Explore:Burnley The Weaver's Triangle smartphone app, commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts, is an interpretation of the Weavers' Triangle area of Burnley, an area around the Leeds and Liverpool Canal that was once at the heart of the town's textile industry. This area is currently the focus of a major regeneration programme being undertaken by Burnley Borough Council which aims to capitalise on the distinctive heritage of the area in order to strengthen the local economy and boost tourism. Mid Pennine Arts are actively involved in this process and recently ran a project working with artists and groups of young people to research and interpret the heritage of the area, called "Project Pride Burnley", bringing it to life with a piece of multi-media site-specific promenade theatre to engage the local community. The research and outcomes from this project were used as the basis for the app.
The app takes the participant on a journey into the past to explore the history of the area, with stories of the people who lived and worked there and the industries that put Burnley at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. This is combined with contemporary video and recordings of creative writing sessions to reveal how the area is being brought to life again. All this content is triggered by the participant's location in the real world, using the phone's GPS.
“Tell the story of the area through the ages and the people who worked and lived there; show what it looked like and what’s happening there now” was the brief.
MPA had a wealth of source material that provided the contemporary element of the app. There was a documentary of the Project Pride project; videos of Dark Satanics, another MPA event held within the Triangle; audio files of interviews with key parties talking about their wishes for the regeneration; and a plethora of images – images of Sandygate Square before and after its recent landscaping, of the MPA performances, and more. There were also the outcomes from “Stories of Sandygate”, a recent creative writing project funded by Lancashire County Council, Burnley Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, that captured local peoples’ memories and stories of the area.
The historical element of the app was created following extensive research into the history of the area and visits to the site.
The route of the trail, for once, came easily. We wanted to take the participant on a journey through time and so the Weavers’ Triangle Visitor Centre, revealing the history of the cotton industry and canal, was an ideal and easily located starting point. Sandygate Square, which has been the location of recent events and performances and forms a focal point of the area’s regeneration, was a logical end point to bring the story up-to-date and look into the future. Between these two points the canal and Trafalgar Street offered opportunities to tell the story of the canal, of the mills and related industries and the people who worked in them, of where they lived and played.
Once the route had been determined and the key locations identified along it we could then source the archive material to create image slideshows, videos and soundbites which would play when the user reached points of interest along the route. Burnley Library was a fantastic resource and essential as the source of the many archive images we used within the app.
To create part of the audio soundtrack of the app I recorded local dialect poet Mervyn Hadfield reciting some of his stories from the “Stories of Sandygate” project. A trip to the North West Sound Archive at Clitheroe Museum filled the gaps with oral histories of mill workers and bargemen and the sounds of the area.
It has been interesting to see how people have reacted differently to the various forms of media within the app. The “Now and Then” comparisons, contrasting how a location looks now compared with archive images showing the same place in the past, always seem to delight the user. My own favourite is a hole in the wall alongside the canal which, if you look through it in the real world, just reveals a patch of derelict scrubland. But looking through the hole using the app reveals something completely different, a journey back in time to what was there before and what it sounded like. You’ll have to find out for yourself what that was though!
You can download the app from the iPhone App Store or Android Market from within your smart phone or by using the links on the right.
Support: If you are having trouble with this app please send us a message.
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