An insight into PONToon

Our Digital Arts Apprentice Harriet Carr speaks about her experience assisting with the delivery of the Gallery’s second digital arts workshop, up-skilling women aged 18 - 35 years in the Portsmouth area.

This workshop forms part of PONToon (Partnership Opportunities using New Technologies fostering sOcial and ecOnomic inclusioN), an Interreg 5A France (Channel) England research project, running June 2017 – November 2020.

PONToon is a project that will use a range of new and developing technologies such as games development, 3D/virtual reality, social media and web/mobile apps to engage, support and up-skill women in order to aid their employment opportunities.

As the only arts organisation involved in PONToon, Aspex’s approach is very different to the other partners. Read below to discover more, and also visit the PONToon website:


Image: Harriet at one of the PONToon workshops, off-site at Portsmouth Museum (June, 2018)


At Aspex in Portsmouth, we are in the midst of delivering a series of 8 weekly workshops that aim to empower women digitally. On this project we are working with artists Maria Kapajeva and Linda Mason who plan and lead the sessions, lending their own specialist skills in both digital art, and workshop facilitation.

The participants are all a part of the Portsmouth Cross Cultural Womens Group, a group of women from all over the world that meet socially and to learn new skills here in Portsmouth. The workshop takes place weekly, following an English language lesson. As a result, the participants are familiar with their surroundings and each other. I believe this has benefited the way in which the group operates as most of the participants have not had to adjust to new settings.  However we have nonetheless seen members make new friendships during the course of the sessions. The result is a supportive female network, which all involved enjoy.

The way in which the women in the group interact allows skill sharing and development, which complements the tuition they receive from Maria and Linda. Teaching is an empowering and rewarding skill, seeing the ladies helping each other, and passing on digital skills with increasing confidence over the weeks shows us that they are benefitting from the project.

The digital capability within the group varies, and currently there is still some apprehension and lack of confidence in some of the women when asked to use cameras. However, especially in our most recent session, a great deal of the participants are enthusiastically progressing to use more advanced equipment - moving on to using DSLRs, GoPros, and professional recording equipment that the artists provide. The way in which they utilise the equipment is creative and representative of their curiosity about different cultures - they have enjoyed sharing stories about themselves and their countries in the form of interviews conducted via different technologies.



Image: Nigerian coral beads, photographed by PONToon participant Kemi (June, 2018)


Of the group we are working with on this project, some are far removed from the labour market - some are jobseekers, some are working but are keen to gain digital skills. Some of the biggest barriers we have identified for this group are motherhood - some participants have young children and either are not wanting to work until their children start school, or cannot afford childcare, language - the level of English spoken in the group varies greatly from fluent English speakers to some who can only understand very basic communication.

As an apprentice here at Aspex, my own skills have been developing as a result of this project. Whilst I am working towards a qualification in Community Arts Administration, my work on the PONToon project is supporting my own employability by allowing me hands on experience of a working in the creative sector.