Falmouth University awarded £850,000 research funding
19 May 2023
Tristan and Yseult at Restormel Castle, 2003 by Steve Tanner
Falmouth University is delighted to have been awarded funding for an innovative new research project that will use cutting-edge technologies to capture and archive performance practice, exploring new ways to widen access to performances and provide new income streams to support the creative industries in Cornwall.
GWITHA, from the Cornish word to guard, or to keep, will establish an open centre for immersive approaches to archival practice in the performance space, capturing and preserving performances that have previously been difficult or impossible to document because of their transient nature.
The project will be particularly relevant in Cornwall, which is renowned for site-specific landscape theatre that is part of its cultural heritage but challenging to document and record.
Work will begin with artists and performance companies, using cutting-edge technologies to capture vision and sound in three dimensions, so that it can be later accessed through a range of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality.
The project will also draw on the archives housed at Falmouth University to build a digital infrastructure to capture the collections of material objects, textual artefacts, and the documentation of performance practice, to improve access and develop strategies for new income streams from these new digital assets in support of Creative Industries in Cornwall.
This £850,000 investment is through the Creative Research Capability (CResCa) fund from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It is intended to provide increased investment to support the development of world-class research and development capabilities, improve the visibility and resilience of practice-led research sectors within the arts and humanities, and support the UK’s creative and cultural economy through further funding for the sector’s critical infrastructure.
Falmouth University Vice Chancellor, Emma Hunt said, “We are thrilled to have been successful in our bid to the CResCa fund.
"We are committed to being the leading university for the nexus of creativity and technology and I can’t think of a project that would encapsulate this better.
"Furthermore, we want to use our knowledge and expertise to generate positive opportunities, particularly in Cornwall. I am very excited to see how this project will develop the potential for capture of performance practice and to support the development of new strategies to improve audience access to culture and creativity.”
Dr Lee Miller, Head of Postgraduate research at Falmouth University said,
“GWITHA is an incredibly exciting opportunity as the first step towards the building of a centre of excellence in open participatory practice research. It will allow Falmouth to build a sector leading approach to the capturing, preservation, and accessing of resistant archival objects.
"It will also provide an infrastructure to better capture and share Cornwall’s intangible cultural heritage.”
UKRI International Champion & Executive Chair of the AHRC, Professor Christopher Smith, said: “The investments, made across the UK, will provide UK researchers with advanced equipment, facilities and technology, and help maintain the UK’s position as a leader in research and innovation. This support will ensure the UK is an attractive place for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate.”
Commenting on the potential impact of the project, Emma Hogg, Director of Cornish theatre company Wildworks, said,
“The GWITHA project offers real-world benefits to the creative economy of Cornwall and beyond.
"The project offers very real potential to change the manner in which performance practice can be recorded and shared with wider audiences. Presently, documentation of large-scale site-specific live performance requires the intrusive presence of multiple cameras. This is either done during a performance or requires re-staging of events and the outcomes, however well-constructed, require significant editorial intervention to make sense to a viewer. In contrast, the volumetric approach offered by GWITHA and Falmouth University opens the potential for a step-change to our approach. Not only will existing audiences be able to revisit work they have experienced, but we will be able to increase access to our practice by developing new projects out of the filmed material gathered.”
*Lead image Tristan and Yseult at Restormel Castle, 2003 by Steve Tanner.