Film and Media Students develop heritage app Celebrating 150 years of Clifton Suspension Bridge

Issue date: 08 December 2014

Bridge Tales is available for free download from Apple Store and Google Play from 8 December.

Would you like to explore Clifton Suspension Bridge's stone abutments? Or discover the rare Bristol Onion, a plant that can only be found, in the UK, at the Avon Gorge? Now visitors to Bristol's most iconic landmark, can discover the stories of its history, surroundings and the people who use it through a new free heritage app for smartphones developed by a team of UWE Bristol film and media students on work placement with the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust.

The app will be launched on Monday 8 December 2014, coinciding with the Trust's celebrations to mark the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the bridge.

The talented team of placement students: Maisie Campbell, Nick Fenwick, Talia Maguire, Laura Brandist, Beatrice Steinhörster, Holly Gosai, Poppy Hayhurst and Isabella Coombeswere commissioned by the Trust and given complete creative control to develop the smartphone app as part of a new exhibition space at the Bridge's new Heritage and Learning Centre.

The students are drawn from BA (Hons) Film, BA (Hons) Film with Screenwriting, BA (Hons) Filmmaking and Creative Media, BA (Hons) Media Culture and Practice and BA (Hons) Media and Journalism. They were selected for the placement, following an interview process led by Visitor Services Manager, Laura Hilton.

Their placements began with a boot camp, led by Calvium, who developed the app, during which they were introduced to the AppTrails platform. The platform enables students to insert text, images, audio and links to video and websites onto GPS hotspots that will be triggered when users are at the location. The students created some test spots with scratch content, just to see what the GPS signal was like up on the bridge.

Next the students spent a very wet day at the bridge with Laura Hilton and Helen Jeffrey, the Community, Learning and Volunteer Officer – this included a tour of the bridge, a chance to see items from the archive and a rare visit inside the hollow abutments on the Leigh Woods side. These were thought to be solid rock until 2002 when the bridge was repaved and a manhole was discovered which lead down into a series of hollow chambers.

The students were then invited by Laura to identify the key themes and stories that they thought would work within the app. They developed an audience survey, distributed online and to visitors to the bridge, to identify the themes and stories that were of most interest. The students discussed where hotspots might be placed relating to each theme/story, outlined the various media needed for each point and allocated tasks and responsibilities, with some students taking on scriptwriting, others taking the lead in photography, audio recording and video.

For Maisie Campbell, a final year student on BA (Hons) Filmmaking and Creative Media, this was her first experience of working on a live project in a technical role. She says, “It's been a great experience, I'd really like to work in the technical media when I graduate, so this was an amazing opportunity to apply the skills I've learnt in class. I used the app builder to check that all aspects of the app functioned correctly, from checking that all the hot spots worked, to adjusting the sound levels and checking the picture quality and size.

“I'm really grateful to the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust for the opportunity, to be entrusted with complete control for the whole live project, was amazing. It was completely different to being in the classroom, we were working to actual deadlines and making decisions as a team. I think we can now go into the work place equipped with these skills as we know what's expected of us.

“It's going to be emotional saying goodbye to the app, I'm so proud of what we've achieved and have also really enjoyed the app as a consumer, it's great to have something tangible as a result of all our hard work. There were so many 'tales' to share but we hope the public will agree that the 15 hotspots we've chosen capture the bridge's magnificent history.”

Laura Hilton, Visitor Services Manager at Clifton Suspension Bridge, adds, “We're really excited by the Bridge Tales app and to see it come together over the last few months. One of the highlights for me was seeing the students clambering across the gorge to film a patch of Bristol Onion, Avon Gorge's botanist, Libby Houston had uncovered.

“It was a big responsibility for the placement students to have complete creative control on the project and we've been really impressed with how they've risen to the challenge. They've decided what to write, film and direct and the final result really highlights the quality of the UWE Bristol students. I'm sure visitors to the new Heritage and Learning Centre will really enjoy this new way of exploring the Bridge.”

Follow the project on Twitter using the hashtag #bridgetales or read more about Dr Charlotte Crofts (Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking and Creative Media) observing the students in action at 'Bridging the App'.

For more information on studying at UWE Bristol please visit the School of Film and Journalism page

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