Sir Nicholas Serota: “This places Plymouth and the south west even more firmly on the cultural and technological map.”

A £7.6million transformative regeneration programme, set to put Plymouth, England, on the global map as a leader in immersive technology today came to fruition as Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, joined creative leaders from across the country to formally open the city’s Grade II listed Market Hall. In addition, linking this building’s significant past to its cutting-edge future, tomorrow (Friday 16th July) will see the unveiling of a prestigious blue plaque in commemoration of major 18th century European painter and founder of the Royal Academy of Arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who had his studio on this site.

Tickets to the opening weekend sold out within 24 hours of being available to the public, demonstrating the demand and appetite locally for this cutting-edge experience. Those lucky enough to claim one of 800 free tickets will be able to enjoy an immersive experience in the Market Hall dome, in a COVID safe way, for the very first time.

Also, as of today, tickets to the dome’s very first show have gone live via Real Ideas’ website. The immersive family-friendly film, Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure allows dome-goers to meet the ‘other’ dinosaurs, the ones that lived below the surface, under the depths of the sea. Travel back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the seas and meet Dolly – a curious and adventurous dolichorhynchops – as she travels through the most dangerous oceans in history. Along the way, she encounters long-necked plesiosaurs, giant turtles, enormous fish, fierce sharks, and the most dangerous sea monsters of all, the mosasaur.

Alongside enriching cultural experiences and immersive opportunities in the dome which people can come and experience post-pandemic, boosting their mental wellbeing and creating pride of place, the new Market Hall will offer creative and collaborative workspace, learning, workshops, expansive meeting rooms, event spaces, a production suite and a café dishing up nutritious lunch options and barista-grounded coffee.

Developed in partnership with Plymouth City Council and the Institute of Digital Art and Technology at the University of Plymouth, the Market Hall, in the Devonport area of the city, will create a new space for the local community. The project has been supported with funding from Arts Council England, the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, ERDF, and the Unlocking Growth Fund administered by Heart of the South West LEP. All of this is new investment into Plymouth from national and European sources which is anticipated to have a significant impact.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, joined Real Ideas’ Chief Executive Lindsey Hall, the Earl and Countess of Devon, and Caroline Norbury, Chief Executive of Creative England, to enjoy the first formal viewing within the spectacular building and immersive dome. Needing just two projectors to cover the full surface of the immersive dome, the tech at the Market Hall is state-of-the-art and creates a seamless shared virtual reality experience without the need for a headset. The bespoke sound system, boasting 19 channels of audio, encases the dome and adds to what is a truly immersive experience with the power to transport you anywhere in the universe, real or imagined, that you can dream of!

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “At the Arts Council, we are thrilled that the eagerly anticipated innovation space, the Market Hall, and the state-of-the-art immersive dome is now open. Since its inception the project has excited us with its digital ambitions and impressive regeneration of a disused historic building in Devonport. The Market Hall will use cutting edge technology to create unique artistic experiences and opportunities for the community, placing Plymouth and the south west even more firmly on the cultural and technological map.

We applaud Real Ideas’ partnership working, approach to inclusivity, and their bold vision. This world-class space will play host to creative enterprises, educational institutes, and local businesses. Local people will be at its heart – encouraging creativity in the region, helping to support the local economy, and contributing to a sense of pride in Plymouth.

Arts Council are pleased to have been part of this journey, thanks to funding from the Government, and we are proud to have backed this innovative vision and digital leadership from the team at Real Ideas. We look forward to seeing the ripples spread far and wide from the Market Hall.”

Lindsey Hall, Chief Executive of Real Ideas said: “The Market Hall really is a gamechanger, putting Plymouth and the South West of England on the map internationally as a place with an epic emerging tech cluster around immersive and creative digital. It is without a doubt our most audacious project to date. It is immediately relevant and offers untold opportunity as a place for jobs, research, development, exploration, learning, collaboration, economic development, and secondary economic benefits too. It’s also incredibly good fun!”

Karl Tucker, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Market Hall is a truly unique space and a fantastic transformation of a previously disused heritage building. It cements Plymouth and the South West as a hub for creative and digital technology, and will help to create jobs, collaborative research and offer amazing experiences for the local community. I am delighted the Heart of the South West LEP was able to support this project with nearly £500k from the Unlocking Growth Fund.”

For the last six years, Plymouth’s pioneering Real Ideas Organisation, which is also responsible for the rejuvenation of the nearby Devonport Guildhall and also runs Ocean Studios in the Grade I listed Royal William Yard, has been completely re-imagining and transforming the building as the new, globally significant dedicated centre for the rapidly-emerging immersive sector.

This coming weekend, the Real Ideas team will also throw open the doors and showcase the radical transformation to their surrounding Devonport neighbours and the communities of Devon and Cornwall. There will also be the opportunity to have a tour of the Grade II listed building, take part in some creative digital activities and enjoy food and drink from the on-site café. Due to COVID restrictions only those with a pre-booked ticket will be able to attend the opening weekend.

Lindsey Hall, of Real Ideas said: “We are delighted to be able to open the Market Hall to the public and share this incredible, imaginative and pioneering immersive space with all our neighbours and friends, especially the world-class immersive dome, to all our visitors for free. This is a place for our extended Plymouth, and surrounding Devon and Cornwall, communities to connect, gather and share new experiences so we are thoroughly delighted to welcome everyone in this open-doors opportunity.”

Lindsey continues, “If the excitement of today wasn’t enough, tomorrow will see the unveiling of the commemorative blue plaque bearing the name of Sir Joshua Reynolds, linking a hugely significant figure of the past to this building of the present and future. It is wonderful to be able to honour this notable figure who carried out his work on this very site and simultaneously celebrate the all-important relationship between people and place.”

The Market Hall joins the growing Real Ideas campus of spaces including Ocean Studios and Devonport Guildhall in Plymouth and CSpace in Newquay.

To find out more visit and follow @real_ideas_organisation and @themarkethallUK on Instagram