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Northern Stage

Northern Stage

Northern Stage wants to seize the opportunities offered by digital technology to inspire new artists and audiences and to reach people in remote locations, from those living in rural villages to people who may be in hospitals or care homes and are unable to get to the theatre.

Theatre company Northern Stage produces everything from large-scale commercial musicals to touring drama. It is particularly engaged in working with economically disadvantaged communities in the North East of England and aims to raise aspirations, enhance educational achievement and promote social cohesion.

Northern Stage wants to seize the opportunities offered by digital technology to inspire new artists and audiences and to reach people in remote locations, from those living in rural villages to people who may be in hospitals or care homes and are unable to get to the theatre.

Because it needed more expertise to embed the latest technology into its productions, the company took part in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Newcastle University, part-funded by Innovate UK. Two research associates, Christina Vasilioui and Katie Oswell, with expert knowledge of human-computer interfaces and digital creative arts practice, worked closely with them for 15 months.

Improving processes

Working closely with the Newcastle University Business School's Professor of Innovation Jonathan Sapsed the associates wanted to identify the possible benefits of new technologies and how they could be integrated. After interviewing people working in functions from direction to wardrobe, they produced a process map that helps the company plan digital elements from the very start of a production. It will also help them to pinpoint any possible friction with traditional stage craft, such as the use of body-worn digital cameras and their implications for the wardrobe department and swift costume changes.

Led by Dr Tom Schofield of Culture Lab, part of the University’s School of Arts and Culture, they also introduced technology to the company’s production of A Christmas Carol. This included digital project management tools, 360-degree behind-the-scenes cameras that created a 3D interactive video, and digital artwork that was animated by members of the audience as they walked past.

Artistic Director Lorne Campbell explains: “For us it is all about finding out what digital technology is out there, how we could be using it in different ways and how we need to change the way we plan our work. And that, interestingly, has been one of the major outcomes to emerge from the KTP – we need to put digital planning, both for how we construct projects and also, perhaps even more critically, how we budget projects, at the very front end of our processes.”

Bringing knowledge

Director of Communications for Northern Stage, Amy Fawdington, adds: “The big thing for us is that we have a desire to increase our digital output but a lack of knowledge about the best way to do that. We have lots of ideas but none of us are technology specialists or really have the sort of know-how we need to do it. I think what the KTP provided was somebody who could provide us with solutions.”

Technology is increasingly important to theatres. Funding organisations such as the Arts Council are seeking greater innovation while programmes such as National Theatre Live, which streams live performances, have shown that it can help to win audiences. Northern Stage is embracing the growing interest in digital techniques and recently joined Newcastle University experts and tech businesses on a visit to Shanghai as part of a collaboration between the UK and China on the use of digital technologies in the creative economy.


This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.


If used must credit: Pamela Raith Photography
Northern Stage production of A Christmas Carol. Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography