By geo-locating the stories in unique places throughout the city centre, the project engages listeners by taking them on a journey of stories and poetry, exploring sides of the city they might not have found through conventional means. The use of the Podwalk app is supplemented by a website which features information about the project, biographies of the authors, written copies and audio files of the stories, and a map of where users can find and listen to them.
The project was inspired by the way social media companies use new technology to encourage people to engage with content in new ways. I thought, why not use technology to allow people to experience literature in a unique and immersive way.
Using Podwalk, which is a geolocational podcasting app that guides you around the location using a map interface and playing the stories as you get within the vicinity of where they are tagged, we pinned each story to a specific location.
After developing this idea into a more formal proposal, I took it to The Bridge Awards, a small philanthropic organisation in Scotland that microfunds the arts. They were on board immediately and with the support of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, I set up a website, organised calls for writing, set up social media (and a manager), and put the whole thing into motion in early 2016.
We received 79 entries from around the world. People from Canada, America, Cambodia, and around the UK wrote stories and poems set in and around Edinburgh. The long list was narrowed down, and the judges panel decided the final fifteen stories. The judges panel consisted of myself, Blythe Robertson (our social media manager), Eleanor Pender (Edinburgh City of Literature), Tracey Emerson (The Bridge Awards), Asif Khan (Scottish Poetry Library), and Roland Gulliver (Edinburgh International Book Festival).
We worked with the top fifteen authors to edit their stories and poems for flow, as these are mainly going to be heard and not read, and hired two exceptional voice actors. Natalie Barrett worked for 10 years in theatre and radio throughout the UK, and is currently recording the voices for the second series of the award-winning cartoon ‘Gigglebug’, and has enjoyed working on various radio and TV advert campaigns including Dobbies, Bupa, M&Co and 32 Red. James Mackenzie was a perfect accompaniment to Natalie. He has worked extensively on stage for many theatre companies including The National Theatre of Scotland, and has performed all over the country in everything from Macbeth to Sunshine On Leith the musical.
We had designers Chris Red and Jessica Dale create the logos, and the Saltire Society allowed us to record in their offices in Edinburgh. After our sound technician edited and sent the sound files back, they were up to be tested on the app Podwalk within days.
The project was officially launched on May 16th, with a #socialstroll down from the Castle. We strolled and listened to the stories nearby and had a drinks reception to follow, where we celebrated the achievements of the authors.
Overall, the project was a huge success!
Echoes of the City: Edinburgh’s Hidden Stories will be live on Podwalk for one year. Go to the website, hear the stories, or better yet, get out into the city and experience them for yourself.
Follow Echoes at @echoesofthecity