StoryTrails in Sheffield

Residents invited to see Sheffield differently as free, ground-breaking UK-wide series of storytelling events launch


Download the "StoryTrails in Sheffield" press release (PDF)

This summer, StoryTrails, the UK’s largest immersive storytelling experience, invites residents of Sheffield to explore untold and local stories about the city through ground-breaking multimedia technologies. Stories include that of environmental pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite, one of the originators of the Peak District National Park, in a trail narrated by BBC Radio Sheffield’s Paulette Edwards.

StoryTrails, part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, comes to Sheffield with a free two-day live event taking place on 27 and 28 July as part of a tour of 15 locations around the UK this summer. Centred around Sheffield Library and on the streets of Sheffield itself, it features digital experiences that allow people to experience the city in a completely new way through the magic of augmented (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive cinema.

An augmented reality trail, specific to Sheffield and accessed through mobile devices, invites visitors to learn how Sheffield, an industrial city known for its steel and smog, became the greenest city in the UK. We meet Ethel Haythornthwaite and find out how this extraordinary green loving pioneer stomped the hillsides collecting litter. She presented a ‘cabinet of shame’ to the rich and the powerful of Sheffield. She persuaded them to part with cash and land- to save the city from being built on leading to the formation of Sheffield’s green belt and the Peak District National Park.

A second trail introduces Grace Horne who followed her dream of becoming a cutler when she turned up at maestro cutler Stan Shaw’s Sheffield workshop, located in a former public toilet. The story follows Grace as she becomes his apprentice and shines a light on the vanishing craft of cutlery-making.

Both AR trails use cine film and video home movie footage, and photography from the BBC and British Film Institute, as well as local archive materials to present a window into the past. Visitors can borrow devices from the library and follow a guided augmented reality trail which run on the hour throughout the live events. They can also download the StoryTrails app on their smart phone and follow the story trail route from outside the libraries. Both trails can also be experienced via the mobile app outside of the two live events, with the app available to download until the end of the year.

There will also be a physical installation unique to the city and viewed on a cycloramic cinema screen set up inside the library. Immersive virtual maps of the city have been created using 3D scans of the local buildings, people, objects and areas, telling stories of people and place. This 15-minute film will play on a loop throughout the day. An expanded version of the map can also be viewed on iPads inside the library.

In Sheffield, the map was developed by local spatial StoryMapper, Sile Sibanda from the stories of local people, and features iconic places and local favourites such as Manor Lodge, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Meersbrook Park.

Sile, Gemma Thorpe and Imaan Samson were three of just 50 emerging creatives around the UK to be 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).