CAKE: Immersive Web and Audience Engagement

On Thursday 2nd December, Creative Fuse Tees Valley held the first online Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) event, focussed on the theme of the immersive web and audience engagement, an inspiring topic with a varied line-up of speakers who provided their own experiences of using innovative technology to engage their audiences and customers.

Mark Adamson (Creative Fuse Project Director) kick-started the event with a welcome and a brief introduction to the Creative Fuse project as a whole. Mark was followed by Sharon Paterson (Associate Director of Culture and Engagement at MIMA) who shared the exciting news that the second phase of Creative Fuse Tees Valley is now part of the DigitalCity family – an ERDF-funded initiative, managed by Teesside University that supports digital growth and transformation across the Tees Valley.

Our first industry speaker was Owen Weightman, Owner of 3D Virtual Spaces. Owen shared his inspirational journey, from starting as a craft apprenticeship at 16 years old, to 20 years in the semiconductor industry, before having a lightbulb moment and setting up 3D Virtual Spaces in 2018.

He explained how the technology advancements that we’ve seen over the last decade, including faster devices, global connectivity, wireless technologies, social media and AI, edge computing and XR developments, have enabled him to set-up his creative tech business.

3D Virtual Spaces has since worked with businesses in several sectors to create cutting-edge multipurpose 3D models including gyms, schools and even our very own virtual cake for this event, which you can tuck into via the QR code below:

Next up was Nick Williams, Founder of Living Archive Limited. Nick has used the lockdown as an opportunity to reflect on his practice as a professional sound designer and used his past experiences to set up Living Archive.

Having previously owned a performance company, Nick encountered the challenges that came with documenting live events. So, using a basic piece of software, he formed a powerful AI solution that allows organisations to develop archives with digital media content, for audiences to interact, search and experience.

The bootstrapping SME took part in the DigitalCity Accelerator Programme during the first six weeks of launching earlier this year, and has since made fantastic progress. Nick is currently developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and has lots of interesting collaborations in the pipeline – including a South African theatre company – and has welcomed two interns and a developer on-board.

Following Nick was Penny Day, Innovation Specialist at Digital Catapult NE&TV. In addition to a central team based in London, the Digital Catapult has a number of regional centres, including one based here in the North East and Tees Valley, working alongside the immersive lab, PROTO in Gateshead.

PROTO is an R&D space for both non-digital and digital companies to use for ideation, workshops and to gain a better understanding of immersive technologies. Catapult is currently developing a National Innovation Centre for Immersive Technologies which will provide a new incubation space and facilities for digital start-ups in the region.

Artist and Professor at MIMA, Mikhail Karikis, was the penultimate speaker who works collaboratively with different communities across the UK and beyond, specifically communities who are considered to have low or no cultural engagement and have been labelled as outsiders, for example the unemployed or addicts.

‘Some forms of culture may be happening in secluded enclaves, may be overlooked, unheard or discriminated against’

With that in mind and a responsibility as a cultural producer, Mikhail uses his institution to bring funding and resources, to work on a range of community engagement projects. He shared one such fascinating example of his work: ‘Ain’t got no fear’.

This funded project was created in collaboration with 100 teenagers who took part in regular rave events. Over a 10-month period using workshops, technology training and screenings, the cultural practitioner helped the teens to develop and flourish their existing culture, through a video performance and a song they wrote about their lives.

Concluding the fantastic line-up was Charlie Kemp, Culture Manager at Tees Valley Combined Authority. Charlie shared how TVCA has responded to the pandemic to support the Tees Valley’s cultural industries and visitor economy.

Including a £1million pound, sector-specific recovery programme, a great place programme, cultural development and invention innovation grants and the recent news of a £16.5 million pound investment for the creative and visitor economy which will be delivered towards the end of 2021.

To find out more about the Task Force and recovery programme please click here.

Creative Fuse Tees Valley is working closely with TVCA to ensure that the project aligns with the support infrastructure for the creative, cultural and heritage sector in the region.

Sharon Paterson (Associate Director of Culture and Engagement at MIMA) closed the event with the brilliant news that Creative Fuse Tees Valley is now open for business. To find out more please visit:

Between speaker presentations, Creative Fuse Tees Valley Business Development Manager, Wendy Parvin, coordinated breakout rooms for attendees to join and discuss two key questions:

  1. What are the challenges (or perceived issues) to using Immersive Web in relation to audience engagement?
  2. Who can help? How might Creative Fuse help?

The questions sparked interesting conversations within the groups with key challenges including:

  • The fear of losing live audiences, with many events now being experienced in the digital space
  • Digital poverty and education – there needs to be more opportunities for education on immersion and providing people with the digital skills, devices and data required without the high price tag
  • Consideration for technical changes – what happens when small businesses have invested in kit and it goes out of date
  • The importance of delivering tech experiences with the audience and added value in mind. Also making sure audiences have the devices needed to be able to engage with the content

In terms of who can help, the groups highlighted the expertise, facilities, support and funding opportunities provided through Creative Fuse and other projects such as DigitalCity and Digital Catapult.

We would like to say a huge thanks to our speakers, and of course to everyone who came along and made the first online CAKE event such a success. A digital stream of the event will be available to access soon.

For details of the next CAKE event – keep an eye on Twitter and the CAKE webpage.