Space, Time and Streets in the Sky

Project partners: HumanVR and University of York

Have you ever wanted to experience the ‘personality’ of a far-away, iconic location or landmark, without having to travel there?

Park Hill is a housing estate in Sheffield with a long, complex and controversial history. Everyone in Sheffield knows of the estate, and opinions vary from it being thought of as an important and iconic Sheffield landmark, to an eyesore. Few are neutral in their views.

The estate has become the subject of HumanVR’s latest immersive storytelling venture: Space, Time and Streets in the Sky, a new cutting edge 360 degree experience. The immersive experience will tell the stories of Park Hill via the sense of ‘spatial presence’ generated by VR and the audio stories of current housing estate residents. The project team will address a central research and development question: is it possible for an audience to experience the ‘personality’ of a remote location using virtual reality?

The Space, Time and Streets in the Sky VR experience is associated with Sheffield Theatres’ production ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’. Following the success of this production, the live show is due to move to a London venue. While the themes – hope, family, love and loss – and music of the play are universal (‘a heartfelt exploration of home in all its guises’ according to a review by The Guardian), the majority of the audience will be unfamiliar with its setting: Sheffield’s Park Hill housing estate – Europe’s largest listed building.

The goal of the project is to give remote audiences an experience of the Sheffield location via the sense of ‘spatial presence’ generated by VR and the audio stories of current Park Hill residents. While enjoying 360-degree views of the iconic estate, they will hear the real stories of people who live there. The experience will be delivered via Oculus VR headsets (with headphones), installed in the theatre foyer. The virtual content is designed to enhance their theatrical experience.

While the virtual content was initially conceptualised with the theatre production in mind, audiences will also be able to view and experience the content on online platforms such as YouTube as a 360-degree video. The project team aims to ensure that their content is agile, with the complexities around coronavirus pandemic regulations in mind. Their hope is to be able to tell and share the stories of a community and bring people together, even while individuals are physically separated as a result of lockdowns and restrictions.

The project will also be informed by Professor Dawn Hadley, Professor of Archaeology at the University of York, who has expertise in collecting and presenting the ‘personality of places’ in partnership with creative organisations. Professor Hadley has also conducted interviews with many of the residents of the estate that will inform the project.

Categories: Arts, Performance, Technology