Bristol-based Duncan Speakman, composer & sound artist, wins Immersive Art and XR Award at BFI London Film Festival

Massive congratulations to Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio resident Duncan Speakman, who won the BFI London Film Festival's first ever award in the Immersive Art and XR category for his augmented audio walk Only Expansion which uses innovative mobile electronics to remix the sounds around you as you walk through the city, sometimes combining them with emotive music, at other times letting you hear how your city might sound when it’s flooded.

A guidebook prompts you to explore the city, choosing your own route while voices of passers-by become a choir, bus brakes create pulsating rhythms or the sounds of Tunisian desert winds blend with the real wind against your skin. A visceral and poetic reflection on what it means to live on a planet in crisis, connecting the here to the elsewhere, letting you experience our tangled ecology through sound.

Felix Barrett, Immersive Art and XR Competition President says: “This is the first year that LFF Expanded is giving an award. When we were thinking about a film festival giving an award for immersion, we’ve chosen a piece that we feel put us inside a film. On a normal grey morning on the South Bank, it transformed the world around us and made it truly cinematic.”

Duncan Speakman says: “I am delighted to receive London Film Festival's first ever award in the Immersive and XR Art category for Only Expansion. Sometimes I feel like all I've been doing in my 13 years at the Pervasive Media Studio is making people walk around with headphones on. This award feels testament to the amazing contributions that the Studio community have generously given, from technical support and production to critical thinking and artistic sensibilities. Having audio experiments celebrated within a visually dominated field is of course appealing to my biases, but I'm also really excited that a work trying to respond to climate change through viscerality and darkness has been so well received.”

Victoria Tillotson, Talent Development Lead, Watershed says: “We are so excited that Duncan Speakman’s immersive audio work Only Expansion has won the Immersive Art and XR Award at London Film Festival. Supporting artists who push at the boundaries of what cinema can be, is a hugely important part of our work at Watershed and it is great to see this work gaining the recognition it deserves. We were delighted to partner with Season for Change to commission this iteration of the piece, and enable it to tour to a number of major UK venues and festivals. We look forward to sharing it in Liverpool next!"

Only Expansion was developed with support from Theatre in The Mill Bradford, University of Exeter Arts And Culture, Lydgalleriet Bergen, and Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants. It is currently touring with support from Watershed as part of Season for Change, a nationwide programme of artistic and cultural events that celebrate the environment and inspire urgent climate action. Led by Julie’s Bicycle and Artsadmin, and supported by Arts Council England and Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The BFI London Film Festival 2021 competition sections are a celebration of the most exciting, innovative new films and cinematic storytelling. Creative, beautiful and often provocative, the nominees showcased an incredible range of talent from across 11 countries.  

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