The O2 and Ravensbourne: a perfect match between neighbours

Students get a chance to develop a wide range of creative skills at the neighbouring world-famous arena

January 28, 2016
Take That onstage, The O2 arena, London
A night with the stars: Take That, above, and Lionel Ritchie are among stars that students have been able to work with

On the Greenwich Peninsula, there’s no escaping the O2 – the former Millennium Dome that now claims to be “the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue”. In 2010, the former Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication changed its name to simply Ravensbourne and moved into purpose-built accommodation next door.

With its strong stress on digital media and design, and a striking interior space that has been compared to a large studio or advertising agency, it is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities available on what the Royal Borough of Greenwich calls “the digital peninsula”. But how can it cash in on one of the strategic goals “to connect our staff and students to innovators, professionals and practitioners at the cutting edge”?

Since some students live on the peninsular and most live within the borough or neighbouring borough, they have often found casual employment at the O2. But when Linda Drew took over as director of Ravensbourne in early 2015, she soon decided that there was scope for far deeper forms of collaboration. After initial discussions led to “lots of ideas about what we could and should do together”, a formal renewable three-year partnership was signed in June 2015.

Ravensbourne describes itself as “the only independent higher education institution with a long-standing specialism in design, media, communication and technology”. Because of this, Jo Eaton – industry liaison for design and fashion – told Times Higher Education, “every single event at the O2 has potential for our students”. Although Ravensbourne doesn’t offer training in the performing arts (or sports science), its courses in architecture, design, fashion and television/film production, as well as “content” such as animation, photography, music for media and sound, provide many of the skills needed for mounting and marketing the spectacular musical shows and sport events for which the O2 is famous.

So how have they been able to build on what Ms Eaton calls a “perfect match” and “get students more involved in the O2 and the companies coming through”?

An important first step was to create a bespoke jobs board at Ravensbourne where part-time positions at the O2 get advertised first. The venue has used students to create videos for its marketing campaigns. And future plans include a formal internship scheme and opportunities for job shadowing. All this helps to make Ravensbourne in effect the O2’s “preferred supplier” both for students hoping to pick up a bit of spare cash and for those wanting to develop industry-related skills.

When Lionel Ritchie, for example, brings in a show, his team are directed to Ravensbourne for the local “runners”, camera operators, sound and lighting assistants they are likely to require.

This has given students a chance to get involved in a number of glitzy, high-profile events that look good on their CVs and also provide highly practical skills training.

When Take That performed at the O2 for 10 days last summer, they needed about 80 people on stage to make up part of the crowd. The Ravensbourne students who put themselves forward got a chance to learn about everything that goes on behind the scenes to make a pop concert happen. Several also used the networking opportunities to secure placements.

In September, the O2 sponsored the Wear the Rose launch event for the English rugby team, which again gave many Ravensbourne students an opportunity to appear on stage. An alumnus, Scott Campbell, was brought in to oversee the lighting rigging for “the world’s greatest projection”, which saw a vast illuminated flower stretched across the whole dome. Each evening, about 5,000 huge tweets expressing support were beamed over from the Ravensbourne roof.

For Nathan Kosky, vice-president of global partnerships at the O2, the venue can offer “multiple opportunities to learn and develop” to “the many gifted students on our doorstep”. It also offers Ravensbourne brand-building ways of “reaching 10 million people annually onsite and millions more through our digital channels. Already it is making use of our digital broadcast network, with some 200 screens playing content across the campus, and we’ll be holding their annual degree ceremony onsite in 2016.”

Along with creativity and a commitment to an inclusive culture, Ravensbourne counts “integration with industry” as a core value. As part of this year’s portfolio review, it is exploring what this should mean for its future direction. Building on the firm foundations already in place, Professor Drew hopes to see “the O2 and Ravensbourne feeding each other further ideas”.

In numbers

80 – the number of Ravensbourne students who took part in a Take That concert at the arena last year

Campus news

University of Kent
Migrants can help to increase national security, according to a new book from an expert on conflict, and should not only been seen as a threat. Feargal Cochrane, director of the University of Kent’s Conflict Analysis Research Centre, argues in Migration and Security in the Global Age: Diaspora Communities and Conflict that migrants have extensive kinship ties and soft power networks that allow them to become a conduit for dialogue to help to solve conflicts.

Imperial College London
Efforts to clean up an area of ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch would be better applied to protecting coastal areas, according to a new study. Imperial College London researchers modelled the movement of plastics in the ocean and found that it would be better to place plastic-collecting floating barriers and platforms near coasts, particularly around China and the Indonesian islands, rather than clean up the garbage patch, which is in the open ocean.

University College London/Manchester Metropolitan University
Almost one million Pygmy people are likely to live in the forests of Central Africa, a study says. As members of the indigenous groups – known for their short stature – are located in remote camps spread across 68 million square miles, it was previously impossible to estimate their total population. Using an unprecedented number of researchers to locate numerous hunter-gatherer tribes, academics from University College London, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Malaga have calculated that up to 920,000 Pygmies are now living across nine African countries.

Keele University
A £10.1 million development aims to meet growing student demand for life sciences courses and aid advanced research. The development under way at Keele University’s Huxley Building will provide two teaching laboratories, capable of hosting 120 students. Two additional state-of-the-art research laboratories and offices will also be created to support the increased recruitment of staff and postgraduate research students. A Higher Education Funding Council for England grant of £3.75m helped to part-fund the project.

Newman University
A Catholic university in Birmingham has signed a partnership with a Protestant institution in Germany to offer a BA in social work with a focus on children and families in multicultural communities. The dual award, offered by Newman University and the Protestant University of Applied Social Sciences, Ludwigsburg, will be taught in English, and students from both universities will spend two semesters at the partner university.

University of Huddersfield/Bath Spa University
The lives of French children displaced by the Allied bombing of occupied France during the Second World War are to be explored and recorded in a research project. Lindsey Dodd, lecturer in modern European history at the University of Huddersfield, in conjunction with academics from Bath Spa University and Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, has secured Anglo-French funding to pursue her Disrupted Histories: Recovered Pasts, investigating the stories of these “petits réfugiés”.

Sheffield Hallam University
A university has received a £50,000 grant to boost students’ and young people’s STEM skills. Sheffield Hallam University received the money from the Alcoa Foundation, a manufacturing company that also helps to fund non-profit organisations. The university will deliver three initiatives for improving STEM skills in the city region and beyond. They will include half-day engineering masterclasses at the university for young people aged 14 to 18 and a job-readiness programme for final-year STEM students at the university.

University of Leicester
Short bursts of intensive exercise provide a more efficient and realistic way of preventing, delaying and managing type 2 diabetes than longer forms of exercise, according to a study from the University of Leicester and the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit. The research proposed high-intensity interval training as a “time-efficient exercise intervention that may bring about similar benefits to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise”.

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Print headline: A good fit for neighbours on the ‘digital peninsula’

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