On collaboration: working together to connect new, young audiences to the Turner Prize 2014

Starting with one of Circuit’s aims – to develop best practice related to young people’s engagements and informal learning with and through art, staff from Tate Digital and Circuit London’s Programming team worked together to devise a project which would involve collaboration on many levels: cross-departmentally, with young people in Tate Collective London and external artists.

Tate Collective London were tasked with commissioning and producing digital content to encourage new, young audiences to see and discuss the Turner Prize 2014 exhibition.

Digi Takeover 007 cLeyla Tahir

Digital takeover meeting © Leyla Tahir

On cross-department collaboration:

When young people were flagged as a priority audience for the Turner Prize 2014 we saw an opportunity to collaborate cross-departmentally (Learning and Digital). This enabled us to combine our expertise (engaging young people both in gallery and online), pool our resources as well as increase our ideas and energy for the project – sounds obvious, but it’s true! This in turn enabled us to make something new, bigger and (we hope) better for our target audience, than if we’d acted alone.

Often (and especially when working for a large-scale institution) we find ourselves working within the boundaries of the organisations’ departments, rather than adopting an audience focused approached.

Challenges included competing departmental and audience priorities, defining appropriate content for the target audience and having the right digital platform to accommodate the content we’d produced. Sometimes this involved learning along the way!

On collaboration with young people:

Integrated into existing ways of working, Tate Collective London’s regular fortnightly sessions were replaced with a ‘Digital Takeover’ in response to the exhibition. Topics included:

  • How digital are you?
  • Identifying our audience
  • Developing your ideas
  • Commissioning inspirational people
  • Creating digital content

Working with Tate Collective London offered fresh perspectives on the Turner Prize 2014 and they came up with innovative ideas relevant to the interests of young people.  This included a short film giving advice to young artists from each of the nominated Turner Prize artists, musician responses to each of the nominated artists’ artworks and an online review competition for young writers.

The Digital Takeover also offered Tate Collective London the opportunity to improve their confidence and competence to deliver digital projects.

“Very valuable for us as Tate Collective [London]. Lots of exciting opportunities to gain new skills”

Tate Collective London member

“More hands on, makes me want to be more engaged with projects, whether it be my own or Tate Collective [London’s]”

Tate Collective London member

The main challenge of working with young people on this project included managing expectations and being flexible with timescales. Involving young people in all decision making processes can be resource heavy in terms of time and staff required for planning, delivery and evaluation. Effectively managing outcomes and prioritising in relation to resources available was crucial. For example, one proposal didn’t go ahead as other elements took precedence.

On collaboration with external artists

Producing or commissioning digital content regularly involves collaboration with external artists. In this instance, Tate Collective London invited 4 musicians they felt were important to young people today to produce a response to each of the nominated Turner Prize 2014 artists. The content produced by these musicians gave new, cross-disciplinary perspectives on the exhibition and (we hope) connected their followers (and our target audience) to the Turner Prize 2014 too.


When you invite someone to reinterpret an artwork through their own medium, there’s an element of uncertainty of what that outcome will be. In order to provide the musicians with as much information about the Turner Prize 2014 as possible, we (staff and Tate Collective London) gave them with a private guided tour of the exhibition, and a brief which outlined what we were asking. This was resource-heavy but undoubtedly worth it.


An interesting question for this project is – how do we measure success and what does it look like? The Digital Takeover provided the perfect opportunity to test out new ways of working and provided new forms of interpretation for our target audience. However, can you quantify success by looking at the number of young people aged 15 – 25 who purchased a Turner Prize 2014 exhibition ticket? Should we make ourselves accountable for footfall? How do we even know if any of the 33,000 plays converted to exhibition visits? Or does simply spreading awareness (digitally) count?

From our perspective success can take on many forms: young people producing digital content, learning new skills and being exposed to Tate as a resource. Also, involving external artists to respond to artwork on display in new and exciting ways which are relevant to young people’s interests. Key successes of this project include cross-departmental teamwork and learning together, providing a platform for young people as digital producers and the wide reach of the digital content produced to impact and influence our target audience to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British, modern and contemporary art in line with Tate’s overarching mission.


Jen Ohlson (Tate Digital) & Laura Turner