Art Showcase: A Knight’s Peril

Rachel here! I love castles. I really love castles. When I was in primary school I would do projects about castles in my spare time – just for fun. I would make wooden swords and reenact battles with my best friend too – Anyway – This week we came across a fantastic application of Raspberry Pi to make a National Trust medieval castle come alive undead. I’ll hand you over to the National Trust and Splash and Ripple, the creative agency behind the work, who explain more about what they’re doing.

Medieval castle haunted using technology with a twist

With its world-first adventure experience “A Knight’s Peril’, Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is quietly revolutionising what people expect from a day out at a National Trust property.

When a company that describes itself as ‘Architects of Extraordinary Adventures’ claims to have revolutionised history interpretation through haunting a 14th century castle, you would expect some kind of technical wizardry to be centre stage. It would be easy to assume they’ve come up with another smartphone app or gamified tablet experience.

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Intriguingly however, they have chosen an opposite track. Splash & Ripple have taken Arthur C Clarke’s declaration that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” as a guiding principal in creating their latest adventure.

The result is digital heritage interpretation turned on its head. They’ve taken the magical abilities of pioneering technology and housed them in the theatrical disguise of a beautifully crafted ‘Echo Horn’.

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The extra ‘magic’ of an Echo Horn actually creates a more convincing experience, in a medieval castle, than a distracting tablet app or audio guide ever could. It intuitively fits the feel of the beautiful 14th century Bodiam castle as you cross its moat and gaze at its stony ramparts, listening to the echoes you’ve caught with it. The beautiful sounds create a deeply evocative group experience, which enhances rather than distracts from the experience of being in the castle.

Visitors carry the Echo Horn with them around the castle in an interactive audio investigation. They must use it to listen in on medieval conversations trapped in the castle walls in order to identify and stop a murderer before it’s too late.

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It’s effectively a choose-your-own adventure radio play where visitors’ actions, defined by who they follow and who they accuse, affect the ending of their story. This encourages an active exploration of the historical content, which requires visitors to think about what life was like, rather than passively accept an authoritative interpretation.

New historical research on the castle, which informed the creation of the script, was done in partnership with University of West of England History department.

The experience is being specially showcased at Bodiam castle by the creative team on 4th Dec. It has been a year in the making, and is now available to the castle’s 180,000 yearly visitors for at least the next 12 months.

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Players use an ancient map to navigate the castle, searching for seals that have emerged from the castle walls. These seals contain hidden RFID chips. Each echo horn contains a Raspberry Pi, a Mini Rig and RFID reader.

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Rachel again: thanks guys! We love it – I’m looking at organising an office awayday so we can play with the horns ourselves.