2020 and the ongoing effects of the pandemic meant that companies and organisations had to radically rethink their relationships with customers and clients. Nowhere was this more evident than in the field of education where, for a time, schools closed and with them so did opportunities for new experiences, such as school trips. Many parents have suddenly had to teach their children, and scrabble around to create lessons, and interpret the curriculum for their child(ren).
Adapting to online learning during the pandemic has offered organisations the opportunity to create new ways of engaging with their audiences. As most physical events became online-only there was a need to create platforms and content which could keep children and young people engaged. Glasgow Science Centre took this opportunity to connect with people who could not visit their physical sites and festivals by creating their first online festival with the help of Joi Polloi.
‘Curious About Our Planet’ was aimed at celebrating the diversity of the planet and the dangers it currently faces, engaging children with online live events and interactive content, giving them the much needed face-to-face interaction with science experts.
What were your original intentions for starting the festivals and where did the idea come from?
In March 2020, when it became clear that due to the COVID-19 pandemic the science centre would have to close to visitors for an extended period of time, we were faced with the challenge of finding a space where we could engage and stay relevant to and in the minds of our audiences. We were fortunate enough to be able to turn to producing a daily series of short entertaining and educational science videos that we called ‘GSC At Home‘.
These ‘GSC At Home’ videos were presented by our team of science communicators, edited in-house and shared online through our digital channels. We caught the rushing wave for help with home learning and satisfied a near-insatiable demand for things for parents and their children could do at home or outdoors during lockdown. We found ourselves in the amazing position of being able to broadcast GSC directly into the homes of our existing and new audiences across the UK and beyond. The reaction from children, their parents and carers was astounding. Every day our social media channels were full of pictures of at-home science experiments and follow up questions about space, photosynthesis and lava. We’ve had well over 1M views of the 100+ videos that make the series, received fantastic feedback from families, schools, and stakeholders – and even won numerous awards and recognition for the series including ‘Best Video Content Campaign of the Year’ at the UK Content Awards.
We started to realise that if we could do that, then we could evolve and also reach into schools and other community spaces too with high quality experiences that were also reflective of the experience you’d get if you were visiting the science centre in person. Since GSC At Home, we’ve developed GSC Learning Lab – a full suite of immersive education resources that are delivered digitally to schools and have that unique ‘Glasgow Science Centre’ twist to them.
Can you tell us about the success of the first festival?
Like all new things, there’s always some doubt as to whether or not we can actually deliver what we said we’d deliver! But, we really did exceed our expectations with Curious About: Our Planet.
Our incredible team worked hard over several months to bring together the direction and content for the festival. A huge amount of work goes into creating and marketing a festival and this was certainly a learning curve for us taking a festival online. The team at Joi Polloi have been absolutely tremendous at supporting us and helping to shape and deliver the festival through such an immersive digital platform.
We had over 11,000 visits to the Curious About: Our Planet site during our three ‘live’ festival days and more than 17,000 visits overall from when the site launched to the end of the festival period. There were 10 live event Q&A sessions and a live family quiz. The event hosted over 86 pages of content from GSC and 36 partners. Phew!
We’ve popped this down in our records as a success and it’s spurred us on to more, including our latest iteration Curious About: Innovation which has another 3 days of live events running 19 to 21 May.
What do you feel you have learnt from the online festivals?
A lot. We’ve learnt we can do them. It takes a lot of effort and coordination, but just as in the real world, if you invest in online and have the human commitment and passion to deliver then you can. You have to work hard to capture attention amongst the digital noise and then retain that attention with content and a festival community that is relevant and engaging to the audience.
How has the pandemic impacted GSC and has it changed your plans for the future?
The pandemic has really shaken up our approach and awareness of how we tackle ‘digital’ science experiences. We understand better the potential and its limitations. It’s accelerated our learning in this area and there’s no going back now. As we move forward digital has a major part to play in the offer from the science centre, helping us raise our profile, reach existing and new audiences, and inspire people with science and technology.
Joi Polloi have relished the opportunity to put our experience of working in the museum and heritage sector to use by creating an online festival platform which enables audiences of all ages to engage with and feel part of events even though they are not currently taking place in physical spaces. It has enabled us to think about how audiences consume and interact with online content. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you.