Imagine lacing up your walking boots and stepping out to explore Cornwall with your own personal storyteller by your side. A raconteur to regale you with all those funny, fascinating and sometimes tragic stories about Cornwall that never make the official guidebooks and history books.
Now you can.
Because high tech has met and made friends with good old-fashioned storytelling here in Cornwall in the form of a free walking app.
Called Walk With Me, the app was created by Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre company and uses GPS technology to trigger audio narratives relevant to your specific location.
So, you can be fed titbits of local gossip, legend and myth that are perfectly tailored to wherever you happen to be walking. A stroll past Bodmin Jail, for example, will trigger a story called Rush Cross, inspired by a gold leaf inscription on a sign found near the prison. The story brings the engraving’s brief details to life, fleshing out the story of one Willian Howarth, a 24-year-old executed at the jail on 13th September 1798 for stealing the equivalent of £20.
Walk With Me writer Anne Marie Murphy
To create the app, Kneehigh writer Anne Marie Murphy set out on a series of walks around Cornwall to collect stories, memories and historical fragments from people she met along the way. These tales are often wildly exaggerated for comic effect by Anna.
From a rather particular pasty seller to a disgruntled surfer, Murphy has shaped and embellished these real-life stories into amusing and informative dramatic dialogues that have been performed by Kneehigh company members.
“You may find the beginnings of these stories in an old photograph in a local museum,” says Murphy, “ in a conversation overheard in a café, or a personal anecdote shared at one of our tale gathering tea-parties.
“But they are the untold tales, the personal ones. The ones you don’t find in the guidebooks and the history books.”
“It’s a great new way to explore unfamiliar towns and villages across Cornwall,” adds Kneehigh manager Charlotte Bond, “or re-explore the ones you think you know.”
The stories are beautifully told and the walking route is easy to follow. As you walk, pink location markers point out where you can stop to listen to one of Anna’s stories or poems that she’s drawn from historical buildings, folklore and true stories. If you switch the app to ‘armchair mode’, you can listen to the stories from the comfort of home.
Murphy and Kneehigh have also put together a brilliant collection of ‘moving postcards’ – animated versions of some of the stories collected on Cornwall’s roads less travelled.
One such moving postcard is Ladies Who Surf Part 1, animated by Mae Voogd, read by Dawn French and with sound design by Phil Innes. The postcard considers what it was like to swim and surf in Cornwall back before wetsuits were widely available and ‘swimsuits’ were uncomfortable costumes knitted from scratchy wool. It also unveils a rather revealing story about see-through swimsuits.
Walk With Me features story walks for Perranporth, Mevagissey, Newquay, Helston, Redruth and Bodmin and is available for iOS and Android technology through the App Store and Google Play.