The story of a Newport family who used their passion and drive to become central to their adopted community is told in a completely new way through an augmented reality trail as part of StoryTrails, the UK’s largest immersive storytelling experience.
For the Freckletons, music was central to establishing themselves in Newport. Their story, narrated in English by actress Adeola Dewis and in Welsh by Tonya Smith, are among hundreds told through ground-breaking multimedia technologies, this summer.
StoryTrails, part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, features digital experiences that invite residents to experience Newport like they have never seen it before through augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and an immersive map of the city.
In the pop-up library and Kingsway Centre on 13 and 14 August and on the streets, Newport is among 15 locations around the UK to host StoryTrails this summer.
The Freckletons arrived in the Newport neighbourhood of Pill in the 1950s, drawing local crowds to their home church and meeting place. Visitors witness them decamp to a bigger congregational space with tambourines soon joined by guitars, banjos, and drum kits.
The trails were created using film from BBC, British Film Institute and local archives to present a window into the past. Visitors can borrow devices from the library and follow guided augmented reality trails across the two-day event as well as follow the route independently by downloading the StoryTrails app onto their own devises.
Immersive maps reveal stories of local people and familiar landmarks, such as Tredegar House, Newport Transporter Bridge, and “Gilligan’s Island” created by George McDonagh by 3D scanning the people and buildings that build up a picture of the life and heritage of each location. The 15-minute film plays on a loop throughout the day and a further 20 stories can be viewed on iPads in the library.
George and Mohamad Miah, who created the AR trails Newport, are two of 50 emerging creatives from around the UK 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).
Mohamad said: “It’s taken months of work to get to this point and we can’t believe we finally get to share it with everyone. It’s truly been a project by Newport, for Newport, created in Newport. We’ve unearthed incredible stories of powerful local characters that deserve to be told.
“We’ve worked closely with BFI and BBC archives to help tell those stories and we’re using new technologies like AR to bring them to life in a way that makes them accessible to all. If you don’t have a smart phone you can borrow one on the day – come along to the library on the 13-14 August and you’ll be able to give it all a go, for free.”
StoryTrails’ 15-stop UK tour runs until 18 September 2022 and culminates in a new film presented by David Olusoga that will screen in UK cinemas and BBC iPlayer.