In London, statues are coming to life thanks to NFC technology.

Photo Credit @ Lee Ryda

Photo Credit @ Lee Ryda

From August 19th, for approximately one year, 35 statues across London and Manchester will speak their minds! Arts producers Sing London have commissioned some of the nation’s most celebrated writers, actors and comedians to create monologues for a range of iconic statues.  Pass a Talking Statue, engage the NFC tag and get a call back from Queen Victoria, Sherlock or perhaps even a goat…  

Some experiences are historic, others comic and others fictional. Four different types of statues will talk for a year, fictional, historical, modern and secret history. Talking Statues include:

  • Patrick Stewart as the haunting voice of the Unknown Soldier at Paddington Station
  • Jeremy Paxman defending free speech as John Wilkes in Fetter Lane
  • Baker Street’s Sherlock Holmes, as imagined by Anthony Horowitz
  • Tom Conti as Lincoln in Manchester’s Lincoln Square
  • Nicholas Parsons as Samuel Johnson’s famous cat, Hodge, in Gough Square
  • Coronation Street’s David Neilson propping up the bar as LS Lowry
  • Prunella Scales as Queen Victoria in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens
  • Hugh Dennis as a goat in Spitalfields
  • Helen Lederer as Dick Whittington’s ratting cat
  • Alan Johnson MP as Rowland Hill, inventor of the Penny Black, in the City of London
  • Simon Russell Beale as Isaac Newton at the British Library
  • Maisie Williams as the Broad Family daughter at Broadgate City of London

Talking Statues is the creation of Sing London, the non-profit arts organisation whose projects aim to lift the public’s spirit.  Previous projects include filling London with street pianos and Ping! – the public ping-pong project that has placed over 1000 ping-pong tables across England.“Most of us hardly notice the statues around us.  Talking Statues aims to change this,” says Colette Hiller, Creative Director of Sing London.  “They may be cast in stone but their voices have been set free. We are privileged to have a stellar line-up of writers and actors who have put themselves in the shoes – or in some cases the paws! – of these statues.” Actor Patrick Stewart said, “I think Talking Statues is a lovely idea.  It brings a sense of intimacy and personality to the statues that surround us all.”

Photo credit @ Lee Ryda

Photo credit @ Lee Ryda

Each plaque has embedded technology. Visitors use their phone’s embedded NFC or QR code capability or type in the code given to enable a call from the statue.”There are 3 kinds of technology available to engage with the statues and it was important that visitors not need to download something to their phone first. None of this would happen if you had to download something ahead of time,” explained Hiller to Contactless Intelligence. “This way, you can bump into a talking statue and  have an impromptu conversation immediately!”

The technology behind Talking Statues has been developed by Antenna Lab – part of Antenna International, leading cultural technologists and creators of museum guides. Antenna Lab Director, Jessica Taylor, explained more, “’Talking Statues’ is a new kind of guide to the art and culture around us in our streets and parks. It makes culture spontaneous and means we can engage new audiences – people who already love culture and public art, and some of those who will encounter it for the first time in a totally new way.” The organizers claim that the average time spent in front of a piece of artwork is 6 seconds, while on this project it is estimated that on average the monologues from the statues keep visitors in front of the statues for 2.5 minutes. In this way it is hoped that the statues will act as ambassadors for their respective museums highlighting their life, times and work and attract further visitors.

Rupert Englander, Founder and Managing Director of Wooshping, said, “Wooshping is delighted to have been working in conjunction with Antenna Lab to deliver the mobile interactive elements of this campaign for Sing London. The “call” feature is a really novel idea which has been an exciting challenge to meet, and something that we believe gives an entirely new and fresh introduction to an experience, in a very natural way.”

Talking Statues will be evaluated by the School of Museum Studies at Leicester University.  The project’s research findings will be made freely available to museums and cultural institutions. “We hope to take this project idea to other cities in the UK and into mainland Europe in the near future,” concluded Hiller. Further information can be found at

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Categories: Near Field Communications, QR Codes, Tags

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  1. It’s Sherlock Holmes on the phone! | - August 19, 2014

    […] Photo Credit @ Lee Ryda […]

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