experiences, this rises to 74% of 16-24yrs (Mintel, ‘The impact of Covid-19 on out-of-home leisure’, June 2020).
Over the next decade, participatory experiences have been identified as one of 7 key factors that will drive consumer spending decisions, alongside wellbeing, technology, rights, identity, surroundings and concepts of value. In addition, life-stage and generational boundaries are shifting, with ‘childishness’ and ‘playfulness’ becoming key to relaxing and escaping, with cycles of nostalgia shortening, as consumers reflect on the not-so-distant, pre-Covid, past. (Mintel Consumer Trends 2030).
In alignment with this shift in consumer behavior, and with construction planned to commence in 2021, Stratford’s new 21,500 seat performance venue, MSG Sphere, hopes to define the next generation of immersive experiences. The venue’s interior will house the world’s largest LED screen combined with haptic technology (kinaesthetic communication or 3D touch) to enhance the audience experience, and the 4 acre outer digital screen wrapped around the venue will have the capacity to relay the live performance externally.
To be constructed on the former coach carpark for London’s 2012 Olympic Games, the ambitious MSG Sphere project will occupy an almost five-acre site, managed by the London Legacy Development Corporation, and is estimated to generate 4300 jobs during construction and 1000 jobs once in full operation. Established in 2012, the LLDC’s mission is to use the opportunity of the London 2012 Games and the creation of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to change the lives of people in east London and drive growth and investment in London and the UK, by developing an inspiring and innovative place where people want – and can afford – to live, work and visit.
VR murder-mystery, gaming gigs, city painting
Originally presented as a live theatre performance in 2012, the digital reboot of the operatic stage show, Miranda (a co-production by Tri-Cities Opera, LUMA Projection Arts Festival, Enhance VR and Opera Omaha) transported its audience into a 25-minute VR murder-mystery experience for a run of nine free time-gated shows back in September. All artist performances were motion-captured and mapped onto virtual in-game characters for an on-rails experience that delivered surprising visual fidelity and graphical quality for an activation of this nature. Whilst some questioned the value of the watch-along YouTube live stream and the producers undoubtedly missed a trick by not porting the content to the vastly more accessible Oculus Quest, the overall experience points in an interesting direction for possible extension of theatrical productions into the virtual space.
Partnering with games developer Ubisoft Toronto, Stormzy has released a music video entirely rendered within the game engine of the new multi-platform video game, Watch Dogs: Legion. The track (‘Rainfall’ feat. Tiana Major9) comes from the artist’s December 2019 album ‘Heavy is the Head’ and (alongside Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert, earlier this year) points to a new hybrid model for musicians releasing music around or within huge international video game IPs. At the same time, it offers an interesting vision for the emerging field of virtual production, with video game assets serving multiple consumer touchpoints across a range of content and marketing activations.
In a much-needed show of viability and creativity, Snapchat has launched a “persistent, shareable augmented reality experience on London’s Carnaby Street…a proof of concept for a 1:1 digital copy of everything on the planet”, reports Wired. Developed under the Local Lenses moniker, ‘City Painter’ empowers the public to undertake acts of collaborative virtual creativity and graffiti, using augmented reality on mobile devices to overlay visual effects, illustrations and animations onto the store frontage up and down Carnaby Street. The activation was led by Snap’s London engineering team and offers an interesting glimpse into how future digital city overlays might gain traction on a mass scale, ahead of rolling out 5G-enabled augmented reality transport data, retail experiences and wellness monitoring. Given the high street downturn across the country, this may be one route to getting consumers back in-store and slowing the contraction of physical retail.
 ‘Miranda: A Steam Punk VR Experience’. Luma Festival. (Online). Available: https://lumafestival.com/feature/steampunk/ (Accessed 2 November 2020); Phillips, M. (2020) ‘Miranda Poses a Musical Mystery in Virtual Reality’. The New York Times. (Online) Available: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/29/theater/review-miranda-virtual-reality.html (Accessed 28 October 2020).
 ‘STORMZY – RAINFALL (FEAT. TIANA MAJOR9)’. Youtube. (Online). Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szrDcTGvp7o&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=Stormzy (Accessed 2 November 2020).
 Bedingfield, W. (2020) ‘Snapchat has turned London into an augmented reality experiment’. Wired. (Online) Available: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/snapchat-launches-local-lenses (Accessed 29 October 2020); Introducing Local Lenses | Snap Partner Summit 2020. Youtube (Online) Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jA1RM5_WMc&feature=emb_title&ab_channel=Snapchat (Accessed 2 November 2020).
Image: Stormzy on set, Ubisoft.
Collaboration towards regeneration
One of the few findings to have emerged since the pandemic is the necessity of collaboration – emblematic of wider social and economic interdependencies. This comes in many forms within the experience economy: from SME reliance on government support to initiatives within the sector. One such initiative which has been underway since long before the pandemic is the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Creative Industries Clusters Programme’. Funded by the UKRI’s Industrial Strategy, the programme includes nine research and development collaborations across UK universities. DREEm’s home institution, University of the Arts London, is host to one such partnership (BFTT: Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology); DREEm partners, Clwstwr, XR Stories and InGAME, also derive from the programme.
Bristol + Bath Creative R+D – the cluster partnership between University of the West of England, University of Bristol, Bath University and Bath Spa University – is working with creative businesses ‘to produce innovation and intensify productivity in an area where there is a substantial creative and freelance workforce’. Their website hosts a wealth of insight, including articles on community engagement, accessibility and inclusion, as well as podcasts (such as Roseanna Dias’s on digital care and support) and links to toolkits (such as Paul Clarke’s, ‘Future Places Toolkit’).
Perhaps the more pressing issue for creative SMEs at present is regaining financial security. The world-renowned, Edinburgh Fringe, migrated nearly 300 shows online over the summer and ran a series of digital workshops (‘Fringe in Communities’), which allowed young people to work with a Fringe artist. Fringe’s major success story is their dedicated crowdfunding site, FringeMakers. With the support of partners, AJ Bell, they have managed to raise a stunning £250,000, which Chief Executive, Shona McCarthy states, will ‘make sure creatives get the support they need to continue’.
 ‘The Creative Industries Clusters Programme’. AHRC. https://ahrc.ukri.org/innovation/creative-economy-research/the-creative-industries-clusters-programme/
 Dias, R. (2020) ‘Spaces of Care in Digital Placemaking’. Bristol + Bath Creative R+D. (Online). Available: https://bristolbathcreative.org/article/spaces-of-care-in-digital-placemaking (Accessed 3 November 2020).
 Clarke, P. (2020) ‘Digital Tools for Imagining Future Places’. Bristol + Bath Creative R+D. (Online). Available: https://bristolbathcreative.org/article/digital-tools-for-imagining-future-places (Accessed 3 November 2020).
 ‘Fringe 2020 draws to a close with almost 300 shows online and £250,000 raised for artists and venues’. Edinburgh Fringe. (Online). https://www.edfringe.com/learn/news-and-events/fringe-2020-draws-to-a-close-with-almost-300-shows-online-and-ps250-000-raised-for-artists-and-venues (Accessed 3 November 2020).
Image: ‘Creativity Matters’, Creative Scotland website