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Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy Launches Belfast XR Festival

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Ryan Murphy has launched the 2024 Belfast XR Festival at the Black Box in Hill Street.

Belfast XR, now in its third year, specialises in curating worldclass immersive technology content that takes the art of storytelling to a new level.


Extended Reality or ‘XR’ is the collective name for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR is a computer-generated artificial environment with scenes that appear to be real, while AR is a digital overlay onto the real world, which is viewed through your phone or an iPad. 


Speaking at the launch of the festival, Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy said: “I’m delighted to help launch the Belfast XR festival as it celebrates its third year in the city. Innovation is in Belfast’s DNA – once world leaders in linen production and shipbuilding, today we’re making waves in world-leading technology and the creative industries.


“At Belfast City Council we’re committed to fostering creativity through our Belfast Agenda and the Belfast Region City Deal, and Belfast XR is a brilliant showcase of the kinds of technological innovations we will be seeing more of in the future.


“I’d encourage everyone – those with experience of augmented reality and those who are new to this kind of technology – to visit the Belfast XR Festival and experience this immersive storytelling experience first-hand.”


Deepa Mann-Kler, director and curator for Belfast XR Festival which is an annual gathering for the XR arts – storytelling, visual arts, music, drama, dance, literature and theatre, said she was delighted to welcome Belfast City Council as one of the sponsors of the 2024 festival.


She added: “I have been working with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) since 2016 with my company Neon. 


“I realised that there are so many incredible stories being told in this medium that audiences in Northern Ireland never get the opportunity to experience. We are delighted to be able to bring together the 2024 festival with the support of all of our funders who make it possible for us to make these unique experiences available to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.


“Our ambition is to create an unmissable annual gathering for XR that inspires storytelling and our passion is to bring the best global virtual and augmented reality content to new local audiences. You don’t need to have used a virtual reality headset before, as our team will guide you through the whole process.” 


Running on Wednesday February 28 and Thursday 29 at the Black Box this year’s festival theme is Legacy which will offer attendees the chance to experience world history in captivating ways allowing audiences to step into the past, interact with historical figures, and explore significant events firsthand. 


The Belfast XR Festival 2024 is also supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.


Matthew Malcolm, Creative Industries Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support the Belfast XR Festival, thanks to The National Lottery players. This funding support reflects the Arts Council’s commitment to encouraging innovative practices that cross artform boundaries and build digital capabilities within the Northern Ireland arts sector. 


Congratulations to Deepa Mann-Kler the team at Belfast XR in curating this terrific festival – don’t miss out!”


Belfast XR Festival is both for XR enthusiasts and those who haven’t experienced any form of XR in the past.


This year’s festival is also supported by the Department for Communities through Northern Ireland Screen.


David McConnell, Head of Education at Northern Ireland Screen said: “ As Belfast XR enters its third year, we are pleased to support its evolution as a pioneer in immersive storytelling, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and technology to new heights. 


“Belfast XR will provide a unique opportunity to experience content such as 360 film, interactive virtual and augmented reality from high-profile international filmmakers who are experimenting with new technologies, to new works from some of the most exciting emerging talent in the field.”


Belfast XR Festival 2024 has three key experiences – the heart-wrenching VR voyage of survival Stay Alive My Son, the profound audio exploration of eternal life Eternal and a magical VR journey through the work of Catalan architect and designer Antoni Gaudí in Gaudí, The Atelier of the Divine.


The festival also includes three free to access experiences available for anyone who books a ticket to one of the three main events.


Deepa said: “The Festival is aimed at 16+ years of age and is open to everyone. You don’t need to have experienced AR, VR or any of these types of experiences before. We have an amazing team who will guide you through the whole process from the minute you step into The Black Box.  


“I want people to have memorable experiences. I want them to be altered, in a good way. I want them to talk about how it made them feel. I want to increase their appetite to experience more. 


The Belfast XR Festival is also supported by Digital Catapult NI, Future Screens NI and Ulster Screen Academy.


For more information follow Belfast XR Festival on social media or go to belfastxrfestival.com 

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