This summer, StoryTrails, the UK’s largest immersive storytelling experience, invites residents of Dundee to explore untold and local stories through ground-breaking multimedia technologies. Dundonian athlete Eilish McColgan is among the narrators of stories about Dundee’s forgotten Olympians.
StoryTrails, part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, comes to Dundee with free live events taking place on 7 and 8 July, as part of a tour of 15 towns and cities across the UK this year. Centred around Dundee Central Library, as well as on the streets of city, the events feature digital experiences that allow people to experience their city in completely new ways through the magic of augmented (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive cinema. The StoryTrails event is part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 partner programme.
In Dundee, the trail has been developed by local Mobile AR TrailMaker Duncan Cowles and is narrated by Dundonian Olympian, runner Eilish McColgan. It follows the story of two of Dundee’s sporting heroes, Dick McTaggart, who in 1956 won an Olympic gold medal in amateur boxing, and Sarah ‘Cissie’ Stewart, who won Dundee’s first Olympic medal in 1921 for swimming. Both athletes achieved Olympic glory, yet it was only Dick that was recognised on his return from the Games.
The AR trail uses cine film and video home movie footage, and photography from the BBC and British Film Institute, as well as local and national archive materials to present a window into the past. Visitors can borrow devices from the library and follow a guided augmented reality trail which run on the hour throughout the live events. They can also download the StoryTrails app on their smart phone and follow the story trail route from outside the libraries. Both trails can also be experienced via the mobile app outside of the two live events, with the app available to download until the end of the year.
At each location there will also be a physical installation unique to the city and viewed on a cycloramic cinema screen set up inside the library. Immersive virtual maps have been created using 3D scans of the local buildings, people, objects and areas, telling stories of people and place. This 15-minute film will play on a loop throughout the day. An expanded version of the map can also be viewed on iPads inside the library.
In Dundee, the map was developed by local spatial StoryMapper, Neil Cullen, and features iconic places from established landmarks like The Jute Mills to local favourites, such as Spex Pistols and Dudhope Skatepark.
50 emerging creatives around the UK were selected to take part in the development of StoryTrails and benefit from expert training and mentoring opportunities from StoryFutures Academy, the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, the team behind StoryTrails. StoryFutures Academy is run by Royal Holloway, University of London and the National Film and Television School (NFTS).
Time travel continues inside the library across the two live event days, when visitors enter digitally created worlds using a virtual reality (VR) headset. They can expect to find themselves in the shoes of a rebellious teenager as she discovers her mother’s punk past; take part in one of the many South Asian daytime raves that took place across the UK in the 1980s and 1990s; and hear what earlier generations thought life would be like today. All the stories featured on the VR headsets are available at every stop on the StoryTrails UK tour.
Historian and television presenter David Olusoga, familiar to viewers of the BBC’s A House in Time, narrates a further AR experience that invites visitors to turn a dial on a virtual giant radio and travel back in time. From Beatlemania and the flares and haircuts of the swinging sixties, to dancing to the end of the millennium in crop-tops and trainers, audiences will experience a potted history of the UK through the decades.
This innovative project is led by StoryFutures Academy, the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling. It was developed by teams of leading technologists and creatives, brought together for UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, a UK-wide celebration of creativity taking place in 2022, including immersive animation pioneers, ISO Design and Nexus Studios, and the company behind Pokémon GO, Niantic. It is brought to life in The Reading Agency’s national network of libraries and by event-making specialists ProduceUK.
Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryFutures and StoryTrails, said: “This is about getting people excited about where they live – helping them connect with stories of their town from the past and present through a new lens. New technologies like AR and VR can help build these connections and reignite people’s passion for the past. These technologies are for everyone – we want to find ways to engage people from all generations and spark a genuine celebration in each of our incredible locations.”
Martin Green CBE, Chief Creative Officer UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, said: “StoryTrails is one of ten ground-breaking UNBOXED projects taking place in 2022 that demonstrate the power of creative collaboration across science, technology and the arts to create extraordinary and never-seen-before public experiences. StoryTrails uses cutting edge technology to offer people the opportunity to hear about the places they live - the stories of individuals and communities - in a way that has not been done before.”
StoryTrails’ 15-stop UK tour runs from 1 July to 18 September 2022 and culminates in a new film presented by David Olusoga that will screen in UK cinemas and BBC iPlayer. The StoryTrails app, augmented reality story trails and immersive maps will be available throughout 2022. The Reading Agency’s annual Summer Reading Challenge, for children aged 4 to 11, takes a StoryTrails theme.
UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK is funded and supported by the four governments of the UK and is commissioned and delivered in partnership with Belfast City Council, Creative Wales and EventScotland.
StoryTrails takes place:
- Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee DD1 1DB
- 7-8 July, 2022
Library opening hours: 11 - 7pm and 2pm - 7pm
The StoryTrails app will launch on iTunes and Google Play stores to coincide with the event.
The app and immersive trail will be available online throughout 2022.
StoryTrails forms part of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories 2022 partner programme.
Facebook and Instagram @StoryTrailsProject. Twitter @StoryFuturesA