The three year cross-UK programme will be led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), with the lead hub at Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, and Watershed as Executive Producer.
Working in partnership with University of Bristol and cultural organisations in Belfast and Derry (Nerve Centre), Cardiff (Wales Millennium Centre) and Glasgow (Cryptic), Immersive Arts will generate a rich programme of inclusive and accessible opportunities, breaking down the barriers for artists of all backgrounds to engage with immersive tools.
The training and showcasing programme will be led by Crossover Labs and we will have strategic input from Unlimited, Immerse UK and XR Diversity Initiative. Watershed is also delighted to have support from an international Advisory Board including Sundance Institute, PHI Centre, IDFA DocLab, Julie’s Bicycle, Black Xtended Realities Network, RSC, HTC Vive Arts, Limina Immersive and others.
Immersive technology uses tools and technologies to create exciting new interactive and immersive experiences for audiences that blur the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds.
It includes virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and interactive digital work: examples include Beat Saber, Pokémon GO and Abba Voyage.
The Pervasive Media Studio has a track-record of supporting award-winning artists and inventive new projects, such as Anagram’s VR experience Goliath (winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Venice International Film Festival), Duncan Speakman’s augmented audio experience Only Expansion (winner of the Best Immersive Award at BFI London Film Festival and the Special Jury Award at International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) and Tomo Kihara and Playfool’s street-based game How (not) to get hit by a self-driving car.
The ‘Immersive Arts’ programme will build on the success of previous programmes such as Creative Industries Clusters (including Bristol + Bath Creative R&D, led by UWE Bristol and Watershed), which showed the positive impact of collaborations between cultural organisations, creative technologists and University-based researchers.
It will give artists across the UK the opportunity to access training, mentoring, specialist facilities and vital funds, with £3.6 million in grant funding available to help them get their ideas off the ground.
An integrated programme of research will capture and share insight and learning about what works best for the wider sector, whilst audiences from all backgrounds will be able to engage in meaningful ways to create and connect with immersive work.
Taking on the role of Executive Producer for the project means that Watershed will work across the programme’s sector-leading partners to develop the producing relationships.
Jo Lansdowne, Executive Producer, Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed says:
“Watershed is proud to take on the dual responsibility of Executive producing lead for Immersive Arts and the lead hub partner in England. Our partnership knows what it means to commission artists making unusual work sensitively, to support them over time to make something meaningful, to find ways to describe that work and to host audiences with care We are looking forward to creating a world-leading programme of inclusive, accessible and sustainable creative engagement with the immersive arts.”
Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, Saqib Bhatti said:
“From the printing press to digital streaming, leaps forward in technology have always led to advances in art and creativity. The XRtists programme will ensure that British creatives are given access to the tech they need to push new creative frontiers. Blockbuster shows like Abba Voyage demonstrate that extended reality brings about artistic innovation and a list of economic benefits that goes on and on and on.”
Arts and Humanities Research Council Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith said:
“To maintain the UK’s place at the vanguard of the creative industries, we need to invest in the skills and technologies that underpin them. Extended reality is an exciting new frontier in creative technology that offers world-expanding possibilities.
“This investment in the XRtists consortium by an ambitious partnership of the UK's arts councils, Creative Scotland and AHRC will allow us to support skills development and unlock further innovation and economic growth, bringing the power of this technology to new audiences and partners.”
Watershed is currently advertising for an Executive Producer and Producer to help manage the programme. The partners will be spending the next few months recruiting a team and designing the detail of the programme.
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