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IGNITE Business Programme to support Plymouth students’ business ambitions

Local students are set to take the next steps of their entrepreneurial journey with IGNITE’s free Business Programme

This May the award-winning IGNITE Festival of Creativity launches their free Business Programme, open to students and graduates from Plymouth College of Art and University of Plymouth. This hands-on programme will support participants to develop key enterprise skills and gain the confidence to grow their creative businesses after graduation.

Plymouth students are set to kickstart their businesses at the IGNITE Business Programme Image Credit Plymouth College of Art

Plymouth students are set to kickstart their businesses at the IGNITE Business Programme. Image Credit: Plymouth College of Art


Eight evening workshops will be delivered by Mark Cotton, an independent business development consultant, founder of Mark Cotton Consultancy, and Non-executive Director and Trustee of KARST, Plymouth’s largest independent contemporary arts space. Including business planning, digital marketing, customer insight, and pitching, workshops will equip participants with the practical skills to pursue their business ambitions and prepare their products or ideas for market. Students and graduates with existing business will also benefit from best practice in how to grow or diversify their business, as well as mentoring opportunities.

Running from 23 May to 1 June 2022, places must be booked online in advance on Eventbrite, where details are also available for how students from other Plymouth-based educational institutions can apply to join.

Now in its fourth year, the IGNITE Festival of Creativity celebrates the work of hundreds of creative graduates from over 30 of Plymouth College of Art and University of Plymouth’s degree programmes across a series of exhibitions and events across multiple city-wide venues, including galleries, studios and event spaces.

Students can benefit from mentoring opportunities at the IGNITE Business Programme Image Credit Plymouth College of Art

Students can benefit from mentoring opportunities at the IGNITE Business Programme. Image Credit: Plymouth College of Art


Peter Barker, Head of Plymouth College of Art’s School of Design + Communication, said: “The IGNITE Festival, which has been running since 2019, has been a boost to graduate profile building and employability. Plymouth College of Art students have benefitted from the Ignite Futures talent promotion website, from exhibition and promotional opportunities around the city of Plymouth and from participation in business facing seminars and training sessions."

IGNITE is supported by Plymouth City Council as part of the iMayflower project, and by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund (administered by Arts Council England).

Plymouth students will gain key enterprise skills at IGNITE Business Programme Image Credit Plymouth College of Art
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iMayflower: How immersive can change how we view the climate crisis

The iMayflower project catches up with South West artist and filmmaker Michaela French who has used immersive storytelling in her recent work, Climate Crimes.

We have always told stories. Whether fiction or fact, they are how we tell our past, present and what we believe to be our future.

But we have never told stories quite like how they are experienced inside Plymouth’s Immersive Dome at The Market Hall in Devonport.

This awe-inspiring 15m 360-degree space places you inside a story. You don’t simply watch or read. You become part of the experience.

It’s a remarkable way to consume the stories of our past and present. But for what our future might hold, the immersive nature of the Dome gives the viewer a new understanding of what our world might become.

This is exactly how South West artist and filmmaker Michaela French has used immersive storytelling in her recent work, Climate Crimes.


Her large-scale immersive fulldome video installation explores the complex relationship between global air pollution, climate change and human migration.

It tells the story of our present and future in a way like no other. It communicates the climate crisis in shocking new ways. And it is only possible to create this kind of urgent experience in a place like the Immersive Dome in Plymouth.

“For me to be standing in this space is a dream come true for me,” says Michaela, speaking inside the Dome at the recent Fulldome Festival.

“To have this here on our doorstep and to have access and open availability and discussions with the team from Real Ideas about how this space might get used is just wonderful. It’s really an amazing landmark.”

Climate Crimes investigates how anthropogenic aerosols and other atmospheric particles originating in the wealthy nations of the global north – Europe, USA, China, and others - impact global climate systems and contribute to the desertification and migration in the Sahel region of north Africa.

The spatial video content is designed to immerse the viewer in this cyclic story of cause and effect. The imagery shifts from microscopic to universal scales, incorporating the physical dome structure in the narrative movement across complex data sets, global perspectives and human stories.

It is told in a way that would only be possible with immersive technology.

Michaela said: “We are so absolutely utterly inundated with science visualisations and climate visualisations and data visualisations in every news feed or every kind of screen-based media.

“And it’s completely abstract and it’s remote and you feel like it’s just more stuff that you should deal with, but you don’t have time. So you just dismiss it.

“And I think in choosing to make Climate Crimes in the Dome, it puts people at the centre of the story and presents the material in a way that people almost had to engage with it.”

The difference of how the Immersive Dome tells a story compared to traditional film (including the 3D version) is hard to pinpoint, but in the experience it’s all-consuming.

“Imagine that you’re in it, not watching,” says Michaela. “I think for me, that’s the difference between presenting content in a normal cinematic or screen-based environment or in the Dome.

“So in the Dome, the body is central to the story, the person in the body, the mind in the body, the consciousness in the body has to engage with the content that’s around.

“It’s a lived experience. It’s not an abstract idea that you can look at remotely. The relationship between the content and the audience changes a lot in a Dome.

“In the Plymouth Dome at the Market Hall, this space is amazingly accessible for people with disabilities. A group in wheelchairs apparently came to Dome recently and reported they were inadvertently moving their joysticks and that the wheelchairs were choreographing with them with the movement of the image on the Dome.

“For me, there’s a fantastic power in that because it’s a direct link. The body’s engaging subconsciously with this space around it in the same way that we do in the world. So, I guess as a filmmaker, it’s understanding there’s that potential there and that in telling the stories, using that potential to kind of make people think or feel differently about how that.”

Michaela is under no illusions of the power that the facility in the heart of Plymouth could wield in the future.

“What kind of stories we can tell and the access we have to the Dome means we can start to kind of play with what kind of questions we want to ask.” she says.

“So, whether that’s from the community, talking about issues at ground level, or whether it’s opportunities to bring a bigger kind of research and other kinds of real-world storytelling into this space, or whether it’s much more exploratory and artistic experience-based events that take place.

“It’s basically an open canvas and we can do whatever we find here. It’s fantastic. I’m excited.”

This activity is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England. iMayflower is led by Plymouth City Council and delivered in partnership with Creative England, Crowdfunder, Destination Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art, the Real Ideas Organisation and University of Plymouth.

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iMayflower: The innovators in sound immersed in changing the way we hear

The iMayflower project catches up with Matthew Raistrick and Ryan Thorne from Exitus Ab Productions, who are leading the way for immersive spatial sound.

Mono, stereo, surround - since the second half of the 20th century the world has been on quite the journey through sound.

But it’s never been quite so intensely captivating as spatial sound - a truly immersive and 3D experience which puts the listener in an audio environment that feels like escapism.

Listen to an audiobook created with spatial sound and it can feel like you’re walking in the shoes of the main character, without ever opening your eyes - a remarkably lifelike sonic experience that’s levels above surround sound at the cinema.

It’s literally changing how we listen - and in Plymouth, two masters of sound are at the forefront of the development of this immersive experience.

Matthew Raistrick is one half of Exitus Ab - roughly Latin for escaping from reality - a spatial sound production company doing pioneering work which is earning global recognition.

He and his business partner, Ryan Thorne, both completed a Master’s in 2020, specialising in innovation in sound. Next, they set up Exitus Ab - a “hands-on, innovation-driven production house, creating bespoke spatial sound design and music for audiobooks, TV, film, games and advertising”.

They were one of the companies on show at this year’s Fulldome Festival, a global celebration of immersive technology - hosted by ‘fulldomes’ across the world including the new Immersive Dome at the Market Hall in Devonport.

“We’ve been looking at taking the concept of audio books and making them into full 3D, spatial experiences where we’re able to put the listener in the shoes of a main character in a narrative,” explains Matthew.

“The whole world is just imagined around you, formatted in a binary format, so it’s headphone-based, but it’s very intimate because of that.

“As much as we love film media, and we’ve spent a lot of time in the industry, we find that visuals are always at the forefront and sound becomes secondary and it’s always dubbed over in post-production.

“In our company we wanted to be sound specialists where sound is the primary catalyst and the driving force of a production, and it’s still something that’s quite unique and new in the industry.”

It’s a difficult concept to wrap your ears around but a quick taster of one of Exitus Ab’s audiobooks (try their YouTube, Soundcloud and socials) and the experience is breathtaking.

The duo became involved with Real Ideas, creators of Market Hall and the Dome, earlier this year, and are in no doubt of the power the Immersive Dome could have in making Plymouth a capital for immersive experiences while giving a platform to innovative new businesses such as Exitus Ab.

“It’s something that’s incredibly unique for Plymouth. Opportunities-wise it’s provided us with not quite a residency, but at the moment we’re freelanced in and we’re able to offer support for the system here. We’ve got a 19.1 system which is incredibly modular.

“Just yesterday we had the first live performance that they’ve had here in situ, which ended up being a really incredible and completely unique experience. We’re able to develop our craft, really get to know this space. And we’re looking to put on our own content that’s going to be provisioned here as well in the future.”

Matthew is aware of how spatial sound is slowly making waves around the world. The recent introduction of Apple’s Spatial Sound integration has brought it mainstream and Plymouth could play a vital role in its development - attracting investment and helping build careers.

He said: “Spatial sound in terms of creative media in the South West at the moment is very low level. And in the wider industry, Apple has just introduced its spatial sound integration.

“But having this opportunity to be able to work with local schools, putting workshops on and doing induction and training sessions on the audio system here means we can engage with the local community and really then inspire the new generation of content creators who are going to be putting art projects on in this space.”

This activity is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England. iMayflower is led by Plymouth City Council and delivered in partnership with Creative England, Crowdfunder, Destination Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art, the Real Ideas Organisation and University of Plymouth.

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