The BFI are partners on this project because they see that archive is alive and something that can inspire creativity. David Olusoga, creative lead, StoryTrails

One of 10 commissioned projects for UNBOXED, StoryTrails marries the possibilities of cutting-edge immersive technologies with the power of archival moving image and oral history to tell the untold stories of 15 towns across the UK. A new generation of local creatives will map the emotional geography of these places, drawing inspiration from more than a century of moving image heritage preserved by the BFI National Archive and re-interpreting it for a new digital age.

These 50 emerging creatives – a talented and dynamic cohort representative of the UK population – were recruited through a community callout to help tell the stories of the local communities and places that they themselves are connected to.

As custodian of one of the world’s greatest collections of moving image, the BFI is continually seeking new ways of expanding access to and understanding of our film heritage – both as an art form and as a storytelling medium with the capacity to shed light on who we are. Our earliest pioneer filmmakers were the technological innovators of their day, not so remote from today’s creatives. StoryTrails puts the BFI National Archive’s digitised collections in their hands, inspiring them to uncover lesser known histories and to re-imagine archive moving image within exciting immersive realms.Simon McCallum, archive projects curator, BFI

What can I expect?

  • Interactive augmented reality (AR) trails touring 15 towns from July to September 2022, which visitors will be able to explore on their smartphone, starting at the local library. The trails surface previously unknown or neglected stories rooted in that place, and incorporate moving image from the BFI National Archive and other national and regional archives.
  • Innovative ‘spatial maps’ installed in all 15 host libraries, using cutting-edge mapping technology to take visitors on a visually stunning guided journey through the town, incorporating the stories of local people and archive moving image from across the past century. Audiences will also be able to explore the maps and more stories online
  • Seven specially created virtual reality (VR) experiences incorporating archive moving image in creative new ways will be available at each stop on the tour
  • A new feature documentary, fronted by David Olusoga and drawing on immersive and archival storytelling elements seen elsewhere in the project

About the partners

StoryTrails is led by StoryFutures Academy and delivered in partnership with the BFI, broadcaster and filmmaker David Olusoga, the BBC, Uplands Television, and leading immersive specialists ISO Design and Nexus Studios. It will use cutting edge technology from Niantic, makers of Pokémon Go, and it will be brought to life in The Reading Agency’s national network of libraries and by event-making specialists ProduceUK. 

StoryTrails tour dates and locations

  • Omagh (1 to 2 July)
  • Dundee (7 to 8 July)
  • Dumfries (12 to 13 July)
  • Blackpool (16 to 17 July)
  • Bradford (22 to 23 July)
  • Sheffield (27 to 28 July)
  • Lincoln (30 to 31 July)
  • Wolverhampton (6 to 7 August)
  • Swansea (10 to 11 August)
  • Newport (13 to 14 August)
  • Bristol (20 to 21 August)
  • Swindon (27 to 28 August)
  • Slough (3 to 4 September)
  • London (Lambeth 10 to 11 September; Lewisham 17 to 18 September)