Best of 2021: A selection of cultural highlights from the last 12 months
As we finally say goodbye to 2021 the great and the good of Welsh culture – and some of the Nation.Cymru gang – share their cultural highlights of the last 12 months.
Most of my cultural highlights this year have been in VR. Thanks to Oculus Quest I’ve been transported to different worlds and experienced other realities without having to step out of the front door – a blessing during a pandemic.
Sundance New Frontier, Venice VR Expanded and FIVARS in LA (Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories) offered an array of amazing experiences, carefully curated and presented inventively in virtual environments. Favourites include Montegelato, Goliath and Invasion of Normandy: Omaha Beach Vr; the latter – voiced by veterans of the beach landings – moved me to tears, which caused a few problems in the headset.
A personal highlight was my debut VR short A Frequency At Lavernock/Amledd Yn Larnog being selected for FIVARS, presenting to the world the first ever creative narrative 360VR experience using the Welsh language.
I love working bilingually and especially relish that clash of ancient tongue with ultra-modern technology. It was a joy to work on with wonderful collaborators in Mary-Anne Roberts, Gareth Clark and Marega Palser, narrated by Sharon Morgan and with an atmospheric soundscape composed by audio genius Marie Tueje.
It’s part of a longer portmanteau project we created between lockdowns, thanks to Arts Council of Wales funding and I’m looking forward to presenting the finished piece next year, with any luck as a location-based experience for audiences in Wales as well as online worldwide.
Other cultural highlights include artist filmmaker and animator Seán Vicary’s online presentation for Moving Image Artists Salon of his stunning work-in-progress Sitelines, a response to Alan Garner’s cult novel The Owl Service which is based on the story of Blodeuwedd.
The film explores the genius loci of the upper Dyfi valley where the novel’s set, using assemblages of found natural objects and animating them against the landscape.
It’s a fantastic example of how a film can evoke a whole world and mythology without needing to explain anything and as always, in the unpacking of his artistic process and the presentation of the work, Seán Vicary was uplifting and inspiring.
As a writer and filmmaker I’m drawn to non-linear and surreal narratives, so really enjoyed Landscapers and WandaVision on TV and recommend Pembrokeshire set black comedy The Toll to those who haven’t seen this engaging debut feature from Welsh filmmakers Ryan Andrew Hooper and Matt Redd, made as part of Ffilm Cymru Wales’ Cinematic scheme.
The one cultural highlight we did manage to get out for was Mysterious Maud’s Chambers Of Fantastical Truth at Castell Coch in November. I saw an earlier incarnation at Insole Court a few years ago and this revival was just as inventive and entertaining as I remembered. Watch out for it, I hear another resurrection is on the cards (if you know, you know!).
Tracy Spottiswoode is a multi-disciplinary creative artist who works in film, radio, animation, virtual reality and live performance. She likes to work bilingually and explore our relationship with place and identity, often examining themes of survival and resistance against oppression. Her work has received multiple awards worldwide and in 2018 with the support of an ACW Creative Wales Award she moved into creating immersive projects in virtual reality. She is developing a number of feature films and works with BFI NETWORK at Ffilm Cymru Wales and as a freelance script and development producer.
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