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Public Computing Group


An Interactive Play for Voices based in Queen Square.

April 15th to May 4th 2004

Imagine a play for voices. It is the Bristol Riots of 1831. The Political Reform Bill has been defeated in Parliament and the vote denied once more to ordinary people. Now those people are rising up and thousands of them have filled Queen Square in the heart of the city to vent their fury. You hear the rioters' voices as they plunder the surrounding buildings, the flames as buildings burn, the merchants as they flee for their lives and the Dragoon Guards as they sabre-charge through the crowds cutting the rioters down.

As part of a three week experimental research trial visitors to Queen Square immersed themselves in a dramatic experience in the very space where the riots took place 170 years ago. Equipped with a backpack and a set of headphones their movement through the square triggered sounds and voices. Art and technology immersed visitors in the Bristol Riots and allowing their experience to be shaped by them themselves.

This was a free outdoor event and attracted over 700 participants in the three weeks it ran for. As participants walked around the square their movement triggered different pieces of the play, the more they walked around the more different pieces unraveled.

External links about Riot

Wireless riot on Bristol's streets (15/09/03)
Riot is relived in Queen Square
Relive the riot in Queen Square (16/04/04)

Queen Square riot in pictures (23/04/04)

The technology behind Riot.

Headphones are connected to an HP iPAQ, that plays the appropriate sound file depending on where the user was in the square. Their location was determined by a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver unit attached to the iPAQ.

The writers specified the sounds that should play and how they should play by using the Mobile Bristol software authoring tool. The tool uses a map of the area as a background on which regions can be drawn. Associated with each region is the specification of what the user should experience when they enter or re-enter the space. For example the writers may want a series of sounds to play in order or only if another region has been entered. A computer program running on the iPAQ works out which sound file should be played depending on where you are and what logic has been specified for this region.

People involved in the making of Riot! 1831
Project Manager: Jo Reid
Project Co-Manager & Logic Implementation: Kirsten Cater
Software Architect: Richard Hull
Authoring Tools: Ben Clayton
Media Enhancements: Greg Jablonski
Poster and Graphics: Rachel Eardley
Trial support and testing: Tom Melamed, Paul Marsh, Stuart Martin, John Honniball, Hans Daanen
Contracts and legal: Detha Sanders
Writers and producers: Liz Crow and Ralph Hoyte
Sound Design: Armin Elsaesser
Original idea: Ralph Hoyte
Cast: Chris McCalphy, Tim Prior, Ben Tinniswood, Peter Townsend, Leona Walker, Christine West
Musicians: Stefan Hoyte, Simon Toomer
Thanks for the support of
Yucca Media: Richie Jones and Nik Lazell
Bristol City Council: Jerry Baker, Philip Higgins, Ken Ray