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25 July 2014
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The Ideal Digital Storytelling Venue

If you're running a digital storytelling or video workshop, you'll need a suitable venue. Here's how to choose one.

The Ideal Digital Storytelling Venue by Karen Lewis and Gareth Morlais

Look for a venue with disabled access to all rooms, including toilets and eating-places. There also needs to be reasonable access and parking for the van if your project is one that tours. Ideally, parking close by for people driving to the workshop. If this is not possible, let people know how to get to the nearest car park. The venue should be accessible by public transport.

It's useful to have three spaces available during the workshop:

1. Main Room
This is where the digital stories will be made. Best if it's lockable and alarmed if equipment will be left overnight. There needs to be enough space, tables and chairs to accommodate all the equipment and people. Power points along two sides of the room makes safe rigging easier. It's good if it has natural light and ventilation and can be made dark enough for images from the data projector to have impact. E.g. some kind of blinds or curtains for blackout.

If you're running a workshop - as opposed to one-to-one - set the furniture out classroom style, in rows, facing the screen. Allow space for the data projector to show from the back of the room. There also needs to be enough space in the room to accommodate additional equipment (scanners, printer, camera chargers, etc.) and to allow trainers to move comfortably between storytellers.

On different days, this main room may also be used for briefings, image capture and script sessions. On the storycircle day, up to 14 seats arranged around a big table seems to work well.

2. Sound-recording room
This room needs to be very quiet indeed. Switch off any noisy lights, air conditioning, fans, clocks, computers, etc. The fewer echoes in the room the better; clutter is good. This room needs to be available throughout the production workshop. It can be small - just big enough to accommodate three people, recording equipment and microphone. There needs to be power points.

3. Break-out space
People will be working intensively together, maybe over a longish period. This can become quite claustrophobic if there are no break-out spaces available. This could just be a cafeteria, a foyer with seats or even an outside sitting area. It just needs to be somewhere for people to wander to if they need a break.

Draw up a fresh risk assessment for each project.

Venue Checklist:

1. The Recce
Nearby parking and public transport
Accessibility for wheelchairs with no trip hazards
Two large-enough rooms:

* main one undisturbed all day and able to be blacked out with sufficient chairs and tables

* audio-recording room to be quiet with nice acoustic

Breakout space is nice to have too.
Security issues thought about
OK to leave equipment overnight. (I.e. no basket-weaving class booked into venue in evenings)
Power points
Ask about cost of hiring venue and payment method
Catering - times and numbers of people for teas/coffees and meals.

2. Between the formal booking and arriving for first day:

* need contact details for keyholder and make arrangements for unlocking and locking

* specify seating layout and placement of tables

* firm up any additional requirements like screen, flipchart, etc.

* confirm catering arrangements: times, locations

* think about extras like bottled water and glasses for storycircle

* ask for a running tab at the restaurant till so unexpected extras can be charged to room bill.

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