StoryTrails, the UK’s largest immersive storytelling experience, invites Blackpool residents and visitors to explore untold stories of the city through groundbreaking media technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) ) interactive.
What is happening and where?
The event takes place on Saturday (July 16) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday (July 17) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are three different strands to the event, which will be centered around Blackpool Library on Queen Street and the streets of the town itself.
There will be story walks around selected sites in Blackpool with actors helping to bring incredible, untold history to life; there will also be a virtual reality experience inside the Blackpool Library; and an immersive cinematic experience, also in the library.
Not only will it reveal an amazing, untold story about Blackpool and provide great stories about the local people, but the amazing technology will keep visitors to the library a lot of fun.
To get involved, head to Blackpool Library between these times, pick up a special virtual reality (VR) headset, then enjoy the amazing technology that will allow visitors to experience time travel by stepping into digitally created worlds.
Who organizes this and does this happen anywhere other than Blackpool?
This innovative project is led by StoryFutures Academy, the National Center for Immersive Storytelling. It has been 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 the pioneers of the immersive animation, ISO Design and Nexus Studios, and the company behind Pokémon GO, Niantic.
It is run by The Reading Agency’s national library network and event specialists ProduceUK.
StoryTrails, part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, is part of a tour across the UK to 15 cities and towns.
Blackpool is the first site in England to launch it, and each one is unique to the community they are in.
What types of buildings and stories will be included in the historical journey?
The project will tell incredible stories about iconic buildings, using an immersive map, such as Blackpool Tower and Regents Cinema, and take people on a time travel experience to Blackpool’s heyday in the 1950s.
The stunning augmented reality trail will also reveal the history of Blackpool’s LGBTQ+ communities.
It features characters such as drag queen, Divine and the owner of Blackpool’s legendary Funny Girls nightclub, Basil Newby MBE, who was honored in 2014 for his service to Blackpool’s LGBTQ+ community and businesses.
The journey is performed by Funny Girls’ longest-serving castmate and uses motion picture film, home video footage and photography from the BBC, British Film Institute and local archives to present the past and present in a completely news.
Among the seven virtual reality stories available at each stop of the StoryTrails UK tour is that of former Blackpool resident Mike Hatjoullis, a second-generation Greek Cypriot immigrant whose parents arrived in the UK in the 1930s .
The story focuses on Blackpool at its height in the 1950s, when Mike’s father ran a well-known seaside restaurant, Tomlinson’s Cafe.
After studying at the Royal College of Art alongside David Hockney and Ridley Scott, Mike became an influential textile designer and master printmaker and his large-scale contemporary depictions of Blackpool are brought to life in the VR experience, created by ShroomStudio.
Visitors can also 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 daytime South Asian raves that took place across the UK in the 1980s and 1990s; and hear what previous generations thought life would be like today.
Historian and TV presenter David Olusoga, familiar to viewers of BBC’s A House Through Time, recounts another augmented reality experience that invites visitors to turn a dial on a giant virtual radio and journey into the time. From Beatlemania to 60s flares and haircuts, to dancing to the turn of the millennium in crop tops and trainers, audiences will experience a potted history of the UK through the decades.
Blackpool-based creative talents Joseph Doubtfire, Kezi Gardom, Lara Kob and Leo Mercer were among 50 emerging UK creators selected to help develop StoryTrails and benefit from expert training and mentorship opportunities, each contributing to the Blackpool StoryTrails experience.
what they have to say
Leo Mercer said: “It’s taken months of work to get to this point and we can’t believe we can finally share it with everyone.
“This is truly a Blackpool project, for Blackpool, created in Blackpool. We have unearthed some incredible stories of powerful local characters that deserve to be told.
“We’ve worked closely with the BFI and BBC archives to help tell these stories and we’re using new technologies like augmented reality to bring them to life in a way that makes them accessible to everyone.
“If you don’t have a smartphone, you can borrow one during the day. Come to the library on Saturday and Sunday and you can try everything, for free.”
Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryFutures and StoryTrails, said: “It’s about getting people excited about where they live – helping them connect with the stories of their city’s past and present through a new lens.
“New technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality can help make those connections and rekindle people’s passion for the past. These technologies are for everyone – we want to find ways to engage people of all backgrounds. generations and spark true celebration at each of our incredible locations.”