Live immersive experience only possible with ’deep pockets’ of creators, report reveals

Image credit: Immersive Experience Network
Image credit: Immersive Experience Network
More than half of creatives who put on live/location-based immersive experiences are having to self-fund performances, a new report finds.

An Immersive Experience Network (IEN) report into the UK’s live/location-based immersive experience sector has revealed it is overly dependent on individuals and lacking in development opportunities and access to funding.

The report , published today (24th May), was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and led by Dr Joanna Bucknall, lecturer in modern and contemporary drama and theatre at the University of Birmingham, and Co-founder of the Immersive Experience Network.

The survey results, outlined in the IEN report, show that more than 55% of work in the sector is being funded, at least somewhat, by the creatives’ own personal investment. 35% of new pieces of work are funded by the success of previous shows and experiences.

Dr Bucknall commented: "The findings outlined in this report show the precarious position the UK live immersive experience sector finds itself in. The sector is overly dependent on individuals in the industry for funding, job opportunities and talent recruitment."

We also discovered that there is a tendency for those working in the immersive experience space to do multiple jobs. As within the arts, freelancers are depended on heavily to do just about everything, often all at the same time. If the immersive experience sector is to continue to grow in the UK and remain a global leader, then it is crucial that the industry makes the sector more accessible for new talent from performers to directors and producers.

Dr Joanna Bucknall, University of Birmingham
The UK is widely regarded as a world leader when it comes to immersive live experiences and performances. Groups such as Punchdrunk, Immersive Everywhere, Little Lion, Secret Cinema, ZU-UK and Les Enfants Terribles have produced critically and commercially successful shows and experiences, helping to cement the UK’s global reputation. But the report shows that funding and finance in the live/location-based immersive experience space are still lacking.

Dr Bucknall continued: "While it is encouraging that companies and organisations are using profits from successful shows to keep creating, it is a real concern that new shows and experiences are overly dependent on individual creatives having deep enough pockets to invest their own money into projects. Funding and investment are often hard to access, especially for micro and small businesses and those just starting out in the industry."

The report’s authors, Joanna Bucknall, (UoB) and Nicole Jacobus, (IEN), argue that for the live immersive experience sector to flourish in the UK urgent action is needed to get more people working in the space, and investment is desperately needed, not just in monetary terms but also in skills development and recognition, and talent recruitment.

Dr Bucknall concluded: "For those operating in the live immersive experience space, these findings may not be all that surprising, but what it does, is lay bare the lack of resilience in the sector. The UK is lauded for its arts and culture sector all over the world, and live immersive experience is a wide-ranging and rapidly expanding area. If we are to capitalize on all the brilliant opportunities and talent that this area of performance can provide, then strategic action needs to be taken, and quickly. The live immersive experience space is currently a house of cards in the arts industry, whereas it should form part of the concrete foundation for the sector."

For media inquiries please contact Ellie Hail , Communications Officer, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)7966 311 409. Out-of-hours, please call +44 (0) 121 414 2772.

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 8,000 international students from over 150 countries.

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