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Virtual reality spectacle of 2010 sockeye run returns to Shuswap

Images from incredible Adams River run from acclaimed director migrate to spawn new appreciation
Spectators in Burnaby watch UninterruptedVR, the cinematic experience featuring the Adams River sockey salmon run in 2010, that will begin its migration to the Shuswap on Oct. 26, 2022. (Canada Wild Productions image)

Like the Adams River sockeye featured in Uninterrupted, the award-winning cinematic experience is migrating home from Vancouver to spawn a series of virtual reality showings in the Shuswap.

It was in 2010 that Nettie Wild, an internationally acclaimed documentary film maker, was one of some 160,000 people who stood on the banks of the Adams River. There she was witness to the incredible run of nearly four million sockeye salmon who had travelled more than 600 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean to spawn.

It was from that life-changing experience, and the ensuing filming of the amazing red and green salmon with a very specialized underwater camera, that she and three co-creators began their journey. They created a monumental public spectacle – Uninterrupted – a high-tech projection of the salmon run onto Vancouver’s Cambie Street Bridge. The bridge spans Burrard Inlet and False Creek, which was once thick with salmon.

Conceived and directed by Wild, with editor Michael Brockington and producers Rae Hull and Betsy Carson, the 2017 Uninterrupted spectacle has since been transformed into a virtual reality (VR) experience, immersing audiences of 20 in the return journey of the salmon, each person wearing a VR headset and sitting in their own swivel chair. The showings are free to the public, for ages eight to 88-plus.

Uninterrupted includes the voice of revered Neskonlith elder, Mary Thomas, who died in 2007 and tells the story of the salmon in Secwepemctsin, the Secwépemc language. Wild said her voice remains an integral part of the virtual reality version, woven into the soundscape, “the heart beat of our river… She keeps us true.”

A pair of the goggles through which spectators can view UninterruptedVR when it comes to Quaaout Lodge in the North Shuswap on Oct. 26 and 27, then the Red Barn in Sicamous Oct. 28 and 29, Song Sparrow Hall in Salmon Arm Nov. 3-5, and lastly the Salmon Arm Art Gallery from Nov. 8 to Dec. 10. (Canada Wild Productions image)
A pair of the goggles through which spectators can view UninterruptedVR when it comes to Quaaout Lodge in the North Shuswap on Oct. 26 and 27, then the Red Barn in Sicamous Oct. 28 and 29, Song Sparrow Hall in Salmon Arm Nov. 3-5, and lastly the Salmon Arm Art Gallery from Nov. 8 to Dec. 10. (Canada Wild Productions image)

Uninterrupted VR will be migrating through the Shuswap, beginning with Quaaout Lodge in Skwlax (near Chase in the North Shuswap) on Oct. 26 and 27, the Red Barn Arts Centre in Sicamous Oct. 28 and 29, and Salmon Arm’s Song Sparrow Hall on Nov. 3, 4 and 5.

In general, with some variations, there will be six 30-minute viewings daily in the three locations; the first one at 10:15 a.m., the last at 7:30 p.m. with a break in the middle of the day.

In Salmon Arm, the viewings, with 20 headsets each, are on Nov. 3 at 10:15 a.m., 11:30, 12:45, 5 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 4 will be a special day, with a public outdoor market at Song Sparrow Hall starting at 5 p.m. and going on throughout the evening. Some by-invitation activities due to space limitations will be held, including a ceremonial welcome where Wild will introduce UninterruptedVR and a more intimate gathering for First Nations representatives and community groups.

Public viewings on Nov. 4 will be at 10:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 4 p.m.

On Nov. 5, viewings are at 10:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. As of Oct. 15, the 6:15 p.m. showing on Nov. 5 was the first one sold out.

Free tickets for the Salmon Arm viewings can be obtained online at Eventbrite under Salmon Arm. People are asked to arrive at their scheduled time for the show at Song Sparrow Hall because you need to be fitted for a VR headset.

In Sicamous at the Red Barn, six viewings are offered on each of the two days. Free tickets can be obtained online at Eventbrite under Sicamous.

Free tickets for the viewings at Quaaout Lodge in Skwlax on Oct. 26 and 27 are also available under Uninterrupted VR - North Shuswap Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite.

Read more: Artists urge settlers, Indigenous people to work together to save salmon

Once the Shuswap tour is complete, four UninterruptedVR headsets will come to rest at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre from Nov. 8 to Dec. 10, to be part of its water-themed exhibition, Séwllkwe.

Wild speaks excitedly of UninterruptedVR and the return of the digital salmon to the Shuswap.

“The bridge was great and we were able to accommodate anywhere from 400 to 1,800 people at a go, and it was wonderful. The goggles are completely different, the image and the sound. It’s perfect. You’re not projecting into the ambient light of the city, and you don’t have all that soundscape bleeding in. It’s like sapphires in there. It’s beautiful.

“Then, on top of everything else, we’ve been working with these fabulous magicians, who are creative technologists and developers who work just in VR. They’ve just added magic. It’s been really, really exciting.”

Read more: Paying tribute to a primeval passage

UninterruptedVR is a central part of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association or TOTA’s ‘7 Celebrations – Reconnect in the Thompson Okanagan.’

Rae Hull explains Canada Wild Productions, behind Uninterrupted, has been working with the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society, Shuswap Tourism, the District of Sicamous and the Salmon Arm Art Gallery, “who have all been terrific.” She said funding for the UninterruptedVR tour is appreciated and has been provided by TOTA, the Shuswap Community Foundation, the MRDT (hotel tax) programs for Salmon Arm and Sicamous, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

After Salmon Arm, which Wild describes as the world launch for UninterruptedVR, the next step is Taiwan.

“The International Year of the Salmon had its big symposium wrap-up in Vancouver last week, so we were showing Uninterrupted to those folks. They’re from all over the planet, with the idea of giving them a chance to take a preview look at it and then take it home to their countries.”

Wild said, with this year’s dominant run facing significant challenges, there is even more reason for people everywhere to experience the marvel of the salmon.

“It has a mission. And our mission is to just hook people with the wonder of it all. Let the fish work their magic… Those salmon, once they swim into your life, we’re hooked, not them.”

Read more: Late-run sockeye salmon run expected to peak this week at Tsústwecw Provincial Park
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The beauty of the 2010 Adams River sockeye salmon run via the cinematic spectacle, Uninterrupted, projected on the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver in 2017. (Anthony Diehl image)

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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