Street Stories Leicester – Start of the Story

‘Street Stories’ – Augmented Reality Art Trail across the city’s empty shop windows.

BID Leicester has worked with design agency Arch Creative to deliver a spectacular new vacant units project, designed to improve the appearance of empty shops in the city centre and turn them into points of interest.

Working with ten community focussed local artists spanning a range of styles and mediums, Street Stories celebrates the innovative achievements of pioneering people from Leicester, and also explores some powerful themes including human rights, the environment, consumerism and identity.

Simon Jenner, BID Leicester Director, explains:

“Street Stories is a creative and innovative project and we’re really excited to finally launch it. This is our second project to improve the appearance of empty units in the city centre, and whilst Leicester fares well nationally when it comes to vacant units – and even is looking forward to some exciting new openings in the coming months – this scheme will help to highlight commercial space, create an attractive environment and give residents and visitors an insight into Leicester’s rich heritage.

The trail launches at a critical time in the city’s ongoing economic recovery, and by moving visitors around the artworks it will encourage footfall across the city centre. The augmented reality feature adds another dimension to the artworks, providing an added draw and making it a great outdoor activity for all ages to engage with. I hope as many people as possible will download the app and enjoy the trail whilst they are in the city.”

A range of visually unappealing empty shop units around the city centre have been transformed into living works of art, and a trail has been created which people can follow around the streets of Leicester in a safe and secure way while practicing social distancing.

Arch Creative Director Joe Nixon explains why the project is so important:

“Since we started working on Street Stories, the project has taken on a new level of significance and it’s now never been such an important time to celebrate Leicester’s achievements. Our concept was to create an interactive street museum and highlight some important and less well known stories to new audiences. We’ve been able to give a platform to the incredible artists we have in our city, but also continue to grow the reputation Leicester has as a city of creativity and culture.”

To further enhance the campaign there is an interactive Augmented Reality (AR) twist, bringing the artworks to life with multi-sensory animation, and triggered by a free downloadable smartphone app. Arch Creative have developed the Street Stories content, creating ten immersive animations, and have partnered with digital agency Graff.io Arts and their new AR app where they can be viewed.

Using a smartphone to interact with street stories leicester

Street Stories topics range from Sir David Attenborough and endangered birds, Sir Alec Jeffreys and DNA fingerprinting, Joe Orton and the LGBTQ+ movement and Alice Hawkins and the suffragettes. Each innovative and exciting image reimagines these stories in their own way, with some of the artworks being especially commissioned for the project. One of these is the contemporary portrait of Leicester icon Alice Hawkins, one of the UK’s leading suffragettes, by the artist Tim Fowler. Hawkin’s great grandson Peter Barratt is enthused by the new interpretation which kicks off the Street Stories campaign:

“Over a 100 years ago my great grandmother Alice Hawkins campaigned in the streets of Leicester for equality at the ballot box. Today it’s great to see her commemorated in those very streets through original and innovative artwork’ – and the first in the ‘Street Stories’ trail.”

The team has also worked closely with local charity Soft Touch Arts, giving a stage for their Unlocked exhibition, and showcasing a range of artworks from prisoners and offenders at HMP Leicester, HMP Stocken and other regional prisons. De Montfort University’s Fashion and Textile course have also been involved with the campaign by setting a project for their students.