Skepta’s DYSTOPIA987 Mixed Reality

We brought a unique Magic Leap experience to the rave of the future with Skepta and MIF.


Forming the ecstatic crescendo of the renowned Manchester International Festival, DYSTOPIA987 was Skepta’s vision of a rave rebellion in a technology-dominated world. As part of an array of installations and immersive theatre, Draw & Code worked directly with Magic Leap on a mixed reality experience that was intended to be a drug-free hallucinogenic trip. With writing from Dawn King and spectacular immersive installations from TEM, DYSTOPIA987 was about as breathtaking and creative as an underground rave can get.


Working directly with Magic Leap to interpret the brief issued by Skepta, their mixed reality headsets would be pushed hard by this project. This was not a neat and tidy conference venue – the Magic Leap One’s world meshing and gesture control abilities were required to work at their optimum in spite of the inevitable environmental challenges posed by the setting – a dark, industrial space.

The experience was required to fit into the neon-tinged aesthetic of DYSTOPIA987, so vivid colours and abstract shapes were the order of the day. Ravers would be encouraged to explore a stark, abandoned office space as the sensors in the headset overlaid a glowing, abstract layer onto their surroundings. Every movement they made created a trail of swarming 3D shapes that hung in mid-air. And it all began with the participant reaching out for a digital ‘pill’ that they could ‘pinch’ between their finger and thumb. A soundtrack of shuddering bass and ambient electronics eventually gave way to the sound of Skepta as the experience unfolded.

One concern about the installation was lighting – would the Magic Leap One be able to see and understand its environment and the gestures of users in a dark warehouse space? With little more than a cerise pink uplight in the space allocated for the experience, the device worked impeccably. Only clouds of dry ice passing through the area gave it any trouble, but redirecting them to give the space a hazy presence rather than a full-on smokescreen cured this issue.


The shows were a big success with the hashtag #Dystopia987 revealing a torrent of praise on social media – in spite of all the ravers being required to forgo their phones for the duration of the event. Only the most ‘connected’ dancers got to try the Magic Leap for themselves, but those that were selected to don the headsets loved it. There was even dancing between strangers as they got lost in the experience – it was quite the spectacle!

(Additional photography Jordan Hughes)