Smart tech specialist Sauce is helping reinvent Hull’s biggest arts festival as an interactive, year-round digital experience.
Freedom Festival will not go ahead in its normal format this year after large public gatherings were banned because of Covid-19.
Established in 2007, Freedom Festival has developed a reputation as one of the UK’s leading and most innovative cultural and arts events. It celebrates Hull’s independent spirit through artistic and cultural expression, bringing renowned national and international artists to the city while also providing significant opportunities for local and regional talent.
The festival attracts tens of thousands of people to a huge range of artistic performances, with events focused on the first weekend in September each year.
This year it has been announced the festival will be delivered online, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will feature a unique programme of events broadcast digitally via an app developed by Sauce.
The award-winning business, based at Hull’s Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI) tech hub, had already been working on an app to complement the traditional festival, which was to include key information such as dates, times, locations and descriptions of events and performances for people to attend.
Following lockdown, the focus quickly changed to developing a platform through which audiences could digitally access events and performances.
With its flexible, “agile” method of working, Sauce was able to swiftly adapt and deliver an app that will be used to host interactive performances not just over the festival weekend, but throughout the year. It will also be used to enhance audience engagement to inform and influence future festivals.
While it’s not intended to replace the usual showpiece – with the Freedom Festival Arts Trust hopeful it will take place again in 2021 – the new digital experience will bring arts and culture directly into people’s homes all year round.
Jim Wardlaw, chief of product and design at Sauce, said: “The Freedom Festival team were already looking to develop an app to improve the overall experience and enable the festival to be more interactive.
“The project changed pretty rapidly as soon as we went into lockdown because everyone realised we had to plan for a very different festival.
“We redeveloped the app to be able to host performances and, working in partnership with Freedom, we were also able to provide consultation about the best ways to stream different types of events and performances.
“Freedom Festival will now be able to reach audiences via the app throughout the year, not just over one weekend. It will also allow Freedom to engage more with audiences in the long term. They’ll be able to use push notifications to get feedback and gauge opinion, which they’ll then be able to act on.”
Users will be able to view live streams and videos of recorded performances, as well as take part in contribute to interactive podcasts and talks.
The app includes details about the full programme of events, allows users to plan their own experience by registering for performances, and features all the latest news and information about the festival.
Mikey Martins, artistic director and joint chief executive of the Freedom Festival Arts Trust, said: “It’s been brilliant working with Sauce because it’s been a creative collaboration.
“We needed an app that would be informative and have all the right times, dates and details, but it also needed to reflect what we are – intuitive, flexible and creative. That’s exactly what Sauce are too, so it has been a perfect partnership.
“The app will be a brilliant product for us to use over the festival weekend but it will also become a platform through which we can deliver performances throughout the year. We’ll be able to stage something whenever we feel it’s appropriate and we’ll be able to communicate with our audience any time we wish to.
“It is a real positive to have come out of this whole situation and, longer term, will prove to be a huge benefit for us.”
The digital Freedom Festival 2020, branded as “Freedom at Home”, will take place from Friday, September 4 to Sunday, September 6. Using the app developed by Sauce, audiences will be able to access “intimate and thought-provoking” performances featuring international talent, as well as local acts.
The app is available to download from the App Store for iOS and Android users.
Sauce has established a reputation for enabling businesses and other organisations to achieve their objectives through technology solutions. The team works as co-collaborators with is clients, becoming their long-term digital partner.
Its clients include Nestlé, Siemens Gamesa, RB, Rix and Ideal Boilers.