Digging Communities | Connected Communities Festival Part I: The Virtual Trench

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Every project has its star …

In the first of three blog posts, Caer Heritage Project Lead Artist Paul Evans looks back on three creative projects that he was involved in co-curating for the AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2014. 

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Connected Communities Festival 2014 took place on Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd July. Although based at St David’s Hall, Cardiff Bay and Motorpoint Arena, the festival included a number of off-site events and activities – not least of which was another amazing archaeological dig that took place during the festival at Caerau hill fort. Our challenge was to bring elements of the experience of the dig down to the bay – to create a ‘Virtual Trench’.

The Virtual Trench, which was created and designed in collaboration with Chopshop consisted of a fairly imposing structure that bore a graphic timeline of events around its outer surface:

The Virtual Dig at St David's, Cardiff Bay

The Virtual Dig at St David’s, Cardiff Bay

This structure formed a customised projection booth, within which we projected footage real-time from the Caerau dig as was it taking place on the hill fort:

Footage from the dig taking place at Caerau is projected inside The Virtual Dig ...

Footage from the dig taking place at Caerau is projected inside The Virtual Dig …

Visitors to the festival were encouraged to ‘excavate’ The Virtual Trench and, under the guidance of CAER Heritage Project archaeologists and community volunteers, use genuine tools and specialised techniques to uncover real finds from the real dig.

Special screening of the 'Caeraustock' short films ..

Special screening of the ‘Caeraustock’ short films ..

A special screening of the ‘Caeraustock’ short films – created by local cameraman Viv Thomas and LightTrap films with Michaelston College – added a further layer of visual depth and interaction to the installation. A video of CAER Heritage Project Director Dr David Wyatt discussing The Virtual Trench can be viewed here.

Many thanks to Ian Gracey for invaluable assistance with transport and construction of The Virtual Trench and Paul Kemble and our student helpers: Penni Bestic, Heather Crowley, Cath Horler-Underwood, Melissa Julian Jones, and Aron Williams for welcoming visitors to stand over the duration of the festival.