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The Arts and Humanities Research Council announces Boundless Creativity: Culture in a time of COVID-19

06/05/2020

The Arts and Humanities Research Council announces Boundless Creativity: Culture in a time of COVID-19

The UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has announced Boundless Creativity, a major new campaign created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will explore and demonstrate the role of innovation, collaboration and participation in shaping cultural experiences in the current pandemic, and provide an evidence base for future growth.

The campaign was launched with provocations from major cultural figures, including Mary Beard, Bernardine Evaristo, Ben Okri and Fiona Shaw, who each considered the vital role of culture in society.  

Led by the AHRC, Boundless Creativity will pioneer new ways in which culture can thrive in a digital age by working with the UK’s leading arts organisations and creative businesses to create ambitious and ground-breaking projects. The current crisis demands that the industry adapts quickly and pivots towards digital offerings during lockdown.

Boundless Creativity aims to not only invigorate this process but also to map changing patterns of cultural consumption during this time, and to learn the lessons from that for the ‘new normal’.  It is a targeted approach to consider culture, content and audiences afresh, stimulate innovation in the cultural realm and reach new audiences. The campaign recognises and supports the role that culture and creativity play not only in the UK economy but also in the nation’s mental health and well-being – during the pandemic and beyond.

Audiences of the Future

In 2020 – 2021, four projects will launch which, combined, represent the most advanced set of public trials of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality content anywhere in the world. Originally due to premiere across 2020 in a series of event-based launches, these projects have now been reimagined and redeveloped for audiences at home, in the UK and internationally, with a particular focus on families and children. They are:

Weavr (Esports)

Weavr, a partnership between leading e-sports, research and creative technology companies launches a new version of its experimental AI driven immersive framework. With conventional stadia closed and events cancelled, Weavr continues to augment and enrich live tournaments in homes around the world. The platform forms the basis of technology that can support conventional sports as they too explore new propositions for remote audiences until stadia reopen.

Dinosaurs and Robots (Visitor Experience)

Immersive pioneers factory42, working with Sky, the Science Museum Group and Natural History Museum have been developing Dinosaurs and Robots as a mixed Reality experience that combines storytelling and cutting-edge technology. Until museums re-open they will now use Augmented Reality to bring these experiences to families at home encouraging them to explore, build and play games that combine STEM skills and creativity using mobile technology.  

The Big Fix Up (Moving Image)

Aardman’s iconic duo, Wallace and Gromit break free from the screen to arrive in homes this autumn in their first Augmented Reality adventure. The Big Fix Up, a collaboration between new immersive storytelling startup, Fictioneers (a joint venture of Potato, Sugar Creative, and Tiny Rebel Games, alongside research partner University of South Wales) and multi award-winning animation studio Aardman, invites users to join Wallace and Gromit’s new odd job company, Spick & Spanners. The Big Fix Up invites families across the UK to take control of an epic story that will unfold for them in real-time, experienced safely on their mobile phones, in their homes and gardens. It incorporates a range of augmented reality, mixed reality and traditional storytelling techniques, with a grand finale that safely brings the action to them. 

Dream (Performance)

The Royal Shakespeare Company presents Dream, in collaboration with Marshmallow Laser Feast and The Philharmonia developed with global technology partners, Epic Games. Using motion capture and computer game technologies, the production will deliver a wholly new interpretation of Shakespeare and an entirely new audience. The aim is to create opportunities for the UK cultural sector to challenge and change the way audiences experience live performance, no longer being bound by their location. All findings and research will be available to the wider sector after the project is completed in early 2021.

Reimagining Wordsworth at Hay Festival Digital

Developed in partnership with the AHRC and the Wordsworth Trust, Hay Festival Digital which runs 18-31 May, will feature a series of live broadcasts, including two events to celebrate the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth. On Friday 22 May, a gala reading of William Wordsworth’s poetry and Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary will feature a superstar cast that includes Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Monty Don, Stephen Fry, Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Helen McCrory, Jonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave. Works performed include Intimations of Immortality, Daffodils, Upon Westminster Bridge, and Above Tintern Abbey. On Saturday 23 May, Jonathan Bate will be in conversation regarding his new biography Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World.

Arts and Humanities in Quarantine (AHRC/BBC)

A new season of short animated films, developed in collaboration, will create and present for online non-specialist audiences some of the wealth of ground-breaking arts and humanities research currently being funded by AHRC. Building on a long-standing BBC and AHRC relationship which has seen ten years of the New Generation Thinkers programme, the films will be presented on the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine site, bringing to life some outstanding research across a range of disciplines, and working with early career creatives, animators and filmmakers.

Towards a National Collection

AHRC’s major research investment, towards a National Collection explores the nexus between collections, digital, research and public access. The project works across the country to unite the UK’s Gallery, Museum, Archives and Library collections, whose current physical closure gives the project fresh urgency.

A new online campaign, #collectionsunited, has been launched to bring together objects and items from across different UK collections – internationally renowned institutions but also a host of regional and local ones - in novel and unexpected ways. Objects or items will be combined from different collections juxtaposing the familiar and the less familiar, the national and the local, the man-made and natural. The campaign will be kicked off by expert curators from institutions including the British Museum, British Library, Tate and National Gallery, and invites the public to make unexpected connections between digital collections and share their discoveries online.

The launch of Boundless Creativity was followed by a panel discussion, convened by Professor Andrew Thompson, chief executive of AHRC and chaired by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz. Participants included: Maria Balshaw - Director of Tate; Andrew Chitty – AHRC Challenge Director: Audiences of the Future; Sean Clarke – Aardman Managing Director; Daisy Fancourt - AHRC-funded researcher at UCL and former BBC New Generation Thinker; and Catherine Mallyon – Executive Director of Royal Shakespeare Company.

AHRC Chief Executive, Andrew Thompson says: “I’m genuinely proud of the way in which in these Boundless projects demonstrate how the Arts and Humanities Research Council - and the researchers we support - are helping cultural organisations and the creative industries across the UK to innovate and collaborate through this crisis, and also to provide a richer and more complete evidence base to Government for their recovery and future growth.”  

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, says: "Britain is a world leader in both creativity and innovation, and the ‘Boundless Creativity’ project will speed up the development of new and exciting ways of engaging, entertaining and educating audiences, not just in the UK, but around the globe. I look forward to seeing what the AHRC can achieve by bringing brilliant creative and innovative minds together."

Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Amanda Solloway MP says: “As we have all been staying home to protect the NHS, innovations in our creative industries have played an ever-greater, and ever more important, role in our lives. From bringing immersive experiences into people’s front rooms to offering some of the country’s most famous art collections online, Boundless Creativity projects are helping to reshape cultural experiences for these unprecedented times, supporting our well-being and the financial future of a critical sector of our economy.”

For more information about Boundless Creativity, visit: www.ahrc.ukri.org/boundlesscreativity


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