Ships, stars, maps, navigation, pirates, explorers…


In April, we’re running a 3 day technology ideas lab at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, to look at applications for the next phase of The Great Map.

The Great Map is many things: as a social and civic space, a learning and creative space and somewhere to play and run around.

We’ll be taking advantage of the Easter holidays, carrying out some live user testing with our target audience – families – whilst working on the prototypes.

We’re learning about stories and objects from museum: real life pirate maps, paintings by J.M.W Turner and Nelson’s jacket; there are a lot of intriguing artifacts from which we can take inspiration from, and building on all the work and learning that has gone into The Great Map to date.

We’re also tapping into the many knowledgeable people at the museum – curators, learning teams,  front of house staff, interpretation, etc – with whom we’ll be having conversations in order to shape the outcomes.

We’ve recruited a team of inspiring creatives and technologists to take part in the lab : internet of things expert Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, illustrator Abi Hiskey, artist and technologist Ben Eaton from Invisible Flock, software and hardware developer Gareth Foote, map illustrator Gareth Wood, creative technologist Henry Cooke, graphic and interaction designer Helen Maier, interaction designer Joel Gethin Lewis of Hellicar&Lewis, wearable tech and electronics expert Katrin Baumgarten, UX and interaction designer Pollie Barden, creative technologist and curator Melissa Coleman, ex-Tate Kids editor and now Hopster director Sharna Jackson, Raspberry Pi artist-in-residence Rachel Rayns, creative technologist Tom Armitage and Viviane Schwarz, maker of interactive children’s books.

Caper News: All Change

Caper has been changing over the last few months, and I have some big news to announce: I’m leaving in March 2014 to become Planning Director at digital agency Friday.

Caper will carry on going strong without me – focusing on making change happen through developing organisational strategies, designing R&D labs and producing digital prototypes. Katy will be at the helm, working with our team of associates, and you should hire them straight away: they’re some of the smartest people working at the intersection of art and technology. Caper programmes and projects are often copied but, I’m proud to say, rarely bettered. The team will carry on changing the way the UK arts and cultural sectors understand the digital world, and I’m really excited to see what they do.

This comes after three brilliant years of running Caper with Katy (this is what we did in 2013). We’ve achieved a lot in this time – much more than can be documented here. While we can write-up projects such as the influential technology residencies Happenstance, the prototypes we’ve produced for clients such as Radio 3 and the RSC, or the innovation labs we’ve run for Kings’ Cultural Institute or the University of Leeds, we haven’t been able to document all of the meetings we’ve had with funders and policymakers, the strategies and funding bids we’ve written, or all of the talks and workshops we’ve run.

There is much to be proud of with Caper. It’s not just about delivering work with and for clients: it’s also about making stuff happen. It was this spirit that led us to launch Articulate last year, the Lanyrd-supported directory of women speakers. Building on great work by Playful organiser Greg Povey, there are now more than 700 female speakers listed, with specialisms from marine biology to game design. There’s still lots of work to do, but Articulate is a step in the right direction for helping to make industry conferences and events just a little bit less male-dominated.

We’ve also worked hard to create a culture we could be proud of, and as a part of this we’ve tried to abide by these principles:

– Pay people for their time – and pay them a fair rate, on time.

– Be open and collaborative about our findings, and share them with anyone who’s interested.

– Credit things that have gone before us, or that have influenced us.

Staying true to these principles has been one of the most difficult things we’ve done, but it’s allowed us to grow a brilliant team of friends, collaborators and associates.

It’s true that running a small business can be very tough. We didn’t start Caper to be “entrepreneurs” – we did it because no one else was doing the work we wanted to do. Like our friends at Hide&Seek, there are times it has been financially and practically difficult to sustain our activities. Being an SME that also delivers grant-funded work for the Arts Council is incredibly tough to manage, but it’s great that in just three years Caper projects have influenced initiatives such as Lighthouse Studio, British Council’s Culture Shift and Broadway’s exciting Near Now programme.

Lastly, I’d like to thank some of the people I’ve had the chance to work with over the last three years: as well as our great clients, we’ve worked with some brilliant associates and freelancers to deliver projects, including Leila JohnstonJames JefferiesNat BuckleyJames BridleTom ArmitageTim WrightDean VipondLauren Parker, Linda Cockburn, Sophie Sampson and Beckie Darlington.

But enough looking back! Here’s to the future of Caper.

Rachel Coldicutt was a founding director of Caper with Katy Beale, 2011-2014. 

Highlights from 2013 at Caper…

We were very pleased to be selected as one of Artangel’s Open 100 for our Molinology idea, transforming an old windmill in Brixton, the home of pirate radio, into an operational radio transmitter to create a persistent audio artwork.

We were both mentors and mentees: we offered support to creative practitioners through Blast Theory’s mentoring programme and we were part of the Nesta Creative Business Mentor Network, gaining support from Mike Kelly of Northern Alliance, previously finance lead at the UK Film Council.

We successfully pitched the online audience engagement product Concert Club to the Technology Strategy Board and BBC Radio 3, leading to us developing a user-facing prototype.

Concert Club Front Page

TMitchell_130523_5146We continued to develop our prototyping formats with three key lab projects…

We started development of the National Maritime Museum prototyping lab which will run in early 2014.

King’s Cultural Institute invited us to design and produce a creative lab series for academics, arts organisations and technologists, including Coney, Crafts Council, Wellcome Collection, London Review of Books, Fuel Theatre, and the Natural History Museum. Some incredibly innovative prototypes were created including a ‘haptic hand’ that allows gallery visitors to virtually handle 3D sculptures and Inkvisible, a Kinect hack that allows gallery visitors to add “digital graffiti” to gallery walls.

In Cambridge, Hoipolloi, The Junction, Wysing Arts Centre, ADeC, CRASSH and Cambridgeshire County Council took part in the Culture Hack East ideas lab which lead to a number of commissioned prototypes.

We were very happy to hear that one of the teams on the University of Leeds technology lab, which we ran in 2012, was awarded a significant grant to develop their original prototype.

We worked with the University of Cambridge Museums to help them map opportunities for collaboration and digital development.

2nd birthday cake


We celebrated Caper turning two by bringing together all of our favourite people for a party. Hosted at Microsoft’s Shoreditch space, Modern Jago, we asked Leila Johnston, one of our Associates, to curate a ‘Hack Circus’ to entertain the crowds which included Sarah Angliss and her theremin, James Larsson and his pressure controlled Pong game, Alex Deschamps-Sonsino showing off her internet-connected Good Night Lamp, and Leila’s and James Jefferies‘ internet-enabled thermal printers.

We took temporary tattoos, designed by Wes West, to Maker Faire, enabling people to badge themselves physically with skills –  Physical Making, Digital Making and Electronics.

tattoo crop

Caper diagram end of day

Six to Start commissioned us with a Technology Strategy Board innovation voucher, to research opportunities around cultural data for game development.

Rachel provoked debate with an article in Sync about being ambitious and unexpected – and investing properly in digital work and makers. She spoke at Watershed, Women Shift Digital, the Open Data Institute and at an AMA workshop on her paper about being a ‘social organisation’.

Katy was on the judging panel for the British Library Labs, an open call to experiment with their digital collections. She started running a Code Club in her son’s school in Hackney, offering a weekly opportunity for kids to get involved with learning the basics of computer programming using Scratch.

We started working with the British Council Creative Economy team on helping them identify their audiences and to tell their story more effectively.

The Articulate speaker directory went live on Lanyrd, with hundreds of women showcasing their specialisms including service design, architecture, software engineering, entrepreneurship and biomedical science.

Culture Hack launched, not one, but two new resources: an open data repository, showcasing all the open cultural data in the UK in an accessible and informative way; and the toolkit, a guide for producing your own digital prototyping events.

We produced a joyful new website for the Fun Palaces project, Stella Duffy’s new movement of creativity, inspired by Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price who conceived the concept as a ‘laboratory of fun’ and ‘a university of the streets’.

Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 02.00.02

Fun Palaces


And finally, Caper expanded in a slightly different way with two new babies – Rachel’s son Ivor and Katy’s daughter Ada were born.

Many thanks to all the wonderful people who supported the work that we do and made it happen. Special thanks go to our team of  2013 Associates: Sophie Sampson, Beckie Darlington, James Jefferies, Linda Cockburn and Lauren Parker.