1831 RIOT! app to retell the story of uprising in Bristol's Queen Square

Issue date: 10 September 2018

Queen Square will once again become the scene of the 1831 reform riots, as visitors to Bristol Open Doors on 15 September put their headphones on and launch an app that retells the story of the 19th century uprising. Users will have the chance to meet the team behind the project throughout the day.

Bristol-based immersive media company Satsymph have remade 1831 RIOT!, the original ground-breaking immersive audio play of 2004 as a free app for a new audience of smartphone users. The Regional History Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) brought students in to help with testing and redesign.

1831 Riot! is an audio play with a difference – one where the listener's location determines what is heard. The app invites listeners to explore the events that took place on the weekend of 29 October 1831 and includes sounds of crowd noise, burning buildings and the devastating cavalry charge that finally dispersed and killed hundreds of Bristolians. By moving through hidden pools of sound layered across Queen Square, listeners' movements shape the experience, making it different each time they try it.

Regional History Centre director, Professor Steve Poole said: “The really innovative thing about 1831 Riot! is that it allows listeners to make their own connections between snatches of evidence, conversations and events as the riots unfold. No two people ever experienced events like these in exactly the same way and this brilliant app reminds us that history is all about interpretation.”

The riots were a response to the rejection of the Great Reform Bill by the House of Lords, a measure designed to extend the vote to middle class male house holders. However, the announcement of the Tory MP and city Recorder Sir Charles Wetherall that Bristolians were not interested in parliamentary reform, further inflamed local opinion. When Wetherall arrived in Bristol to open the Assize Courts, huge crowds gathered to oppose him and he was forced to take refuge in the Mayor's Mansion House in Queen Square.

The original 1831 Riot! project - the world's first immersive location-based audio-play - was conceived and created 15 years ago by Liz Crow and Ralph Hoyte for Mobile Bristol with Hewlett-Packard Labs and the University of Bristol. The remake, developed with help from UWE Bristol's Regional History Centre, is a downloadable app for mobile devices.

Ralph Hoyte said: “Back in 2004, you needed a special 'pocket pc' and a clunky GPS receiver in a backpack to access 1831 Riot! whereas nowadays all you need is your mobile and some headphones. The app has been specially designed to immerse you in an experience of the 1831 Bristol reform riots, in which the city nearly went up in flames.

“You will hear the voice of the common people, experience some of the surreal events of the riots (such as rioters playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on a 'liberated' grand piano in the centre of Queen Square), how the authorities and dragoons reacted (or not), and be able to make up your own mind about who was 'right' and who was 'wrong'.”

Visitors are invited to visit satsymph.co.uk to download the free app and for more information. They can then enter the 'time portal' on Queen Square, Bristol, and be transported back in time to 1831 - with over 100 mini dialogues to discover! The experience is wheelchair and mobility-impaired friendly. It is all audio. Text versions of the scripts are available on request from satsymph@gmail.com.

Users and those interested in this period of Bristol's history can meet the team behind the project on 15 September at Thunderbolt Square, on the corner of Prince Street and King Street from 10-4pm.

Although the app is launched during Open Doors, those interested in learning more about Bristol's history can continue to download free and use after the event.

To download app:

Google Play

App Store

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