Escaping Gravity, DocFest 2022, Sheffield

In the newly created Accesses as Space on Sheffield’s Fargate (opposite Marks & Spencer) I am just in time to catch the 3pm screening of a film commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts to celebrate the links with one of the most audacious projects of the early twentieth century – the R101 Airship.

Sat in front of me a group of DocFest visitors are sunk in low deckchairs as this immersive film begins to weave its magic. Through computer generated imagery we are witnessing the future as it unpacks and celebrates the airship wondering how an idea so far ahead of its time could be allowed to die. If anytime was good to revive the airship project it is now and cannily this collaboration begins to suggest what it meant, especially to the men and women who were involved in it. Archive footage is neatly employed to demonstrate the hopes that lay at the heart of the R101’s construction.

Back in the future the boomeranged voice narrates a possibility illustrated by the human moment that connects our past present and future; an almost sinister focus on isolation.

I want to try and communicate the sheer exhilaration I felt watching this film unfold itself across 36 minutes. I don’t want to spoil it for you – all I can say is that it lives up to its billing as an immersive artwork exploring themes of flight and fantasy.

Escaping Gravity is a collaboration between artists: Roland Denning; Roger Illingworth; Dave Lynch; Rob Strachan; Mike Stubbs and Sam Wiehl.

Escaping Gravity was commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts and The Higgins Art Gallery and the Museum of Bedford with support from Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Airship Heritage Trust and The Harpur Trust.

Escaping Gravity: live still from the 3pm performance on 26 July 2022
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