Digital lead: Dean Rodney Singers

Dean Rodney had a dream of creating a global band working together across many countries to create an album together for the 2012 Olympics.

The challenge

In summer 2011 we were commissioned by Heart n Soul to help develop the digital component of the Dean Rodney Singers project, a highly ambitious digital arts project timed to be part of the cultural activity around the 2012 Olympics. The project was conceived by Dean Rodney, a musician with autism who has worked with Heart n Soul for many years.

Our approach

The first task was to work with Dean and the Heart n Soul team build on the project vision and to help define enough shape and detail so that the idea could be realised. With that detail in place we could then apply for funding from the Unlimited fund, a stream within the Cultural Olympiad. We collaborated with Rachel Parslew from Heart n Soul on the application and the proposal was successful.

From that point on our role was to lead and coordinate the project, devising and implementing practical ways to put together a global collaborative band and help the band use shared tools on the web and iPads to create 24 new pieces of music that would be brought together in an interactive installation at the Southbank Centre. We designed the digital methods for enabling the global communication and music making between seven countries and 72 musicians. We also coordinated the exciting new partnership between Heart n Soul and the Creative Computing team at Goldsmiths University to produce a range of new interactive devices for the installation.

One key aspect of our approach was to create a production culture that was ready to adapt and make quick changes in our use of technologies, both on the web and the music apps that formed the core tools for the band. Many of the technologies and functionality we ended up using didn’t exist when we started the project so it was critical that we didn’t get too locked into any particular tools, and that the team was unafraid to experiment.

How the project changed Heart n Soul

For Heart n Soul this new and ambitious approach to working with their artist’s digital creativity has had a big impact on how they think about their core activity as an arts organisation, and has led to many innovative digital projects since.

What the organisation had to say about our work

Unthinkable have been collaborating with us on a major international digital concept, crossing seven countries and working with 72 artists with a wide variety of access needs. Justin has given us the tools, creative framework and technical understanding to be ambitious, knowledgeable and confident in making it happen together. The input from Unthinkable on the project has been invaluable – really accessible, intelligent and thoughtful advice and support – opening up some big possibilities, 'lightbulb moments' and concepts – to find a clear and simple route through – fantastic!
Mark Williams, CEO and Creative Director for Heart n Soul