People listen to a talking statue on their phones at the launch of Talking Statues in central London, today. Statues of some three dozen historical and fictional characters in London and Manchester are coming to life thanks to a new interactive project that gives them a voice to tell their stories. Passers-by can swipe their smartphones on a tag or type in a web address to get an instant call from the characters depicted.
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LONDON — Calling all London tourists: Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes and Queen Victoria want to have a word with you.
A new interactive arts project is giving a voice to dozens of statues of historical and fictional characters in London, allowing them to tell their stories and entertain curious visitors and weary commuters as they pass by.
“Every city everywhere has statues that go ignored,” Colette Hiller, creative director of arts producers Sing London, said today at the project’s launch. “So we thought about how we could work with the writers, the actors, the comedians from that city to bring them to life.”
Helen Lederer next to a statue of Hodge the Cat at the launch of Talking Statues in central London today.
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To get an instant “call” from one of the statues — say from one depicting Isaac Newton at the British Library — people can swipe their smartphones on a plaque to scan a digital code, or type in a web address. They can then listen to a monologue from the character, played by actors including Patrick Stewart and Hugh Bonneville, famous from the British TV series “Downton Abbey.”
Stewart voices the Unknown Soldier at Paddington station, while Bonneville speaks for Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer best known for building many of England’s most important railways and tunnels.
In total, 35 statues in London and Manchester are featured. The choices are eclectic: Along with Holmes, who laments the absence of Dr. Watson by his side at Baker Street station, there’s author Samuel Johnson’s cat Hodge and an unnamed couple on a bench. Some educate with a bit of history, but most come with a healthy dose of humor.
Queen Victoria’s starts: “Thank you for calling me on this strange machine. I have become very bored sitting here all day holding an extremely heavy scepter and orb.”
The statues will talk for a year, and organizers hope to bring them to other cities.
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