Freshly Ground, associate artists at The Civic have been working on the digital elements of our new project, Sióg, for over a year in collaboration with Ready Steady Show! And the Civic team. The most recent development of Sióg was an outdoor installation for the public to enjoy at the fairy trail in Tymon North Park. The piece encourages young children and their family to scan a series of QR codes to access magical animation experiences through their phone, and also to interact with a number of magical physical decorations created by the fairies of the forest. We caught up with the Freshly Ground Team about the project and how it has evolved…..

This digital experience is a development of a pilot augmented reality piece that was installed outside the Civic during Cruinniú na nÓg. This piece allowed children to see a magical animation and sent them on a quest to collect native Irish wildflower seeds inside the Civic, and to plant them in their homes. For our Tymon Park installation, we decided to expand the scope of the AR technology we used, as we found that the pilot installation outside the Civic was very successful in its reach
and its accessibility for young people. We began by storyboarding the experience with early years audiences in mind, and created three fairy characters: Éanna, Crann and Bolg. We decided that these characters would live inside 3 fairy doors, and that they could be seen by children for just a moment through a phone, before they disappeared!

We are very interested in creative play, and allowing young people to create their own experience within an art piece, and so we encouraged children through the layout of the piece to choose which fairy door they open first, and to create their own narratives around the fairy world that we have created: what are the fairies doing here? Why have they set up in Tymon Park? Where can I see more fairies? Above all, the message of the piece is about biodiversity and climate. We are aiming to make a gentle association for children between fairies and protecting the environment, and asking them to consider how they might do the same.

We worked with wonderful animator Cat Schad to bring these ideas to life, and ended up with three very exciting animation pieces for our three fairy doors. We then began work with AR developer Seán Burns, who created AR triggers for each of the doors. Through our research and development with Seán, we also discovered the idea of an AR-triggered portal, where the user could see into another world. We decided that, as well as our series of fairy doors, we would also trial a portal animation. This portal became a big part of our installation, and Seán worked with us to create a prototype of a user experience where the user is invited to look through a portal in order to see something that is otherwise unseen.

We are extremely excited by the possibilities within the different types of augmented reality that we have used for the project and their capacity to enrich a piece of theatre, and we will definitely be continuing to use these technologies into the future life of Sióg. The beautiful design for this installation comes from set designer and builder Tadashi Kato, who helped us to realise our vision for the physical installation by building a series of bird houses, bird feeders, bug hotels, wind chimes and other animal feeders, including a squirrel piano! The build was carried out sustainably using natural materials in keeping with the ethos of the project.

We have been so delighted with the public response to Sióg, with audiences sending us photos and lovely comments. We are very grateful to South Dublin County Council for their support in getting this installation up and running and presenting it to a large number of children and families in south Dublin.

Ready, Steady, Show