Smartphones will make statues talk

Usually, if you talk to statues, you’ll be met with a, er, stony silence. But from tomorrow, certain statues in London and Manchester will talk back. And you won’t even need to take hallucinogens first.

Public performance company Sing London has teamed up with specialist museum-guide developer Antenna Lab to give voice to 35 iconic figures, thanks to funding from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Rather than blaring the info into an already noisy city, each monologue will simulate a phone call.

A plaque in front of each statue in the scheme offers you the chance to type in a URL, scan a QR code, or wave your NFC (near field communication) chip in its direction. Then, as Sing London’s artistic director, Colette Hiller, told The Guardian, ‘Your phone will just ring and it will say, ‘Sherlock Holmes is on the phone for you’ and the monologue begins.’

You can also hear from Queen Victoria, Alan Turing, and Samuel Johnson’s cat, Hodge, among others. The monologues have all been written by high-profile journalists and authors, including Jacqueline Wilson, who wrote a speech for the marble child in Manchester Central Library which was recorded by Jenna Coleman from Doctor Who. Other participating actors including Nicholas Parsons, Meera Syal, and Sir Patrick Stewart, whose recording is on SoundCloud now.

Political figures in Parliament Square including Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela were off-limits, but Hiller says this encouraged her team to choose a wider range of subjects. The project will run for a year, and the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies will track user stats to analyse whether it’s a success. If it is, who knows what could be talking to us next.

Image via Arild Nybø’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley