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Sir Lenny Henry backs £10m centre for virtual reality storytelling

The comedian said the plan was a step towards “egalitarian, creative storytelling”.


Sir Lenny Henry has backed a new centre for immersive storytelling (PA)

Sir Lenny Henry has backed a new centre for immersive storytelling (PA)

Sir Lenny Henry has backed a new centre for immersive storytelling (PA)

Sir Lenny Henry is among a number of stars backing a new £10 million Government-funded centre aimed at developing virtual reality storytelling in the UK.

The National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway, University of London, won a UK Research and Innovation-led competition to run the new National Centre for Immersive Storytelling.

Sir Lenny said the plan to build the facility exploring VR technology, which will be called StoryFutures Academy, was a chance for British raconteurs to “really crack immersive storytelling”.

The centre, which will be based at Royal Holloway’s Surrey campus, will allow storytellers to expand their craft using virtual, augmented and mixed-reality technologies, in a bid to ensure the country’s creative workforce is the most skilled in the world.

It will contain experimental labs and workshops, running regular placements and courses for British storytellers.

Other supporters of the project include filmmakers Asif Kapadia and Sarah Gavron, Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat and actress Georgina Campbell.

Sir Lenny said: “Britain has an amazingly rich heritage and strength in storytelling. Immersive technologies are an exciting new opportunity for us, but this new frontier for storytelling should be one that really reflects the wealth and diversity of our country’s talent.

“Royal Holloway and the National Film and Television School have brought together an extraordinary group of people and companies to move the needle along a bit with regard to egalitarian, creative storytelling in this new immersive space.

“It’s not enough to put on a pair of glasses and look behind you. You’ve got to look to the side.

“Working together with this diverse and extraordinary group of people – researchers, artists, technologists and makers – we can tip the tipping point and really crack immersive storytelling in a way that is about and for all of us.

“That’s the brilliance of StoryFutures Academy and why I’m a proud supporter of this amazing initiative.”

The funding comes as part of the £33 million Government-backed Audience of the Future programme, which aims to pioneer immersive experience across the creative industries.

The successful bid from Royal Holloway and NFTS was announced at the Raindance Film Festival in London by Andrew Chitty, Audience of the Future challenge director.

He said: “The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in adopting immersive technology to find new audiences and create ground-breaking content.

“But to do this we need to develop our creative talent to make the best of this new medium.

“StoryFutures Academy is an exceptional partnership that brings together exceptional researchers, a world-class film school and partners across the industry who will not only support the centre but gain the benefit of its graduates.”