I will happily admit to being a social media addict and I have spent many years of my life surrounded by tech geeks that everything in the digital world excites me. It was this obsession that drew me towards applying for a placement with the charity organisation, Manchester Histories, to develop a digital game for their bi-annual festival.
My previous work history as a copywriter and digital content developer allowed me to enter this placement with confidence in my ability to deliver a successful product. It also provided me with the prior knowledge that nothing in the arts and culture world goes to plan and that it would be a battle of will power, creativity and ‘last minute changes’. However, I was working with fellow students, Lorna Hedley and Cat Bogel, and together we formed a super team of brains, creativity and word power. Hindsight suggests we should have come up with a funky company name as we worked almost as a third party company delivering our product for Manchester Histories. We were supported and directed by Claire Turner, CEO of Manchester Histories, who somehow manages to deliver a ten-day festival essentially on her own. She gave us creative reign on how the digital game worked and with a £0 budget we got to work. The brief was to create a game that engaged with a new audience – a younger demographic who would not normally be interested in a histories focused festival – and encourage them to explore Greater Manchester.
And so we created SnapShot – a Twitter-based photography game where participants photographed historic places/people/objects in Greater Manchester and uploaded the photos to Twitter, including an interesting fact and relevant hashtags. Points were awarded for the photographs, facts and use of our very cool SnapShot photo frame. The physical photo frame had two purposes – it served as a unique marketing tool as well providing a way to cross the boundary between physical and digital spaces.
As expected, we faced many challenges throughout the project that altered the development of the idea and the resulting product. SnapShot V1.0 had transformed into SnapShot V9.2 by the time we launched it, five minutes before the Manchester Histories Festival (MHF) launch party. Despite this, over the ten days of the festival we gained over 200 Twitter followers, nine active participants and 468 photograph entries. The final weekend involved a heated battle between the top three players who scoured Manchester hunting down historical facts and interesting stories. I don’t think the Manchester Cathedral and the various mills of Ancoats have ever been photographed so prolifically.
A highlight of the placement was the MHF Celebration Day, held on the second last day of the festival. Lorna, Cat and I exhibited a photographic map of Manchester with entries from the game, plus we wandered through the Town Hall speaking to people and taking their photographs through an enlarged version of our SnapShot frame. The interest level and active engagement of people was high and we even met the Mayor and Maxine Peake! Some of the SnapShot participants visited us at the Town Hall and provided us with positive feedback saying how much they learnt about Greater Manchester as they explored their city.
For me, this placement was a challenging and often frustrating experience, however, thanks to some positive thought and Claire Turner’s excellent advice of, ‘It is better to work to deliver something than to give up trying’ and we finally created a product that I was proud to launch.
I have grown a huge appreciation for small charity organisations that produce events such as MHF and I am honoured to have worked with some truly dedicated people whose commitment to their work is inspirational. I hope the photographs taken by the SnapShot participants will provide a building block for future Manchester Histories projects and that SnapShot will go down in hashtag history. #MHF2016 @MHFSnapShot