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StoryTrails The UK’s largest immersive storytelling experience comes to Sheffield

KH9 G5 N Sheffield Pike Peak District Alamy CREDIT David Forster Alamy
David Forster / Alamy

On a balmy afternoon at this year’s Sheffield DocFest I went along to historian and TV presenter David Olusoga’s talk at City Hall. He was chatting to bestselling author and academic Emma Dabiri about a brand new immersive storytelling experience called StoryTrails.

StoryTrails is a project for anyone and everyone who has an appetite for exploring untold, local stories about their city via innovative technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive cinema. On 27 & 28 July, a free two-day live event will pop up in Sheffield as part of a tour of 15 locations around the UK. Sheffield Central Library and the streets of Sheffield itself will play host to digital experiences that enable folks to see and experience the city in a completely new way.

Ethel Haythornwaite Beret CPRE CREDIT Photographs of Ethel Haythornthwaite reproduced with kind permission of CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire

Photograph of Ethel Haythornthwaite reproduced with kind permission of CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire

One of the AR trails on offer will be accessed through mobile devices and invite you to learn how Sheffield, once renowned for steel and smog, became the greenest city in the UK. You’ll meet Ethel Haythornthwaite, a pioneering environmentalist who persuaded the rich and powerful of Sheffield to part with their land and money, leading to the formation of the Peak District National Park.

There will also be a physical installation unique to the city and viewed on a cycloramic cinema screen inside the library, and immersive virtual maps of the local buildings, people, objects and areas, telling stories of people and of place.

Time travel will continue inside the libraries, where you’ll be able to enter digitally created worlds using a VR headset. You might find yourself 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; or hear what earlier generations thought life would be like today.

Gemma Thorpe, one of just 50 emerging creatives who were chosen to take part in the development of StoryTrails, had this to say: “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 Sheffield, for Sheffield, created in Sheffield. We’ve unearthed incredible stories of powerful local characters that deserve to be told.”

  • StoryTrails Sheffield live events take place 27-28 July 2022.
  • Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield City Centre, Sheffield S1 1XZ.
  • Library opening hours: 9am to 5pm.
  • 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.
by Felicity Jackson (she/her)
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