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‘A revolution that never happened’: The Gunpowder Plot at the Tower of London | Theatre

In a series of vaults adjacent to the Tower of London that used to house fast-food restaurants and shops selling trinkets to tourists, a portal into Jacobean London is being constructed.

The Gunpowder Plot is an ambitious immersive experience, created by Layered Reality – the company behind the immersive The War of the Worlds – in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces. It invites audiences to step back in time and engage with the events of 1605, when Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic conspirators plotted to blow up parliament and King James I.

Danny Robins, the writer behind The Battersea Poltergeist podcast who was recently nominated for an Olivier award for his play 2:22 – A Ghost Story, describes it as “a seismic moment in British history – the revolution that never happened”. While the show employs different storytelling techniques, including video (Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, will play the digital role of Guy Fawkes), virtual reality and live performance, Robins says that at its heart is an exploration of the men behind the gunpowder plot and what motivated them to take such drastic action.

It is, he explains, about “a group of young activists who are being persecuted, who are seeing people that they love imprisoned, tortured, executed, and who want to change their world and want to fight against a government that feels unjust”.

Tom Felton and the crew discuss a scene
Tom Felton and the crew discuss a scene. Photograph: Mark Dawson/Rex/Shutterstock

In this sense, he says, it feels very contemporary. Now, as then, he explains, “we’re very divided along ideological lines”. The show addresses the implications of that, asking: “How far do you go to change your world?” In the show, groups of 16 people at a time are guided from room to room as actors propel them from scene to scene (people’s different mobility and access needs are addressed). While it contains plenty of action and adventure – there’s a scene inspired by the daring escape of the Jesuit priest John Gerard from the tower – and moments when you are obliged to hide from pursuers, the show ultimately hangs on an ethical dilemma about political violence and whether it is ever justifiable. Audience members are asked to decide who they will side with, the plotters or the crown, and their decision has an impact on their experience of the show.

Director Hannah Price was attracted by the challenge of telling this story in an engaging way that did not shy away from historical complexity. One of the things the show does is demonstrate just how devastating an impact such a blast would have had, the lives that would have been lost had they been successful.

Guy Fawkes has become a symbol of rebellion, says Price. He is the face of hacker collective Anonymous. She hopes the show enables people to explore the choices he made and the reasons behind them in a way that feels current, “rather than abstracted through the lens of history”.

With a background in immersive storytelling and gaming as well as theatre, she hopes to make the audience feel as if they are the protagonists. “What they see, what they feel and how they interact with people have an impact on what happens.” The space plays a part of this. The vaults are part of the Tower of London estates, so not only are they incredibly atmospheric, but, “we really are separated from the people involved in this story just by time, not by location”.

When I visit the space in March, it is still in the process of being transformed. Prison cells, boat sheds and panelled Jacobean rooms are taking shape in various underground chambers, along with a bar and restaurant. Banks of 3D printers are creating brackets for lanterns. Historical accuracy has been prioritised as much as possible (a display at the end makes it clear where artistic licence has been applied). Alden Gregory, curator of buildings at Historic Royal Palaces, has taken on the role of historical adviser. What excites him particularly is the opportunity it will afford visitors to see the tower as it would have been in 1605, before later additions were made, and to virtually “reconstruct some of the lost buildings”.

Heritage spaces in the UK are increasingly engaging with new ways of making history come alive for their visitors. Historic Royal Palaces has collaborated with theatre companies before, such as Wildworks and Les Enfants Terribles, but this is its most ambitious project. The heritage sector was hit hard by the pandemic, affected in a similar way as live performance. With historic buildings closed to the public, many jobs were lost. It is necessary, says Robins, to find new ways of making people, particularly younger ones, want to visit these spaces; to make them feel relevant. “I wonder if we feel less connected to history than we did in the past?” he asks.

In 1605, plague remained a real threat – it delayed the opening of parliament. Londoners’ lives then, as now, were disrupted by disease. Robins hopes the show will give visitors a welcome boost after the routine imposed by lockdown. “I love the idea of making theatre feel adrenalised.” Virtual reality, he says, has “this ability to make us feel like kids again. It’s a real magic lantern for our age.” Yet virtual reality is only one aspect of what is a live, interactive experience, he stresses, one that starts when you leave daylight behind and descend beneath the streets.

London is a city of layers, steeped in history. Robins loves the idea of theatre that penetrates these layers and, in doing so, to step back in time. Immersive theatre, he says, is the “closest thing that we have right now to time travel”.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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