Network: Soho goes digital

London's most vibrant neighbourhood will get a new, hi-tech image tomorrow, when the first annual September Song multimedia festival opens. So what does the future hold?
September Song, the first annual Soho Multimedia Festival, opens tomorrow in London, offering a blend of music, photography and digital imagery created by new technologies. The week-long event will feature a wide range of activities, from an exhibition of classic film stills, to a concert by Sam Brown, recently signed to Internet record label Exhibitions will be held in the Colville Gallery, Cyberia Cafe and Metro Imaging, with the concerts taking place at the Borderline and Sound Republic.

At the ICA, there will be demonstrations of software and panel discussions, making the festival something of an alternative trade show. Visitors will be able to get information and advice on the latest software without having to face the usual trade show hype - glamour girls handing out carrier bags of bumf.

Hannah Gal, festival organiser and digital artist whose work often appears in these pages, says the purpose of the festival is to let people "make comments, learn and interact... We are saying, go with the information and do with it whatever you like. It's about you being inspired."

Gal said the festival is also an chance for digital imaging firms to seek "fresh talent". Corbis will be holding a free session at the ICA with portfolio viewing. "This is an important part of the festival and came out of requests from photographers and creatives wanting the opportunity to meet the big guys, ask questions and put a few comments across," Gal said. "So it is both an opportunity to mingle, and to seek fresh talent."

Apple Computer's new image-editing program Final Cut and Adobe's In Design will be part of software demonstrations from leading design companies such as Lost in Space, Tomato, Attik and the Institute of International Visual Arts.

One of the highlights of the event will be panel discussion with speakers from Adobe and Apple joining digital image companies like Getty Images, Digital Vision, and Corbis, as well as the British Software Alliance (the specially set-up body to combat software piracy) and the BPI (British Photographic Institute).

Topical issues in new technology are on the agenda: How downloading music from the Internet with MP3 files will change the music industry, software piracy and copyright, and how a creative business can use the digital format for distribution.

Getty Images, one of the leading suppliers of stock photography, for instance, currently distributes product in both digital and analogue form and aims to be totally digital in the next three years. Co-founder Mark Getty said: "I will spend a day listening to other people, getting an idea of the mood, the issues, and then they will listen to me. I want to get a feel for how quickly both the industry and customers are migrating to a digital platform."

What artists can do with the latest technology will be illustrated by an exhibiton of digital artwork at the Colville Gallery. Specially commissioned photographic work will be hosted by the photographic lab Metro Imaging. Visitors will also be able to get involved when Adobe demonstrates its Premiere video-editing software by creating a movie and taking directions from the audience.

September Song