Studio News 04 Jun 2024

Bath Digital Festival Recap | 2024

Three days, twelve residents and lots to celebrate.

We were thrilled to take part in this year’s Bath Digital Festival and exhibit alongside other tech innovators from across the South West. As a hub for creative technology, The Studio occupies a unique position. The work of our residents integrates the fields of science, art, and technology, and shows that these specialties are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they complement one another and demonstrate the value of cross-disciplinary research. This was evident from our visitors who were impressed by the diversity of projects on display. Whether it was using AI to rediscover the sound of lost instruments (Mark Lodge), or virtual reality to visualise the structure of cell membranes (Clare Frances), our residents showcased innovative ways of using technology to solve problems, challenge perspectives, and make a positive impact. This is thanks to the help of Bath Spa University and our partner My World, who supply interactive and immersive equipment, funding, and support.

Studio Resident Jenny Ford | Image by TechSpark

What does Creative Technology mean?

When asked what does creative technology mean, many of us struggle to produce a simple definition. Not because the subject lacks depth or understanding, but because of the endless possibilities it contains. Visitors responded that it’s not simply the technology but the manner in which it is used. For instance, residents Brian Gibson, Nigel Fryatt and Gareth Campbell employ a combination of analogue and digital processes to push the boundaries of what art can be; from dismantling and printing with discarded materials, to manipulating code, and capturing fractal patterns. With such imagination at its forefront, creative technology inspires a multitude of interests and micro-businesses. This includes using machine learning to unpick the perfect fragrance, as seen in Jessica Hannan’s brand, Apotheke or Annie Lywood’s development of sensory textiles to combat stress and anxiety. Whether personal or social, a common thread was how technology can improve our everyday lives. Naturally, this raises ethical questions. For example, Kilter Theatre’s project eVRafter explores the idea of a fictional company that extends the existence of loved ones through an interactive ‘digital afterlife.’ Such is the case for residents Jenny Ford and Joseph Wilk who explore contemporary issues regarding the UK housing market, sustainable infrastructure and accessibility.

“Scientists and technologists are some of the most creative people you’ll meet” – David Bright (visitor).

This is not to say that the development of technology itself is not creative – quite the opposite – as anyone who took part in Naomi Smyth’s ‘Stay & Play’ sessions will know. The skill and creative thinking that goes into operating this equipment is exceptional. As one of our visitors stated, “scientists and technologists are some of the most creative people you’ll meet.” Experienced and inquisitive attendees witnessed this firsthand by testing the technology on display, including VR headsets, a digital avatar, and immersive audio. Each was inspired by the experience and contributed to an atmosphere of excitement and engaging conversation.

Creative Technologist Naomi Smyth | Image by TechSpark

So why Bath?

As many have pointed out, technological innovation is not what we’re known for. But behind the beautiful facade, that’s exactly what you’ll find. As reflected in this years themes; Sport and Life Sciences, Cities, and Space, Bath is home to businesses, organisations and students tackling issues on a local and national scale. Of course, there’s room for improvement – most importantly raising awareness about the work already taking place. When asked what they thought would benefit the technological industry in Bath, visitors focused on investment, nurturing talent and affordable workspaces. As Jessica Hannan states, “There’s a decentralisation of creative power happening from London. It’s up for grabs. And I think, why not Bath? Why can’t this be the pioneering place?” This was echoed by visitors who praised the cities’ prime location (including many who travelled to the event) arguing that its railway and position on the M4 corridor allows a flow of movement, not just from London, but Cardiff, Swindon and Bristol. A benefit of this proximity is the chance for collaboration, reflected in The Studio’s ethos that we work better when we work together and facilitate opportunities for networking and skill sharing. This gives Bath a unique edge and should be encouraged to help draw in talent from multiple sectors.

“There’s a decentralisation of creative power happening from London. It’s up for grabs. And I think, why not Bath? Why can’t this be the pioneering place?” – Jessica Hannan | Studio Resident

Of course, we cannot accommodate the same level of technological industry found in larger cities. But is this a bad thing? As we have witnessed, Bath’s size does not diminish its potential to inspire and nurture groundbreaking research and enterprise. While the individuals and businesses that start here may move elsewhere, institutions like The Studio can offer the personalised support and resources necessary to get those big ideas off the ground. This includes one million pounds worth of expertise, space and equipment with each residency valued at twelve thousand pounds. This feeds into the wider economy, making the Bath and Bristol tech industry worth £1.7 billion (TechSpark), and an attractive destination for over eighty-one thousand tech workers. A prime example is resident Paul West (founder of Fumb Games) who (with The Studio’s support) received £150,000 from The UK Games Fund to develop their business. This is part of the Governments fifty-billion-pound plan to support emerging games developers and grow creative industries by 2030 (GOV.UK).

Studio Resident Paul West | Image by TechSpark

Such news is worthy of celebration – and that’s exactly what the Bath Digital Festival does. While the future of technology is populated with frightening stories about the end of humanity, the reality is surprisingly positive. The creative minds behind the next pre-normative tech are not all evil geniuses trying to steal your job, they’re welcoming, inspiring, and eager to share their ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned tech expert, or an enthusiastic amateur, you’re invited to get involved and be part of the conversation. The same goes for The Studio and our residents. We are a growing and somewhat unusual sector of this industry – but we’re proud to be here and showcase just how powerful creative technology can be. While our studio residencies are currently at capacity, we’re constantly looking to develop our relationship with the local tech community. You can attend our events, apply for a student placement, rent our immersive tech equipment or simply book a tour to say hello. We’re always happy to hear from new practitioners and discover the latest projects and research.

Thank you again to the Bath Digital Festival for inviting us to be part of this year’s celebration – We’ll see you next time!

Interested in getting your hands on some cutting-edge kit? Fill in our expression of interest form.

– Written by Zoe Williams