Chailey Heritage Foundation provides schooling and residential care for children and young adults with complex physical disabilities, high health needs, sensory impairments, and associated learning difficulties.
A couple of years ago, I was approached by Matt Barton (CEO 7thSense Design / Medialon) with a request to help out on a project he’d been working on with Chailey. Matt is the Scout Leader at 2nd Chailey, a Scout group for young people who attend Chailey Heritage Foundation.
Every summer, like most Scout groups, 2nd Chailey go on their Summer Camp, but for 2nd Chailey, this is quite an endeavor. Such are the complex needs of the young people who attend that a 7.5-ton truck full of equipment and a team of 50+ volunteers are required to make the camp happen.
It was at one of these camps that Matt first played with immersive storytelling for the Scouts using a media server and a set of projectors set up in a tent! A few months later, Chailey asked Matt to help them with a project they’d been working on to design and build an immersive space as part of their new school sports hall and theatre: the D.R.E.A.M. Centre.
The idea was to create an amazing facility on the Chailey campus where the children could enjoy a range of experiences not normally accessible to them. Matt worked with Chailey to develop the concept and quickly reached out to me and the TEECOM team to get involved and help turn the dream into a reality.
For the past 18 months, TEECOM staff in the UK, including Barrie Paveley, Magnus Kemp, and myself, have been working on this project. We began by working voluntarily on evenings and weekends.
It started off as a CAD drawing on Magnus’ computer. Because we’re projection and AV people, we came up with some slightly crazy ideas. But we worked with a local architect and the CAD drawing became a 3D Revit model, and we got involved in fundraising and raised the money, and now, much to our surprise, we’ve nearly finished building it!
Fitting in all the features that Chailey wanted was a challenge. In addition to an advanced AV system, they wanted to design a building that could provide things like immersive therapy, wheelchair sports, rebound therapy (which involves a specialist trampoline in a soft room), and a theatre. Theatre is something the young people really enjoy, whether it’s performing or watching performances.
The building has different modes. One end can have sports going on while the other can be enclosed with projection, immersive therapy, or rebound therapy. The hall can also be used as a giant cinema. Taking a child in a wheelchair with a life support system attached to the cinema is impossible, so we’re bringing the cinema to them.
The architect, the client, and the AV suppliers all had never seen anything like this. I think we’ve created something unique. We’re very close to completion, and we’re all incredibly proud of the opportunity we’ve had to help advance the work of Chailey Heritage and improve the lives of these children and young adults.