The Irish wake where immersive technology meets award-winning theatre

NI Science Festival
How technology and arts will come together during the premier of Granny Jackson's Dead at February's NI Science Festival

New business technology including virtual reality, AI, and holograms will merge with a pioneering arts organisation - over an Irish wake - at the Northern Ireland Science Festival, taking place from February 15-25.

The critically acclaimed Big Telly Theatre Company plans to tackle tech and tradition in the premier of Granny Jackson’s Dead, a beautifully bonkers ode to an Irish wake (it’s being held at 47 Malone Road in Belfast).

Held in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, the National Centre of Social Research and the Centre for Cultural Value, the event is skilfully created and directed by Big Telly’s artistic director Zoe Seaton, a recipient of The Stage 100 and the Theatre Innovation award at the Origin First Irish Festival in New York.

What makes the event truly unique is the team’s approach, as each writer explores the storyline from a distinct character perspective to seamlessly blend theatre, virtual reality, and gaming, to explore the psychological and social impacts of digital memorialisation.

“This is a cross-art form journey filled with home truths, twists, turns, and, of course, tea,” says Zoe.

“Tradition collides with technology as the family grapples with the decision to let Granny’s spirit go free while preserving her digital legacy.”

She added: “There are so many different elements to this show, and I’m excited about all of them, but most of all, because I know that the audience will have a brilliant time at this delightfully dysfunctional family function.

“As Thornton Wilder put it - ‘From the start it has been the theatre’s business to entertain people. It needs no other passport than fun.’ "

As result of a Collaborate Fund research grant, Big Telly is working with Manchester Metropolitan University and the National Centre of Social Research on deliberative research which investigates the intersection of immersive theatre and arts-led dialogue, specifically exploring the effects of digitising memory and memorialisation.

Researchers Michael Pinchbeck, Joshua Edelman, Kirsty Fairclough from Manchester Metropolitan University say: “This is an exciting industry-facing collaboration between Manchester School of Art & Performance and School of Digital Arts using cutting-edge technology.

NI Science Festival
The making of Granny Jackson’s Dead

“Our performance research has a long-term interest in grief, memory and commemoration. During the pandemic, we saw how inescapable technology was for many forms of social interaction, including mourning.

“We’re interested in exploring how face-to-face encounters and digital tools can work together in an immersive performance. Collaborating with NatCen and Big Telly to explore these ideas in such an innovative, creative, and engaging way has transformed our approach to working across disciplines and contexts.”

Eleanor O’Keeffe of the National Centre for Social Research says: “Digital technologies are rapidly changing how we grieve and remember loved ones. Granny Jackson’s Dead slows us all down to think through those changes, engaging us to properly consider what we gain and what we lose as families, communities, societies.

“Grief technologies haven’t yet been scoped by policy-makers, but their design and proliferation hold huge implications for public health and social relationships.

“Big Telly’s is a valuable, deliberative intervention in navigating publics through these social and ethical issues and asking them what the futures of technology in this area of human life should be.”

Details of booking for the unique show can be found at