An exhibit from Electric Medway Festival 2021. Photo Credit - Rickard Österlund

Hearts for the Arts 2022 Shortlist – Electric Medway

Medway Council's Electric Medway has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2022 Hearts for the Arts Awards

Following a successful debut in 2020, Electric Medway festival returned in August 2021 produced by SparkedEcho – a Community Interest Company (CIC) championing art and tech in Medway – with advisory support from Medway Council’s arts team and Creative Estuary’s co-commissioning team, and in collaboration with over 30 community partners.

This year’s Electric Medway presented an ambitious 10-day programme of digital art in libraries, galleries, heritage sites, cafes and online. The festival’s total of 64 artworks and activities – including virtual reality, streamed events, animation, projection and sound – were enjoyed by audiences of over 14,000.

This year’s creative focus was ‘Synchronised,’ a response to themes coming out of the pandemic. Artists were invited to create digital works that responded to ideas around:

  • Repeated rituals – pattern, routine and reprogrammed behaviour
  • Collective action – shared recovery and civic duty
  • Disrupted reality – truth-telling and awakening to injustice.

Of the 64 works: 26 featured commissioned new artworks and 17 featured new participatory events including 5 VR sessions and 5 online discussions.

In total, 105 artists were involved in the festival, some as part of creative organisations or collectives. Most were from Medway and North Kent. Five of these were international collaborations from the USA, Russia, Brazil and Canada.

Medway is currently experiencing high unemployment rates in young people aged 18-30 – particularly in creative industries. There is a risk of lost talent in the area if opportunities do not exist to develop skills, networks and portfolios. This issue affects graduates, and is even more acute for non-graduates, of which Medway has an above average number. For all the young participants of the festival, being involved in Electric Medway offers them an insight into how a digital event is run, boosts confidence, allows them to put their studies into practice, and gives them a ‘foot in the door.’ The festival involved 28 different local young people aged 18-30, specifically supporting them to progress to other job or education opportunities post-pandemic.

What the judges said:

“This is clearly a very well organised event. The breadth and engagement is impressive, as are the real impacts on the young people involved. This is a necessary project enabling actual change to the lives of those creatives involved, all while fostering community pride. Congratulations on a successful year, and I hope it happens again in 2022.”

 “What an exciting project! Electric Medway has it all, a broad range of partners, a community focus with a big impact, innovative use of new technologies and a lot of enthusiasm!”