A new project which will support over 200 artists and organisations to explore the creative potential of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies, has been announced – with a major Welsh arts centre as a key partner.
Wales Millennium Centre will act as one of the four producing partners for the Immersive Arts project, building on its own existing work with its dedicated extended reality venue, Bocs – the first of its kind in a UK arts centre – and its own award-winning virtual reality experiences.
The term ‘immersive technology’ encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and technologies, including the games engines used to make virtual and augmented reality apps such as Beat Saber or Pokémon Go, as well as the motion capture, LED screens and spatial audio magic of Abba Voyage.
The three-year project will be funded through a £6 million grant from XRtists, an ambitious partnership between the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Wales, and will build on the UK’s record of supporting artists to unlock the creative potential of new technology.
The programme will give artists the opportunity to access training, mentoring, specialist facilities and vital funds, with a share of £3.6 million in grant funding available to help Wales-based artists get their ideas off the ground.
Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director of Wales Millennium Centre, said:
“We’re delighted to be a partner for a brilliant opportunity that will create space and time to question, engage and expand approaches to storytelling. The intersection between immersive technology and live artistic work is fascinating, and this programme will enable artists, young people and communities to explore these possibilities and tell their stories in the ways they want to.
“It’s exciting to be teaming up with organisations that share our desire to support developing creatives in an inclusive and care-centered way. We can’t wait to start sharing what we’ve learned with more people, and work with them to build a strong foundation for our future ambitions in this area.”
The programme will be led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), with the lead hub at Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and Watershed as Executive Producer. PMStudio will work with producing partners based in all four nations of the UK, with Wales Millennium Centre joining Watershed in England alongside Nerve Centre in Northern Ireland and Cryptic in Scotland. In the past five years these four partners have supported more than 5,500 artists, and shared work with an audience of over 70.5 million people.
Lisa Matthews-Jones from Arts Council of Wales said:
“This is a unique partnership with the other UK nations to create inclusive opportunities to explore the possibilities of creative technology to share experiences and tell stories with impact. Wales Millennium Centre is perfectly placed to build on their own work and support the work of others in Wales for the benefit of current and future audiences.”
UK Government Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:
“The government has already invested £75 million to build a network of R&D labs across the UK that will put us at the forefront of advancements in visual effects, motion-capture technology, and AI for the screen and stage industries. This new funding will help even more of our brightest artists and creatives harness the power of this innovative technology. Developing the skills and infrastructure underpinning immersive technology will maximise the potential of our powerful creative industries and achieve our goal of growing them by £50 billion by 2030.”