Collaborative Partners: UWE, Splash and Ripple and the Holburne Museum
Collaboration type: Humanities, creative industries and cultural sector
Nation: England
Funding: £50,000 from REACT, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council
Summary: A unique three way collaboration funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council that has reinvigorated a local tourist attraction in Bath. An interesting and unique outcome of University – Business collaboration that showcases the expertise of both academia and industry.

image credit: TopTipsBath

A three-way collaboration between an academic, a museum and a real-world games creator has created the opportunity for an innovative soundscape experience at an old Georgian pleasure garden in Bath. The collaboration between Steve Poole from the University of the West of England, the Holburne Museum, and Splash and Ripple, led by Rosie Fairchild, has proved so successful that they now intend to roll out the format to other heritage sites.

The funding for the project came from REACT, a partnership between four universities plus the Watershed arts and media centre in Bristol to promote collaborations between arts and humanities researchers and creative companies

Instead of simply viewing the scenery at Sydney Gardens, visitors can now see and interact with a number of  Georgian ‘ghosts’ played by actors, of course, but all modelled as far as possible upon accurately researched ‘real’ people.

“We always approached this as a three-hand partnership between Holburne Museum, myself as the UWE academic, and then Splash and Ripple as creative industry partners,” says historian Poole. “We saw it as a triangular relationship throughout. It’s not about exchange, it’s a partnership, so we tried not to sit in our separate offices.”

“It’s not about exchange, it’s a partnership, so we tried not to sit in our separate offices.” Steve Poole

While Splash and Ripple were prepared for the project to take over their company for the duration, Poole estimated that it would take up 40 hours of his time in the three months from concept to delivery, which he admits now was a slight underestimation. The project partners met up at least once a week either in planning meetings or in creative workshops, and for the other four days they remained as involved as possible in each other’s work.

“I began to understand, the professional concerns of heritage providers on the one hand, and creative industry specialists on the other,” says Poole. “If academics in the arts and humanities are ever going to work productively with people in these areas, collaborating actively together like this is going, increasingly, to be a vital part of our practice.”

After establishing such a successful collaboration, they intend to continue their work together by using the same format elsewhere. They have been presenting to heritage organisations round the UK, and are confident that they will soon be commissioned to produce more ghosts installations at other heritage sites.

Perhaps surprisingly given the project’s success, it was Fairchild’s first experience of working with an academic partner. She wanted to get involved in this kind of collaboration, she says, for “an enlarged and different perspective on the project, enriched content and greater clout when talking to a heritage organisation!” And though Poole had experience of collaborating with academic colleagues and external partners, a project involving this kind of technology was entirely new to him.

He confesses to some concerns that his historical research would be overlooked in favour of more eye-catching content, but says he remained adamant that the ghosts should be real people, not local celebrities such as Jane Austen. “Rosie was really great about that, actually, and kept saying, ‘No, no, absolutely, I totally agree, we’re not going to do anything that’s impossible or that you don’t like’,” he recalls.

“The most interesting thing for me has actually been realising that you can’t always communicate knowledge to people by telling them things,” he concludes. “I didn’t have to produce a monograph, I didn’t have to run an international conference, all I had to do was make sure we worked together and produced a viable prototype. That was hard in three months on a limited budget, but we did it, and I’m really, really proud of what we did.”

For further information:
Joanne Lansdowne, REACT Producer

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