What is StoryTrails?

StoryTrails is an immersive storytelling experience bringing untold stories and local history to life in 15 locations across the UK. There are three individual activities within StoryTrails; Augmented Reality (AR) trails, Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, and Spatial Map installations. You can view more information about each activity by clicking on the segments below.

All 15 spatial maps, along with related archive footage, is now available for free on BFI Player.

Historian and executive producer David Olusoga’s companion documentary to the StoryTrails experience is also available. Watch ‘The People’s Piazza: A History of Covent Garden’ now.

Where is it taking place?

While the StoryTrails tour has now finished, we have installed legacy kits in the libraries we visited with the tech and stories shown throughout the tour, all completely free to use! You can also download the free StoryTrails app to explore the AR trails in your own home.

The libraries with StoryTrails kits are:

  • Dundee Central Library
  • Dumfries Ewart Library
  • Blackpool Central Library
  • Bradford City Library
  • Sheffield Central Library
  • Lincoln Central Library
  • Wolverhampton Central Library
  • Swansea / Abertawe Central Library
  • Newport / Casnewydd Central Library
  • Bristol Central Library
  • Swindon Central Library
  • Slough – The Curve Library
  • Lambeth – Brixton Library
  • Lewisham – Catford Library
For more information, including opening times and library addresses, click here.
What will I see?

You can take an augmented reality walking trail by downloading the StoryTrails app and complete the trail themselves. The app allows you to experience a local story on the streets of their town often at the very spot these stories took place, or in the comfort of your own home. Audiences will see photos, watch videos, view 3D models, and listen to stories, all at specific points across the trail. Local landmarks are transformed to become interactive scenes through which you can explore history at or close to the location it took place in. Featuring archive footage and recordings from the BBC and British Film Institute and local and national archives you can uncover untold stories presenting a window into the past.

There is also a one stop AR virtual cinema experience. This offers a fun introduction to each town with local facts and an archive reel celebrating the town, past and present. There’s a chance to hear from the local trailmaker and learn what inspired them to create their walkable storytrail. This experience is ideal for those unable to commit to completing the longer trail, or for anyone with mobility challenges.

Historian and television presenter David Olusoga, familiar to viewers of the BBC’s A House in Time, narrates a further AR experience that invites visitors to turn a dial on a virtual giant radio and travel back in time. From Beatlemania and the flares and haircuts of the swinging sixties, to dancing to the end of the millennium in crop-tops and trainers, audiences will experience a potted history of the UK through the decades.

Inside the library will be an iPad featuring a virtual map of your town unlike anything you have seen before. Using 3D scans of the local buildings, people, objects and places alongside audio stories of the people from your city creating an emotional map.

Time travel continues inside the library where you can enter digitally created worlds using a virtual reality (VR) headset. You can enjoy a selection of fully immersive and interactive tales. For example, you could put yourself into the punk past of Britain in the 70’s or fast forward 50 years into the future to see how the world might look then. Check with your nearest participating library for details.

How accessible is StoryTrails?

At StoryTrails we are committed to inclusivity and ensuring everyone can have an exciting experience, regardless of ability.

If you are unable to follow the main trail on location you can access all of the AR at home via the Story-trails app.

There are multiple accessible Virtual Reality experiences which can be completed inside the library. We have trained librarians to assist you with your VR journey and make it as comfortable and smooth as possible.

The spatial map experience can be viewed inside the library via iPads.

We also recommend viewing your local libraries accessibility guidelines before attending.

For more information about accessibility, click here.




What is AR?

Augmented Reality, or AR for short, enhances reality by overlaying digital information onto the real world being viewed through a smart device. In other words, by using the camera on a smart device, AR is able to place digital objects in the real world.

What are the trails?

Guided by the Voices of the Trails, visitors will travel round a set route and use our AR app to view historical photos, watch archive videos, and listen to the stories of people and places in the exact spot it happened. Voices of the Trails are all from or connected to the towns, varying from local heroes, Paralympians and celebrities. All trails from all 15 locations are available via the Story-Trails app

How many trails are there?

There are three different trails for each city, ranging in distance and time. All of the trails finish at the library they start from, and there is always a maximum of 4 minutes walking between stops. Trails take between 20-45 minutes to complete, but this may vary depending on ability.  All trails can also be done from home via the Story-Trails app.

For more information about accessibility, please click here.
What do I need to bring?

Libraries have a limited number of smart devices available for visitors to take around the trail. Hiring a device is free, but you must bring a form of photo ID.

If using your own smartphone to access the trails on location we highly recommend using an up to date smartphone and headphones, as audio can be difficult to hear amongst the background noise of the city. It is advisable to download the Story-Trails app before arriving at the library We also strongly recommend bringing a battery pack as Augmented Reality can quickly drain phone battery. You can download our app by searching ‘Story-Trails’ in your app store, or clicking the link below. Please also be aware that visitors use provided and personal devices at their own risk, and StoryTrails is not liable to use of mobile data or damage to any personal device.

Download our App

To install our app, click below:

Apple iOS (iPhone)
Google Play Store (Android)
I’ve downloaded the app, now what?
Click here for our handy guide on installing and using our app.
Can I leave my belongings anywhere whilst doing the trail?

Visitors must take their own belongings with them.

How long does it take?

If you choose to walk the trail on location this will vary depending on walking speed.

What are the age guidelines?

Younger children are welcome to participate on the AR trails explore the ipads featuring the spatial map experience but the VR is not generally recommended for children under 12. This is in compliance with the headset manufacturer’s guidelines. Some content features mature/adult themes, similar to a PG rated feature film. Full details are available in participating libraries.

Do I need to book?

No, you do not need to book,  you can drop into the library throughout the day. As times may vary, please check your locations opening times by clicking here. 

How will I know what to do?

Our  Story-Trails app will guide you around the trail on location or from the comfort of your own home. At each StoryTrails library location the librarians will be on hand to assist you and make your experience as seamless as possible.

If you have any concerns or questions before or during your visit, please speak to your local library staff, or email us at: StoryTrails@rhul.ac.uk

How accessible is StoryTrails?

At StoryTrails we are committed to inclusivity and ensuring everyone can have an exciting experience, regardless of ability.

If you are unable to follow the main trail on location then please download the Story-Trails app which allows you  to participate in all AR experiences from the comfort of your own home.

There are multiple Virtual Reality experiences which can be completed inside the library, check with your local participating library for further details.

The spatial map experience can be viewed inside the library  via  iPads which visitors can use to explore  all  the stories which make up the virtual map of the town.

We also recommend viewing your local libraries accessibility guidelines before attending.

For more information about accessibility click here.


VR Experiences

What is VR?

Virtual Reality, or VR for short allows audiences to inhabit a completely different virtual world through a headset.

Participating libraries will have VR headsets  available for visitors to view VR experiences. Headsets will have multiple experiences available, and visitors will have the option to choose which they’d like to view.

What do I need to bring?

Just yourself!

How will I know what to do?

Library staff will be there to help and guide you throughout your entire VR experience.

Do I need to book?

You do not need to book to experience the VR installations. However as there are a limited number of VR headsets, visitors may need to queue if they wish to view multiple VR experiences.

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