Be quick – creative companies needed to help Coventry celebrate its city of culture next year

Positive Realities

Creative companies in Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands have until the end of August to put themselves forward for an opportunity to create stirring and immersive stories using augmented and virtual reality to mark Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture – backed by a six-figure investment.

Coventry City of Culture Trust is partnering with StoryFutures Academy, the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, and Create Central, an industry body for creative content professionals, that will be bringing six West Midlands creative companies together with technologists to explore innovative new approaches to improving health and wellbeing for Coventry City of Culture in 2021.

The project is called Positive Realities, and will be exploring how recreational and educational experiences on virtual and augmented reality platforms could have a positive impact on young people’s resilience, reduce the potential of isolation, while encouraging young adults to live fuller and more active lifestyles.

The shortlisted creative companies from the worlds of film, TV, games, digital media and other creative content sectors will attend a two-day workshop where they will discover augmented reality smartphone apps and virtual reality simulators, and how content on these platforms could promote positive everyday experiences to support better health and wellbeing.

Each company will then apply what they have learned to create ideas that would use immersive technology to maximise their story’s reach to young audiences across Coventry, with three shortlisted ideas then moving on to a period of paid development before one is selected to move to a prototype stage.

The selected prototype will be backed with a budget of up to £120,000 – and support from Create Central, StoryFutures Academy and Coventry City of Culture Trust – to deliver the project to audiences during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2021.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “With our City of Culture year we set ourselves the dual challenge of developing innovative technology projects to entertain, as well as to tackle difficult social issues and find new creative solutions.

“Using immersive technologies we hope to tell Coventry’s stories in new ways, to create incredible audience experiences, and to support innovative cultural approaches to areas such as health and safety.

“As a city with world test bed status, we’re proud to provide a national platform for cutting-edge research led by regional talent, and to be prioritising the needs and expectations of Coventry’s next generation.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Create Central and StoryFutures Academy to offer this unique opportunity for regional creative companies.”

Creative individuals and companies wanting to apply for one of the six spaces have until 31 August 2020 to do so.

Will Saunders, Chief Creative Officer at StoryFutures Academy, added: “We are making the virtual a reality for Coventry, City of Culture. And we hope StoryFutures Academy can add commercial value for creative companies across the West Midlands and social value for young audiences in Coventry in 2021.”

Ed Shedd, Create Central Chair, said: “Create Central was set up to support the creative content sector to embrace new technologies and provide the building blocks for the future of media.

“With the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, as part of BFI National Cluster Growth Fund Agreement, this is a fantastic project that will demonstrate the benefits of collaborative working in our region.”

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of BFI which is a cultural charity for the film, TV and moving image industries, said: “Storytelling is the most powerful way we can make sense of the world so to combine this with immersive technologies through this new project is really exciting and will provide a real boost to the well-being of young people.

“The West Midlands has incredibly talented creative people working at the cutting edge of innovation in screen and Positive Realities represents major creative and commercial opportunities for businesses in this burgeoning region.”