New VR project And The Beat Goes On-ward 'de-constructed' for Strand Arts Centre premiere

Jim Deeds, star of And The Beat Goes On
Jim Deeds, star of And The Beat Goes On

A NEW Virtual Reality project combining music, poetry, photography and the latest film-making technology will premiere at Belfast's Strand Arts Centre on Saturday March 19.

A short film shot with a 360-degree view VR camera, And The Beat Goes On-wards is a collaboration between poet, musician, author and pastoral worker Jim Deeds, his friend visual artist/director Vincent Kinnaird and VR film producer Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer.

Essentially a multi-media exhibition about Deeds and his family, the film features original poetry and music written and performed to camera in a studio space by the west Belfast man and his sons, Brendan and Joe, who also star alongside their father in specially shot outdoor scenes reflecting family life.

"Jim came up with a poem and a piece of music to look at how 'nothing is new' within the family unit in our society – and yet everything is new," explains Kinnaird of the collaboration produced with support from Future Screens NI, Arts Council NI and the Strand Arts Centre.

"Themes in the project focus on his love of music, photography, nostalgia and poetry and how it has influenced his grown-up children. Jim's two sons, Brendan and Joe, play along with him in a song that he wrote for this piece.

"It's a reflection on the family's role in popular culture, but also a look at intergenerational exchanges and how they can be perceived."

The immersive video is designed to be 'explored' by viewers with the aid of VR headsets/glasses, which will allow them to 'step into' the film and view it from any perspective they choose. There will also be an exhibition featuring 'de-constructed' elements from the piece presented in interactive form.

Kinnaird, who has previously won a Bafta/Kodak award for his short drama Lladia and is the director of Fr Des – The Way He Saw It, a forthcoming documentary on highly respected west Belfast priest Fr Des Wilson, explains what people can expect from Saturday evening's multimedia event at the Strand:

"For this exhibition, we want to deconstruct the 360 film, pull out archive photos of Jim as a child and young man, reconfigure immersive audio and projected video and put these elements in an exhibition space – so that, as the 'beat goes on-wards', we can take what could be a seamless VR headset film and look closely at the elements that make it, take time to stare at the images, listen to the words and feel the beat.

"The contrasts in technology used in art are also something we play with in the exhibition. We have blown up grainy photos from the 1970s and set them beside our film played in Oculus 360 VR headsets and projected around the walls of the exhibition in cinemascope format."

Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer of Ulster University was producer and academic partner to the project, advising throughout on the use of Virtual Reality.

"Jolene encouraged us to bring what started as an experimental film for VR headsets out into an exhibition space," says Kinnaird.

"Her students, Daniel Shields, Eve Drumm, Alexandra Rosbotham and Shane Campbell all helped out greatly in the creation of the work, with lecturer and sound recordist Michael McKnight looking after audio.

He adds: "As two west Belfast 'boys' with a distinct love of our city, we are delighted to be launching this project in east Belfast amongst family and friends."

:: The launch event for And The Beat Goes On-wards on March 19 at Strand Arts Centre will begin at 6.30pm with the screening of two short films in Screen One, followed by the exhibition on the first floor from 7pm. Admission is free