Connect with us

Tech

New funding supports UK artists to work with immersive tech

Published

on

Published: 31 Jan 2024

A new project will support over 200 UK-based artists and organisations to explore the creative potential of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies.

Image by Polly Thomas (WMC Battlescar).

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.

Funded through a £6 million grant from the XRtists scheme, the three-year cross-UK ‘Immersive Arts’ project will build on the UK’s record of supporting artists to unlock the creative potential of new technology. Funding for XRtists comes from an ambitious partnership between the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Wales.

The programme will give artists based in 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.

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.”

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 Immersive Arts 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 Immersive Arts 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.

Immersive Arts

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.

Working in partnership with University of Bristol and cultural organisations in Belfast and Derry, Cardiff and Glasgow they will generate a rich programme of inclusive and accessible opportunities, breaking down the barriers for artists of all backgrounds to engage with immersive tools.

Principal Investigator and Director of Immersive Arts, Verity McIntosh, Associate Professor of Virtual and Extended Realities at UWE Bristol, said: “I am delighted that this incredible consortium of partners will now be able to support more than 200 artists from across the UK. We look forward to working with creatives of all backgrounds who are interested in developing their practice, and testing the boundaries of what might be artistically possible using immersive technologies.

“In the coming three years we will be offering an inclusive and accessible programme of research, training, funding opportunities and events. Immersive Arts has been designed to foster a growing, collaborative community of UK artists experimenting with immersive materials, and connecting with audiences around the world.”

Supporting artists across the UK

The four core partners based in each of the nations of the UK who will work closely with artists in their region are:

  • Cryptic in Glasgow, Scotland
  • Nerve Centre in Belfast and Derry, Northern Ireland
  • Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Wales
  • Watershed in Bristol, England

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.

Additional partners with specialist expertise supporting the programme are:

  • Crossover Labs, experts in training and artist development using immersive media
  • Unlimited, working with disabled artists and audiences, challenging the culture sector and changing perceptions of disability
  • XR Diversity Initiative, dedicated to making the XR community more inclusive
  • Immerse UK, the UK’s leading membership organisation for immersive technologies

Funding for Immersive Arts comes from:

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Arts Council England
  • The National Lottery through Creative Scotland
  • The Arts Council of Northern Ireland
  • The National Lottery through Arts Council of Wales

Creative Industries Manager at Creative Scotland Morgan Petrie said: “This unique collaboration provides a great opportunity for artists to be at the forefront of XR innovation.  The partners involved will be able to share best practice, learn from each other and nurture connections across the UK.  The Scottish producing partner, Cryptic, is cementing Scotland and its artists into the future of this technology, pioneering within Scotland’s creative industries.”

Background

To be kept up to date with news and opportunities, you can sign up for regular updates from Immersive Arts.

About The Arts and Humanities Research Council

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, funds internationally outstanding independent researchers across the whole range of the arts and humanities: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages and literature, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. The quality and range of research supported by AHRC works for the good of UK society and culture and contributes both to UK economic success and to the culture and welfare of societies across the globe.

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has a global and inclusive outlook, with approximately 36,000 students and strong industry networks and connections with over 1,000 employers. Research at UWE Bristol focuses on real world problems and the University plays a pivotal role in the regional economy. With over £300 million invested in infrastructure, buildings and facilities across all Campuses, UWE Bristol is creating a place for learning that is innovative, ambitious, connected, enabling and inclusive. UWE Bristol is ranked 24th in the Guardian university league table. www.uwe.ac.uk

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Further information at creativescotland.com. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at www.ourcreativevoice.scot

About the Arts Council of Wales

Arts Council of Wales is the official body for developing, supporting, and connecting the arts. We do this by distributing the public funds that are made available to us by the Welsh Government and the money that we receive for good causes from the National Lottery. Through our work, we want to see the arts flourish and reach as far and wide as possible. We believe that the arts are for everyone and are central to the life and well-being of the nation. www.arts.wales

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. From 2023 to 2026 we will invest over £467 million of public money from Government and an estimated £250 million from The National Lottery each year to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. (www.artscouncil.org.uk)

About the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead funding and development agency for the Arts providing support to arts projects throughout the region, through its Treasury and The National Lottery funds.  Our funding enables artists and arts organisations to increase access to the arts across society and deliver great art that is within everyone’s reach.

Every week National Lottery players raise more than £30M for good causes.

More than £47 billion has now been raised by National Lottery players to support good causes since 1994.

More than 670,000 projects have been supported with National Lottery funding, the equivalent of around 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district.

Continue Reading