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London Mela announces Melatopia festival

The 18th edition of London Mela, the UK festival of South Asian culture, will be held in a virtual-reality venue created by the team behind Lost Horizon.

For 2020 London Mela – usually held in Southall Park, west London – becomes Melatopia, a VR event taking place online on 7 and 8 November 2020, and featuring the same mix of music, dance and culture from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries.

As with Lost Horizon, which was seen by four million people in 100 countries, Melatopia viewers will be able to experience live artists, DJs and dance performances in a virtual world created especially for the event, and on a range of platforms, including smartphone, tablet, computer or virtual-reality (VR) headset.

Like Lost Horizon, Melatopia will be built using Sansar, Wookey Technologies’ platform for virtual live events.

“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend”

Performers will include headliner the Raja Kumari, bhangra legend Panjabi MC, Juggy D and Pandit Ram Sahai Sangeet Vidhyalaya, qawwali star Chand Ali Khan and BBC Future Sounds artist Celina Sharma. All artists will be recorded exclusively for the festival.

Remarkable Productions’ Julian Rudd, producer of London Mela, comments: “Remarkable Productions is really excited to be working at the coalface of digital, VR and online festival production with such impressive partners.”

“In these dark days for artists around the world, Melatopia represents hope and opportunity that there is a future for our sector,” he adds. “Alongside Nutkhut and Mela Partnership, we are proud to present Melatopia, the world’s first truly global VR mela festival of desi culture.”

Lost Horizon’s Chris Macmeikan MBE says Melatopia is a proof of concept that, once built, “like a real venue” can be used multiple times.

“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend,” adds Macmeikan. “In July of this year, our innovative work with VR and streaming at Lost Horizon attracted over 4m people from over 100 countries.

“Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together”

“That is why we are so excited that our second project is with London Mela. London Mela is already a hub to the entire Asian diaspora. Now, we will create the world’s first global mela together.”

“When a global diaspora meets new technology, change happens,” comments Ajay Chhabra, artistic director of Melatopia. “The South Asian presence in Silicon Valley is completely engaged with Mela, and Melatopia is our way of bringing people together in a time of isolation.

“Change creates challenging new opportunities. With so much change occurring all around us, from the very personal loss of loved ones to the major change artists and communities are facing the world over, Melatopia is our way to keep fearless ambition alive, to be bold, to take risks and to create a new platform for what we know best: the coming together of community and artists to create a new utopia – Melatopia.

“The South Asian diaspora is international, with a footprint on every major continent, in every major city globally. In a time of isolation, Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together, by using new technology and cross arts to form connections to a new and intergenerational audience.”


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Shangri-La’s Lost Horizon records 4m+ viewers

More than four million people worldwide tuned in to Lost Horizon, the new virtual festival by the team behind Glastonbury Festival’s Shangri-La, which took place on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 July.

According to organisers, a total of 4.36m viewers, from over 1,100 cities in 100 countries, attended the event, which took place over six stages built in VR events platform Sansar, some of which recreated real places in Glastonbury’s after-hours Shangri-La area. That figure includes viewers on Sansar/VR, PC, iOS and Android, as well as streams on Beatport, Twitch and social media services.

More than 70 DJs and artists, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Frank Turner, performed at Lost Horizon, which transformed performers into in-world avatars or green-screen holograms. Those who attended the festival in Sansar could visit six virtual worlds, with nine camera angles apiece, purpose-built for the occasion.

Tickets were free, though fans could buy merchandise for their avatars, as well as ‘premium’ tickets, which raised money for the festival’s charity partners, the Big Issue and Amnesty International UK. Streams of the content remain available online, and catch-up viewers can still donate to the charities.

In addition to the music, those who visited the in-world freedom stage could see a virtual-reality exhibition, Yours Truthfully, while 50 films were available to view.

“It was spooky how similar it was to the real thing”

Kaye Dunnings, creative director of Shangri-La and Lost Horizon, says: “I don’t think you can ever recreate the feeling of being in a crowd of people, and how powerful that is, but it was spooky how similar it was to the real thing.

“I met up with friends, made new ones, was able to make an avatar that could dance – with moves I could never pull off in real life – and the classic festival experience of bimbling between areas, overhearing conversations and marvelling at the wonderful looks people had created for themselves was just like people watching at a festival.”

“Lost Horizon broke so many firsts we’re still counting,” says Chris ‘Tofu’ Macmeikan MBE, Lost Horizon and Shangri-La director. “It is the closest you can get to being at a festival without leaving your lounge. We all worked really hard to create this next-level thing to see our friends and raise money for the Big Issue and Amnesty. I’m old and remember seeing colour TV for the first time, but this is 100 times better.”

Ed Jenkins and Jolyon Klean, from Orca Sound Project, jointly add: Programming the Gas Tower in Lost Horizon felt like putting together a dream festival line-up. The goodwill and excitement surrounding such an innovative and experimental project just goes to show how the rule book has been rewritten by the challenges we all face in the entertainment industry.

“Hopefully we’ve proven that there are new frontiers to explore and ways to communicate with fans that continue to push boundaries.”


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Glastonbury’s Shangri-La team unveils VR festival

The team behind Glastonbury Festival’s famous after-hours mini-city, Shangri-La, has announced virtual-reality (VR) festival Lost Horizon.

Glastonbury Festival, which was set to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, was the first major European festival to cancel due to coronavirus, with many others since following suit.

Lost Horizon will bring the festival’s much-loved Shangri-La area to life, in conjunction with virtual live events platform Sansar. Tickets for the event are free, with fans encouraged to make a donation to UK homeless charity the Big Issue and Amnesty International by purchasing a “premium ticket”. Premium ticket buyers will also receive an exclusive piece of art from Lost Horizon creatives, Instruct Studio and a virtual shirt from Instruct Studio.

Featuring performances from 50 acts across four stages, the festival will be streamed live via Beatport and other platforms from 3 to 4 July.

Acts including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Peggy Gou, Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler will perform at a virtual replica of Shangri-La’s 360°, audiovisual Gas Tower arena, with additional performances taking place at the Freedom and SHITV (Shangri-La International Television Centre) stages, and brand-new Nomad stage, which will celebrate the history of underground UK culture and feature predominantly drum-and-bass artists.

“With Lost Horizon, we’re delivering the music festival of the future: deeply immersive, fully online, accessible to anyone and anywhere with a PC or phone at their disposal”

Available on PC, mobile and VR devices, viewers will be able to experience the festival from multiple camera angles and switch between performances, as well as exploring hidden venues and over 200 artworks.

“Now more than ever, fans are looking beyond traditional live shows to connect with the artists they love,” says Sansar president Sheri Bryant, who discussed virtual events in the recent IQ Focus panel, The Innovation Session.

“With Lost Horizon, we’re delivering the music festival of the future: deeply immersive, fully online, accessible to anyone and anywhere with a PC or phone at their disposal. We’re at the vanguard of something truly incredible, and we couldn’t be more excited to turn this page.”

Shangri-La and Lost Horizon creative director Kaye Dunnings adds that: “We need unity more than ever right now, in an industry that is falling away in front of us.

“By creating a digital platform to experience art and music in a new way, we are at the forefront of defining the next generation of live entertainment and creative communities as we know them.”

Tickets are on sale now at sansar.com/losthorizon, with full line-up information available here.


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