Studio News 04 Jul 2024

Glastonbury 2024: Merging Performance and Technology in Festival Installations

What role did creative technology play at Glastonbury Festival? We sent The Studio’s team to this year’s festival to find out! 

So, let’s cut to the chase: how did we get into Glastonbury?  

For this project, we were delighted to collaborate with Dr. Coral Manton (Senior Lecturer in Creative Computing in Bath Spa University School of Design) and Naomi Smyth (The Studio/MyWorld Creative Technologist). 

These kinds of engagements form part of exploring our role in facilitating the engagement of our local communities with creative technology. This work takes many forms and represents an ongoing process of applied discovery. It spans the programming of fully subsidised public workshops, providing access to immersive technology equipment, and collaborating with BSU researchers to uncover how they are using creative technologies in their own research and projects. And yes, in this case, going to Glastonbury. 

Overview of the Project

Naomi and Coral have previously collaborated with Glastonbury’s Shangri-La space to deliver installations powered by the integration of technology, performance, and storytelling. Their installations evolve in response to new questions posed by the team and society.  

At its core, the installations use a diverse range of technologies, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, physical computing, and creative coding, to create playful encounters that encourage critical reflections around technology and its impact on society. The work combined creative technology and performance allowing audiences to experience the installations through interactive technologies, theatre and storytelling. The fusion of technology and performance crafted a unique space for festival-goers to engage with complex ideas in a creative and accessible manner, fostering curiosity and laughter, playfulness and recognition of the dystopian and absurd aspects of our relationship to tech. 

The Installations 

Each piece of interconnected work encourages attendees to reflect on critical issues facing modern society related to technology, from data privacy and the gig economy to the relentless pursuit of productivity and the pervasive influence of social media. By merging technology, performance, and storytelling, the installations created dynamic spaces for dialogue and introspection, offering festival-goers a unique lens through which to examine the complexities of our digital and consumer-driven world.  

Data Dealers

‘Data Dealers’ is an installation that critiques the commodification of personal data in the digital age. It presents a dystopian marketplace where personal information, biometrics, and even innermost thoughts are traded like commodities. 

Designed by Coral Manton and developed with Dave Webb, Sam Sturtivant, Nigel Fryatt, Sam Kaighin and Rachel Pownall.

The Fulfilment Centre 

The Fulfilment Centre showcases a pseudo-spiritual wellness store that relies on an overworked, dehumanised workforce. The installation features illuminated bottles with wellness symbols, alongside a grim display of burnt-out workers in harsh conditions. 

[LEFT]: Designed by Coral Manton and developed with Dave Webb, Richard Duerden and Sam Kaighin.

[RIGHT]: Designed and developed by Naomi Smyth.


Influenzoo’ is an immersive environment mocking contemporary influencer culture. It features a carousel of influencers promoting products in a performative manner that exposes the absurdity and superficiality of their influence.  The messy box stage littered with product detritus and fake backdrops provides a double frame, showing the mess and artifice that is excluded from the ‘perfection’ of the social media feed.

Designed by Naomi Smyth and Nik Rawlings and developed by Nigel Fryatt.

Bludd Lettings

Bludd Lettings’ features performers posing as unscrupulous estate agents trying to sell overpriced, inadequate housing (tents and trailers) to festival attendees. The agents’ tactics become increasingly dishonest as negotiations proceed, highlighting unethical behaviors in the real estate market. 

Designed and developed by Naomi Smyth.

Time Chuggers

‘Time Chuggers’ is an interactive performance where performers masquerading as charity workers aim to commandeer festival-goers‘ free time (estimated to be an average of 3h 40m a day when not at a festival). The Time Chuggers start by asking you what you can do for billionaires during this time that might ‘trickle down’– then divert the conversation towards how attendees would really like to be spending their time and what they would do if they had more.  

Designed and developed by Naomi Smyth.

Key Discoveries and Reflections

Economic and Creative Impact

The Shangri-La field, and Glastonbury more broadly, are doing outstanding work in providing opportunities for creative technologists to reach wider audiences and support the creative industries and local economy. Glastonbury Festival is estimated to generate over £100 million for the South West’s economy each time it is staged (UK Music). This dynamic environment fosters the development of new technologies and artistic expressions, advancing the creative sector’s growth and innovation.  

Preparation is Key

Taking creative technology into the field is challenging but greatly facilitated by thorough preparation. Being offline without easy internet access was a key consideration for the build team, underscoring the importance of having all necessary tools on hand. At one point, the ethernet adapter for InfluenZoo failed intermittently, requiring the team to rebuild the software on a different device with a built-in ethernet port. This was only possible because they had the essential software on a memory stick safely stashed in their tent. 

Simplicity in Interaction Design

Festival-goers love pressing buttons! Interaction design in a festival setting must be simple and intuitive. Attendees, often walking thousands of steps and experiencing numerous attractions, won’t engage with overly complex interfaces. The AI object detection in ‘Data Dealers’ exemplified this well. Initially drawn in by monitors, cables, and LED displays, visitors were amazed to see live video feeds with AI-powered reactions. This highlights how sophisticated backend technologies can support user-friendly front-end interactions. 

Potential for Intimate Tech-Infused Performances

The intersection of interactive performance and creative technology in more intimate settings shows remarkable potential for growth. Traditionally, the application of technology in festivals has been on a grand scale, with large LED walls, impressive lighting, and digital visuals. However, there is also significant space for creative technology in smaller installations. Influenzoo demonstrated how technology can enhance an installation’s production value without overshadowing its core artistic focus. 

World-Class Technological Experiences

Glastonbury Festival hosts some of the best examples of creative technology-powered experiences globally. Arcadia’s new dragonfly stage is a remarkable feat of engineering, featuring projection mapping, salvaged materials, lasers, pyrotechnics, and a 360-degree LED globe. Every visit to the stage revealed audiences completely transfixed by the work and immersed in the music provided by world-leading DJs. 

By reflecting on these experiences and joining the project, we gained a deeper understanding of how creative technology can engage diverse audiences, enhance artistic expressions, and support the growth of the creative economy. Glastonbury provided fertile ground for experimentation and showcased the potential for both large-scale and intimate tech-infused experiences. 

The Team 

Marketing Consultant at The Studio and Associate Lecturer in Creative Computing: Nigel Fryatt, Project Co-Director, Senior Lecturer in Creative Computing: Dr Coral Manton, Writer and MyWorld’s Innovation manager: Rachel Pownall, Technical Demonstrator in Creative Computing: Sam Kaighin, Teaching Fellow in Games Development: Sam Sturtivant, Writer and Student Engagement Officer: Richard Duerden, Lecturer in Creative Computing: Dave Webb.

The Studio & MyWorld:

Project Co-Director, MyWorld Creative Technologist: Naomi Smyth.  

Marketing Consultant at The Studio: Nigel Fryatt. 

Creative Producer at The Studio: Nik Rawlings.  

MyWorld’s Innovation manager: Rachel Pownall. 

Bath School of Design:

Project Co-Director, Senior Lecturer in Creative Computing: Dr Coral Manton  

Lecturer in Creative Computing: Dave Webb 

Teaching Fellow in Games Development: Sam Sturtivant  

Technical Demonstrator in Creative Computing: Sam Kaighin 

Associate Lecturer in Creative Computing: Nigel Fryatt. 


Bath School of Design, The Studio and MyWorld BSU have contributed in-kind in the form of staff time, production space and equipment.