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Iconic statues across Norwich can now talk

PUBLISHED: 11:41 03 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:41 03 September 2018

Lord Nelson, in Cathedral Close - written and voiced by Stephen Fry. Photos: Talking Statues / Library

Lord Nelson, in Cathedral Close - written and voiced by Stephen Fry. Photos: Talking Statues / Library

Talking Statues / Library

If statues could talk, what stories would they tell?

Thomas Browne, in the Haymarket - written by George Szirtes (bottom left) and voiced by Adam Buxton. Photos: Talking Statues / Antony Kelly / LibraryThomas Browne, in the Haymarket - written by George Szirtes (bottom left) and voiced by Adam Buxton. Photos: Talking Statues / Antony Kelly / Library

That question will soon be answered as 10 of Norwich’s statues, depicting the great and good of our city and county, have been given the gift of the gab.

Stephen Fry and Olivia Colman are among an impressive line up of writers and actors who are bringing the city’s statues to life and together, telling Norwich’s story.

Talking Statues, designed by Sing London, has seen statues brought to life in London, Manchester, Dublin and Chicago.

Now local production company Creative Nation are bringing the project to Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, with the help of partner organisations across the city.

The project is being launched on Saturday September 8.

Working with the National Centre for Writing, they have commissioned some of Norwich’s most celebrated writers and actors, alongside emerging local talent, to give Norwich’s statues a voice.

Some approaches are dramatic, others comic and others pure flights of fantasy. All aim to persuade the public to look at the statues, and their place within the city, with new eyes.

Alice Whitney, the project producer from Creative Nation said: “I grew up in Norwich, and since relocating back to the area, I knew that I wanted to do something to showcase the city I love and its incredible heritage and cultural landscape.

Amelia Opie, on Opie Street - written by Megan Bradbury (top right) and voiced by Zoe Telford. Photos: Talking Statues / Norfolk and Norwich Festival / LibraryAmelia Opie, on Opie Street - written by Megan Bradbury (top right) and voiced by Zoe Telford. Photos: Talking Statues / Norfolk and Norwich Festival / Library

“Having been on the advisory board of Sing London for the last decade, and having been involved with Talking Statues previous iterations, I just knew it would provide the perfect platform for us to celebrate our fine city.”

The statues provide signposts to and a resource for the city’s cultural, heritage and civic organisations where participants can go and learn more about the real people behind the statues, and their work and lives in the city.

To hear them speak, simply pass a Talking Statue, use your phone to scan the QR code or enter the short URL on the nearby plaque and the statue calls you.

When you receive your first call, your phone will take you to the website where you can learn more and download a map.

Will Kempe, in Chapelfield Gardens, - written and voiced by Luke Wright. Photos: Talking Statues / Nick ButcherWill Kempe, in Chapelfield Gardens, - written and voiced by Luke Wright. Photos: Talking Statues / Nick Butcher

There is no charge to access Talking Statues, but network charges apply.

Printed maps will also be available at locations across the city and transcripts are available for the deaf and hard of hearing.

For more information, click here.

Which statues will come to life?

The ten statues are:

• Lord Nelson, in Cathedral Close - written and voiced by Stephen Fry. How does Nelson feel about how we have chosen to remember him, and how did being from Norfolk make him the man he was?

• Julian of Norwich, at Norwich Cathedral - written by Sarah Perry and voiced by Olivia Colman. Julian wants to tell you a story about how she came to be here, if you could spare her a moment?

Ms Perry said: “I recall sitting in Norwich cathedral the day I moved here from London and being full of a sense of belonging. Julian’s statue was part of that - she seems to be waiting by the door for people to come in - so I jumped at the chance to be part of a project giving her a voice. And of course, all women writers owe something of a debt to the author of the first book in English known to have been published by a woman, which made it particularly special.

The City Hall Lions, at the front steps of City Hall - written by Karl Minns and voiced by The Nimmo Twins. Photos: Talking Statues / Dave Guttridge/ The PhotographicThe City Hall Lions, at the front steps of City Hall - written by Karl Minns and voiced by The Nimmo Twins. Photos: Talking Statues / Dave Guttridge/ The Photographic

“I knew that Julian would be warm, and consoling, and welcoming - but I was surprised to find that her voice, as I heard it, was also very funny.”

• Peace, at the junction of Agricultural Hall Plain and Castle Meadow -written and voiced by Molly Naylor. Peace wants to talk to you about her role and what she can see from up high.

• The City Hall Lions, at the front steps of City Hall - written by Karl Minns and voiced by The Nimmo Twins. The lions have 80 years of history to share with you, from their unique perspective of the city.

Mr Minns said: “It was an honour to be asked and having played the City Hall lions on stage many years ago, myself and Owen jumped at the chance to do the recording. I hope people enjoy it, smile and come away knowing a little bit more about these unsung heroes of Norwich.

Peace, at the junction of Agricultural Hall Plain and Castle Meadow - written and voiced by Molly Naylor. Photos: Talking Statues / Robin MairPeace, at the junction of Agricultural Hall Plain and Castle Meadow - written and voiced by Molly Naylor. Photos: Talking Statues / Robin Mair

“The most surprising thing was the sense of responsibility I felt both with the script and performance. Everyone knows them. Unlike a real historical figure, there was no biography or personality to recreate. So, I had fun imagining what they’d seen and what it’s like to be a brass lion out in all weathers, watching the people of Norwich go about their days.

“It was great fun and the whole talking statues project is inspired. Grab your phones and go and learn more about the statues with whom you share your city. They too have a story to tell.”

• Thomas Browne, in the Haymarket - written by George Szirtes and voiced by Adam Buxton. Thomas is feeling reflective of his life, work and persona.

• Will Kempe, in Chapelfield Gardens, - written and voiced by Luke Wright. Having been so energetic in life, Will has lots to say about his current situation.

Peter the Wild Boy, in Bridewell Alley - written by Alexander Gordon Smith (top left) and voiced by Keith Skipper. Photos: Antony Kelly / Library / Talking StatuesPeter the Wild Boy, in Bridewell Alley - written by Alexander Gordon Smith (top left) and voiced by Keith Skipper. Photos: Antony Kelly / Library / Talking Statues

Mr Wright said: “Kempe was a comedian and comedians deal in the ephemeral. A laugh is fleeting.

“I wonder how many of comedians have statues dedicated to them? Posterity favours the serious. So, I thought it was cool that we have a statue of Kempe, but I also wanted to explore that idea of posterity from the point of view of someone who lived in the moment, who was a performer.”

• Peter the Wild Boy, in Bridewell Alley - written by Alexander Gordon Smith and voiced by Keith Skipper. Allegedly mute in real life, what has Peter got to say for himself and what accent might he have?

• Amelia Opie, on Opie Street - written by Megan Bradbury and voiced by Zoe Telford. Amelia would like to tell you what motivated and drove her in life and her work.

Julian of Norwich, at Norwich Cathedral - written by Sarah Perry (top right) and voiced by Olivia Colman. Photos: Talking Statues/Jamie Drew/PAJulian of Norwich, at Norwich Cathedral - written by Sarah Perry (top right) and voiced by Olivia Colman. Photos: Talking Statues/Jamie Drew/PA

• Snap the Dragon, at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell. Snap is the subject the under 16s public writing competition.

• Missing Statue, at the Church of St John Maddermarket. This post-reformation space is the subject of the over 16s public writing competition.

Write your own monologue

Members of the public have been challenged to write the monologues for two of the statues.

Snap the Dragon statue, which is housed at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Norwich. Photo: Talking StatuesSnap the Dragon statue, which is housed at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Norwich. Photo: Talking Statues

For those under the age of 16, Snap the Dragon needs a voice. What does he get up to when the crowds at the Museum of Norwich go home? How does he feel having only a head and a small piece of his body remaining?

Or for those over 16, the question of who could or should stand in the missing statue space above the north porch at St John Maddermarket Church? The only stipulation is, in line with Heritage Open Days extraordinary women theme, the statue must have the voice of a woman. She may be alive or dead, a human being or a very different creature, but will follow the footsteps of Norwich’s impressive line of radical women including Boudicca, Elizabeth Fry, and Harriet Martineau.

Entries open on September 8, for details or to book creative writing workshops at statue sites, click here.

The space at the Church of St John Maddermarket, where a statue may have been. Photo: Talking StatuesThe space at the Church of St John Maddermarket, where a statue may have been. Photo: Talking Statues

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