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Wimbledon wins funding to design for theatre productions in virtual reality

A girl in a black vest stop stands against a blue background wearing a VR headset and holding the controller in her hand, looking upwards.
  • Written bySarah McLean
  • Published date 10 December 2020
A girl in a black vest stop stands against a blue background wearing a VR headset and holding the controller in her hand, looking upwards.
Jonny Back Photography, Visitor to the BA Theatre Design, Wimbledon College of Arts Summer Show, 2019, enjoys VR.
BA (Hons) Theatre Design, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Jonny Back © 2019

Wimbledon has been awarded funding to develop new teaching on designing for theatre production in virtual reality.

Chris Follows, Emerging Technologies Manager at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon, will collaborate with Justin Farndale, Course Leader, BA Creative Technical Theatre at Wimbledon College of Arts, to co-develop this virtual teaching idea that will train students to become live event designers and technicians, and develop their creative talent in immersive theatre production.

The project was one of 16 projects selected for funding from more than 150 applications from over 50 institutions across 5 continents to the Win-A-Lab 2020 Awards.

The award comes from Edify who will fund a specialist VR development team to help to create the lesson for Wimbledon students and supply the software tools to deliver it.

Their 2020 funding aims to provide opportunities for institutions to develop an immersive teaching idea that will bring the subject to life. Other winners include a project which will share experimental stem cell research internationally, and research which will allow for a virtual exploration of art and architecture in the prehispanic captial of Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Chris Follows said: "With growing uncertainty across the theatre and performance industries there is an urgent need for stability and vision in the face of immanent sector-wide transformation. Uncertainty within these sectors has impacted all levels from seasoned professionals, to school children considering future careers.

Wimbledon College of Arts is committed to future-proofing the live and recorded entertainment industries by exploring new forms of theatre and performance practices designed for global, 21st century audiences.

The lesson will encourage an exploration of immersive theatre and performance practice and translate the core design principles, that we can take from traditional theatre design, to move their potential into a fully ‘immersive experience’".

A man in a red hat helps a woman in a grey cardigan with a virtual reality headset. In the background is a woman also using virtual reality technology.
Dan Weill Photography, The Digital Maker Collective's Tate Exchange event in 2019.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL

Esther Armstrong, Programme Director, Performance and Design Technologies, said: "Our BA Creative Technical Theatre experiments with techniques which are central to the production process. This understanding and the interplay of these particular skills are key to making a creative event come alive - so it will be exciting to pioneer this project with the students on this course.

This opportunity is just one example of how we encourage our students to become co-creators, innovators and practitioners in theatre and screen practices and think expansively about what their role might be within the future of these creative industries.

Working with Edify to explore the potential of VR in this field also makes potential space to collaborate with other courses at Wimbledon, in the fields of costume, theatre design, production arts, acting and contemporary performance. This is a truly exciting development."

Find out more about BA Creative Technical Theatre