Audiences: the next generation

25th February 2000 at 00:00
Chris Johnston on how to get free tickets on the Net.

In the not-too-distant future we will be able to watch sporting events, concerts and other arts happenings on the Internet. But, as with tuning in on TV, it won't be as good as being in the theatre or the stadium cheering along with the crowd.

But a new scheme is using the Net to enable more children to attend arts and sports events for free and help them learn online. New Generation Audiences was launched by Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, at last month's BETT educational technology show in London. It comes after a successful six-month pilot in London and Essex. The initiative is now available in Leeds, Birmingham and Leicester, with other areas being added later this year as the number of participating organisations and schools rises.

The idea came from Peter Maher, the executive director of the Learning Circuit, which aims to improve access to and understanding of information and communications technology in schools, after he attended an "inspirational" concert conducted by Sir Simon Rttle at the Royal Festival Hall. To his amazement, more than 200 seats were left empty. Disappointed by the small audience, Mr Maher resolved to find a way for schools and colleges to make use of empty places at theatres, sports and other cultural events.

Students and teachers can use the Web to share knowledge, discuss performances and prepare for visits. Schools engaged in the scheme will earn points giving them priority for the free tickets available through New Generation Audiences.

The venture was boosted by Mr Smith's announcement that all publicly funded arts organisations now have a policy that makes available some free or cheap tickets. Mr Maher hopes to recruit some 1,000 organisations and two million children and teachers into the project by 2002.

Sponsors, including the Arts Council, Oracle and Classic FM, have contributed more than pound;2.5 million to help fund and promote the scheme, and venues providing tickets range from the Royal National Theatre and the FA Premier League Hall of Fame to London Zoo. For more details, visit

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