Historic buildings across Chester have been give their own “voices” thanks to a new arts project. Celebrities including BBC presenter Louise Minchin, former MP Gyles Brandreth and ITV’s Lucy Meacock have lent their voices to the “Talking Walls of Chester” project which brings the city’s buildings to life when smartphone users can scan a code or visit a website to “receive a call” from the wall.
26 walls across the city at now live in this pioneering project, commissioned by the CH1 BID and delivered by Sing London. The list includes many local businesses housed in historic properties, to the Cathedral, Zoo and Storyhouse. A range of stories can be heard including a wine bar built in the original gateway to Deva Victrix, a family run restaurant with an ancient recipe on the wall a coffee shop which housed one of the few families to survive the 1647 plague, and a furniture store with an 18th century love note etched into its windows.
At today’s press launch CH1 BID boss Carl Critchlow explained that the BID were looking for ways to encourage people to stay longer in Chester and as a result, increase support for local businesses. “The other reason we know people come to Chester is to experience the city’s history and heritage. So about 12 months ago the BID team and I began looking at projects, and that’s where we came across Sing London, experts at bringing destinations to life. The project marries new technology with the city’s heritage in a way that’s never been done before”
“Working with Chester’s historic archives, cultural institutions and city centre shops, we’ve created a series of short monologues that tell this historic city’s story from a fly on the wall perspective,” added Colette Hillier, director of art production company Sing London. “Talking Walls of Chester invites listeners to jump into history and hear what happened right there, in the very place they’re standing.
“We’ve delivered projects like this in cities like Chicago where we’ve given voices to statues but it’s never been done with walls so this arts project really is a world first. And what better city to do it in than Chester – the best preserved walled city in England!”
Guest of honour at the press lauch was Lord Mayor Razia Daniels who said that she had visited Booth Mansion in the past when it housed Sotheby’s auction house. She paid tribute to the BID for bringing the project to Chester and hoped that it would attract tourists. “My voice is the heritage centre and I’m looking forward to hearing my own voice!” she laughed.
“Talking Walls brings history alive in a new way,” said BBC presenter Louise Minchin, who has voiced King Charles Tower on Chester’s city walls. “Chester is my home city and when I heard about this project I really wanted to be involved. I’m looking forward to discovering all kinds of things as the walls reveal their secrets.”
Meanwhile ex MP Gyles Brandreth who has voice the Booth Mansion wall said that, “the stories that they tell are colourful ones and I really hope that people enjoy hearing them.”
“It’s an absolute privilege to be the voice of Storyhouse for Talking Walls of Chester,” added ITV Granada presenter Lucy Meacock. “It’s a fantastic project that encourages people to get out and explore the city to uncover fascinating stories from the past in a way that’s interactive and fun.” . Other walls on the route have been voiced by local people and personalities including staff members of the businesses, the town Crier, Lord Mayor and a Roman soldier tour guide.
Using a specially designed citywide map – available online or at a range of city centre locations – passers-by simply scan a code or type in a link from any of the heritage-style plaques on walls throughout the city centre to hear a different story. Each of the walls offers a fascinating insight into the history of the city, and we hope the free activity will encourage people to go and find out more about their city. The walls in Chester can be heard from Thursday June 22 for a period of one year as part of the Talking Walls of Chester project. Free trail maps are available from the Visitor Information Centre at Chester Town Hall or can be downloaded from the Talking Walls of Chester website. There is no charge for calling a wall but standard network connection charges do apply.
For more information, visit the official Talking Walls of Chester website at www.talkingwallschester.co.uk