First Art: Festival of Brass Live Web Stream

First Art is an Arts Council England Creative People and Places project, delivering great art for everyone in Ashfield, Bolsover, Mansfield and North-East Derbyshire. 

Case study: Festival of Brass live web stream

A 10-hour live broadcast of a locally significant music festival. The Bolsover Festival of Brass is the biggest Brass Band one-day competition in the UK and is a ‘hidden gem’ of our area. The festival is of international significance and through First Art we are broadcasting the festival to an international audience for the first time. This live web stream will launch the First Art ‘Broadcast’ section of the website.


To promote and develop a new arts audience for a local festival that is of international significance. 


The online event will meet the following objectives in line with the First Art Business Plan (Section 3):

·      Making it easier to enjoy art experiences (3.3 Obj. 2)
·      Help people to know more about the artistic and cultural treasures around them (Section 2.4.3)

·      Strengthen existing arts groups and festivals, helping them to raise their ambitions (2.4.3)

·      Encourage local pride as those who live there see what the area has and can do (2.4.3)

Background & Delivery:

·      Bolsover District Council organise one of the leading Brass Band entertainment festivals in the UK. What started life as an entertainment contest as a one section competition has over the last decade become a 6-section festival of music with around 40 bands and 2,000 musicians taking part. The 2015 Festival of Brass will be staged at Heritage High School in Clowne on Sunday 4th October and will include between 40 – 42 bands.

·      First Art have been in discussion with BDC about opening up the festival to a wider audience through a live web stream of the festival and competition. This would fit within the aim of First Art to ‘make it easier to enjoy art experiences locally and regionally’ and fits within the ‘Portrait’ artistic theme of building up a sense of place and identity for the First Art area.

·      The aim is for the live web stream to launch a section of the First Art website dedicated to streaming live arts performances or pre-recorded webcasts / podcasts to audiences in the First Art area (and internationally). This First Art ‘Broadcast / Arts Channel’ will be integral to ensuring that we achieve our aim of offering great art experiences to everyone in Ashfield, Bolsover, Mansfield and NE Derbyshire.

·      The web stream will be a useful tool to promote the Bolsover Stories Festival, which takes place two weeks after.

·      First Art have been in contact with two professional broadcasting companies and have chosen to commission ‘Micro Video’ as the broadcasting and web streaming solution.

Fringe Activities:

A number of fringe activities to promote the broadcast and develop new audiences have been discussed. A meeting with Elsa McPherson from ‘Dronfield Together’ has resulted in a commitment to screen the festival in all of their care homes in North East Derbyshire. Other potential ‘group screenings’ are being discussed.  

An animation telling the story of First Art will be commissioned to use as a rolling First Art ident within the broadcast and for general use on the First Art website and in presentations.


As well as audience targets, the outputs for First Art are:

·      A new web streaming platform (arts / broadcast channel) developed for First Art website.

·      An all day (10 hour) live web stream of a significant local festival.

·      To open up a major local festival to a potential audience of thousands through the website (the web stream will be marketed locally to drive up audience numbers and membership of the First Art programme).

·      To significantly develop our membership base and First Art audience through online audience members having to register to watch the broadcast.

·      A launch event for significant First Art strand of delivery (‘First Art Broadcast” Arts Channel)

·      To promote First Art to all Brass Band members of the competition.

·      To develop the website functionality and capacity to live web stream future events.

·      A significant co-commission with Bolsover District Council that has the potential for sustainable delivery after the First Art programme has finished.


The live web stream was a great success; we filmed the championship stage of the competition, which featured 20 bands. We felt that quality was key so we ensured the broadcast was in HD quality with particular attention paid to the sound mix. The format was a 20 min band performance followed by a 10 minute panel discussion. The panel discussion was brilliantly anchored by Iwan Fox (Editor of '4barsrest' - the national Brass Band website) who interviewed members of the bands along with judges and band experts.

The stream went live at 9:45 on Sunday 4th October and the company we hired to film the broadcast (who have been streaming various events including national folk festivals for 10 years) told us to expect low audiences for the first time. Expect 'low hundreds' rather than 'thousands' we were told. We embedded the media player in our website and set up a registration page because we felt it was important to get an accurate picture of our audience and control the output of the broadcast. We also spoke with a local care home provider who agreed to screen the festival in all of their care homes in North East Derbyshire.  

Once we went live news of the broadcast spread fast and our audience far exceeded our expectations. We had 2,830 individual users watching from 33 countries! We also had 287 UK towns and cities tune in. Our audience peaked at around 6:00pm when we had just over 700 simultaneous streams, however between 11:00am and 8:00pm we never went below 400 viewers. Astonishingly the average time a user spent watching the broadcast was 32 mins 57 seconds!

Social media really took off with tweets from Darren Henley and Ed Vaizey pushing it out there, prompting the new CEO of Bolsover District Council to pay us an unplanned visit when he saw the media attention it was getting!

We had excellent feedback from local people and further afield (including a family in Jakarta!) and there was a real 'feel good' factor around the event and broadcast. This was particularly pleasing as the week had started with the news story that 'Bolsover was the least happy place in the UK' according to the Office for National Statistics. We hope this event did a little to readdress this claim!

Our aim was to promote and develop a new arts audience for a local festival which we felt had international significance. There is a preconception that nothing ever happens here and we wanted to put Bolsover on the map. Through the live web streaming we feel that we are starting to address this and we are now looking at how to develop the 'broadcast' strand of our delivery further. I'll finish with a quote from the Deputy Leader of Bolsover District Council who said "...the collaboration between Bolsover District Council and the First Art project has resulted in the ground breaking move to live webcast the event all over the world, in doing so bringing in a much wider audience and placing Bolsover District on the worldwide map - a truly excellent achievement." 

Why the contribution is important

Many places in the First Art area have little or no arts infrastructure and we have tested other, innovative ways to make high quality art available and accessible, including taking a proactive and pioneering approach to Digital Engagement.

We see digital engagement as having great potential to connect communities in our geographically dispersed area, not least as a tool that could prove extremely effective in overcoming the traditional transport and cost barriers to attendance, and in reaching isolated or homebound audiences.  After successfully piloting a live stream of the Bolsover Festival of Brass in Year 1 of First Art, we are continuing to develop live and online digital engagement in new and creative ways to reach wider audiences.

In Year 2 of Festival of Brass (2016), our broadcast reached 17,100 viewers in:

·       217 Towns and Cities in the UK, with the top hits in London, Sheffield & Nottingham

·       20 Countries including: The Netherlands, USA, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Singapore, Spain and Portugal

We are beginning to successfully blend live and online digital engagement. Mindful that, in Year 1 of the Festival of Brass, the majority of viewers were from outside the area, in Year 2, we developed a ‘fringe festival’ with local screenings and social gatherings linked to the web stream in social centres, pubs and care homes, with the aim of increasing audiences in our own area. This was very successful and something we aim to build on in the future.

As part of connecting our wide geographical area through a unified and cohesive community representative body, in Phase 2 we will further experiment with digital technologies, not only as a way of giving access to high quality performance where transport or disability is an issue, but also as a way of developing community consultation and community choice. Drawing on the research of Ben Walmsley from Leeds University (“From arts marketing to audience enrichment: How digital engagement can deepen and democratize artistic exchanges with audiences, 2016”) we will test digital approaches (see above) to see if the 4 community panels can be brought together online to ‘commission, interact and reflect’ upon the work programmed through First Art.

The First Art Online Community: to underpin local connectivity and strengthen ‘community voice’, we will consolidate the digital and on-line initiatives developed in Phase 1, to build an Online Community of local bloggers, ‘journalists’ and story gatherers / tellers; First Art audiences and participants will be supported to become a vocal community, connected through media, broadcast, publishing and our live streams and fringe events. This will grow the platform for people to connect up - around artform and other thematic interests; for community research and debate, and for further ‘mass participation’ initiatives such as the Phase 1 ‘People’s Portrait’, ‘People’s Poetry’ and ‘Fringe’ festival activity.

Digital development: as well as extending our digital offer to incorporate on-line engagement and models of community decision making, we will also explore new artistic approaches to digital delivery. We are particularly interested in how digital can be interactive and engaging rather than just a passive audience encounter (such as through a live web stream). We will commission an internationally recognised digital artist to develop a piece that challenges audiences to become participants and consumers of art both locally and regionally through a digital platform. We will also continue to live web stream events to engage wider audiences, and will experiment more with different art forms and developing ‘fringe’ activities that support the online event.

Paul Steele 
Managing Director (Creative Director of First Art)

First Art is part of the Creative People and Places programme, initiated and funded by Arts Council England through the National Lottery. Creative People and Places is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in art experiences in the places where they live. There are 21 independent projects, each located in an area where people have traditionally had fewer opportunities to get involved with the arts. Creative People and Places projects have reached over 1.45 million people, 91% of who do not regularly engage in the arts.


by CreativePeopleandPlaces on August 01, 2017 at 11:28AM

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  • Posted by willpsaunders August 09, 2017 at 16:17

    This is a fascinating story. I'd be keen to understand where you are now in your development of ideas? And just as interestingly who you think you might want to reach audience wise? It sounds like the streaming of Brass Bands is going to be popular if you can get enough people locally to know about it - how successful were the streams into Pubs and Care Homes? And how are you imagining you might want to scale this up going forward? Good luck with all your next projects
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