StoryFutures unveils StoryTrails – a unique immersive storytelling experience for UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK

The Reading Agency is one of 6 partners working on StoryTrails, an immersive storytelling experience taking place in libraries across the UK in 2022.

StoryFutures Academy is today unveiling StoryTrails, a unique immersive storytelling experience where untold stories from the past are brought to life through the magic of the 3D internet using augmented and virtual reality to reanimate public spaces in towns and cities across the UK. Audiences will time-travel via the wonder of new technologies to experience untold local histories where they happened. StoryFutures Academy is run by Royal Holloway, University of London and the National Film and Television School (NFTS).

StoryTrails is one of 10 projects commissioned for UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, a ground-breaking UK-wide celebration of creativity in 2022 that will bring people together and reach millions through free, large-scale immersive installations and globally accessible digital experiences in the UK’s most ambitious showcase of creative collaboration.

The StoryTrails project will visit 15 UK towns and cities with free two day residencies in each location with local libraries at its heart. Starting in July 2022, the tour will visit Omagh, Dundee, Dumfries, Blackpool, Bradford, Sheffield, Lincoln, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Newport, Bristol, Swindon and Slough, ending in September in London (Lambeth and Lewisham).

StoryTrails is led by StoryFutures Academy and delivered in partnership with the BFI (British Film Institute), broadcaster and film-maker, David Olusoga, Uplands Television, and leading immersive specialists ISO Design and Nexus Studios. It will use cutting edge technology from Niantic, makers of Pokémon Go, and it will be brought to life in The Reading Agency’s national network of libraries and by event-making specialists ProduceUK.

The project will be recruiting the next generation of creative UK-based talent to help tell the stories of local communities. They will work closely with local people in each place to gather unknown, surprising and intriguing stories. Fifty creatives will be trained to use state-of-the-art immersive technologies to showcase and produce these stories in new and surprising ways. Led by StoryFutures Academy, the StoryTrails collective want to ensure that the UK’s creative industries are not only the best trained in the use of emerging and immersive technologies but that the future workforce properly represents the diversity of the UK. This project will aim to recruit those traditionally under-represented across the UK’s creative industries

Once the StoryTrails creative team have sourced and developed the stories together with members of the local community, audiences will be guided through an immersive tour of their town as they explore these stories across virtual and augmented reality (AR) and via a series of installations. Outside their local library, participants will enter the virtual story portal to begin the StoryTrails experience guided by a free mobile AR app. Using a mix of stunning AR experiences that remix the archive films from the BFI National Archive, national and regional film archives across the UK and the BBC Archive, people will experience history where it actually happened, revitalising the streets upon which they stand with new voices and untold stories of the past. Inside the library, participants will be immersed in a virtual map of their town that will be made up of 3D models, and audio stories captured on location, encouraging the audience to connect and experience their town in new and unimaginable ways. They will also have the opportunity to explore further stories via bespoke virtual reality experiences.

Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryFutures and the StoryTrails project, said:

“StoryTrails is a massively ambitious project: it will change the way we view our public places, our archives and our creative industries. It will create a new sense of belonging across these important national treasures and immerse audiences in an amazing new way to see themselves, their communities, their towns and country.”

Professor David Olusoga, Executive Producer for StoryTrails, said:

“I am thrilled to be working with StoryFutures to help bring about change in the diversity of our creative industries. By enabling 50 diverse creative voices to create compelling stories that combine past, present and future through the magic of immersive technologies, we’ll be mapping a new path for creativity in this country. StoryTrails will set the public’s imagination alight with experiences that use the poetry of history to inspire a new vision of our future.”

Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences at the BFI, said:

“Archive film provides unique windows into our past, and when explored at a local level, can be profoundly moving – not only inviting viewers to consider their history, but also their present and future. Opening up the rich and diverse screen heritage held in the BFI National Archive and UK national and regional archives to our most talented creatives, coupled with cutting-edge immersive technology, promises to create truly innovative stories and experiences, which will not only celebrate the people and places of our past, but also push the boundaries of how audiences engage with the moving image.”

StoryTrails will culminate with a specially commissioned film by David Olusoga’s Uplands Television which will screen in cinemas across the UK, which are part of the BFI Film Audience Network, and be made available to audiences on BBC iPlayer. Across this multiplatform project, film, immersive technologies and real-world locations will bring history to life and inspire a conversation around who we are, where we belong and where we are going.

StoryTrails will create an innovative approach to storytelling that appeals to a range of audiences in the UK and globally, creating one of the world’s largest immersive storytelling projects. It will change the way we can tell stories about ourselves, putting the promise of the 3D internet into the hands of people where they live and make the virtual and the augmented a magical reality for audiences everywhere.

For further details on StoryTrails visit and via Facebook and Instagram @StoryTrailsProject and Twitter @StoryFuturesA

The Reading Agency

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