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The Mill is South Australia’s leading multidisciplinary arts organisation. Its Angas Street site comprises studios, creative industry offices and a digital working space, and is home to over 55 artists, makers, and designers. The venue combines workspaces with galleries, a performing arts space, photography studio, tools workshop and shared meeting facilities behind a dynamic street presence in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD.

The Mill’s rich, year-round program supports more than 500 artists, providing the necessary physical space to work on their practice, alongside diverse public events, performances and exhibitions, and development opportunities. The Mill’s masterclasses, workshops and residencies place local artists, both emerging and established, with leading practitioners from across the country, and around the world.

With the diverse range of activities and the studio artists having 24/7 access to The Mill, an internet connection to support this is paramount. The number of users online is constantly changing, so having a service that can handle high volume, means artists can be confident to come on site at any time and get their work done.

The Mill’s relationship with GigCity began in 2018 when approached as part of the original group of innovation precincts being offered a GigCity connection. Recognising that the service offered better value and features than their existing service, they were keen to connect. As a not-for-profit and small-to-medium arts organisation, the biggest challenge was start-up capital, which was able to be overcome with support by the state government, enabling a fit-for-purpose system.

Aspiring to the ability for resident studio artists and other venue users to elevate their practice through connecting with a high-speed and high-quality service, the benefits of internet speed and connectivity were realised over time. Initially the service remained slow as they didn’t upgrade their modem at the time of connection, however they worked with the relevant parties to rectify and improve the situation. A solution was found by installing 11 hotspots throughout the venue and spreading the signal, creating a service to support their artists and the venue’s specific needs.

General and Venue Manager, Tim Watts says, “GigCity allows The Mill to offer its 55 studio residents reliable, comprehensive internet connectivity, to use in ways that best suit their individual practices. Whether they be hat-makers or filmmakers, being connected to a global audience, with opportunities to create and share engaging content is a huge drawcard for working at The Mill.”

The COVID pandemic has had a significant impact and one aspect is the move into streaming events, which they had not done before. Tim explains the value of the GigCity connection,”We would not have been able to achieve this on our previous service. We also did not expect our team to be working from home and meeting via Zoom / MS Teams like it is. Often staff are split between working from home and being on-site, so reliable internet plays an important role in keeping us connected.”

As well as staff, the artists were also impacted, with Adelaide multidisciplinary collective The Bait Fridge being the first program participant to have its engagement with The Mill disrupted. The collective’s practice is based around collaboration, and members had intended to work closely together (physically) as well as bringing audiences into the making process. Tim says, “Working with the group to reshape the residency, we eventually presented a participatory online masterclass and sprawling, venue-consuming durational performance that was streamed to a digital audience. Being connected to GigCity meant we were confident in taking the program online – real-time streaming with multiple roaming cameras and live sound throughout the 800m2 building and outdoors.”

The GigCity connection was also an important tool for performing artists who were forced by COVID to explore new ways of working together, often over distance. Jess Clough-Mcrae’s “Trimates” development concluded with an intimate work-in-progress showing in The Breakout at The Mill, for which one collaborator Zoomed in from interstate, appearing live on screen. “It was a great way to involve the whole creative team in the residency outcome, and bring an extra dimension to the work”, says Tim.

Jingwei Bu by Morgan Sette

Jingwei Bu by Morgan Sette

With the support of the GigCity connection, The Mill has also expanded to  include a space for seven digital, desk-based artists. These are mainly photographers, videographers and writers, who are online a lot, so having a reliably fast connection is a big attraction and crucial to their work. Repeater Production’s Ben Golotta, one of The Mill’s artists in residence, says he uses the service daily. “[I’m] constantly uploading / downloading 100s of gigabytes of footage for clients.”

The Mill’s vision for a thriving and prosperous arts culture in South Australia is looking bright with many plans for the future and a commitment to increase opportunities for South Australian artists from all disciplines, and for engaging with audiences in meaningful ways.

Tim says, “A capable internet connection allows The Mill to reach a broad audience with its program, in a variety of ways – live streaming theatre works, hosting online masterclasses, sharing exhibitions, connecting artists with art-lovers, and more. We are excited to see how creatives work with this technology in the future.”

The Mill is now developing digital components for many of its projects, to ensure viability in an increasingly unstable environment for presenting live and in-person events.

”For The Mill, GigCity means an ability to deliver high-quality program outcomes that can flex in-step with changing conditions. It gives us the confidence to experiment with taking projects online, and support others in doing so themselves”, says Tim.

Cover photo – XO L’Avant by Daniel Purvis

GigCity is a Government of South Australia initiative delivering affordable, high-speed internet to innovation precincts across the state. Participating businesses experience gigabit speed broadband, enabling greater collaboration between colleagues and easy sharing with clients around the world.

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