In Oscar Wilde’s short story The Happy Prince, a statue gazing down at the city proves it has a beating heart inside its bronze skin by chatting away with a swallow about the things it’s seen. In that spirit, the new project Talking Statues, which launches today, brings to life 35 iconic sculptures all over London (and a few in Manchester too) for passers-by to talk to. Organised by Sing London, the scheme allows visitors to swipe a tag next to each statue with their smart-phone, after which they’ll receive a call from the famous figure on the plinth.
Actors have recorded monologues by respected writers and though Maggi Hambling’s Conversation With Oscar isn’t among the sculptures (yet) there are plenty of interesting ones to try. Prunella Scales brings to life Queen Victoria in the City, as imagined by journalist Elizabeth Day. And the statue of Brunel in Paddington gets animated by Hugh Bonneville to a script by playwrights Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Able.
Other statues on the London trail include Isaac Newton, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan and Dick Whittington’s cat, while the long list of contributors features names such as Jeremy Paxman, Patrick Stewart, Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Jenna Louise Coleman, Frank Skinner, Simon Russell Beale, Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
There’s also a chance for the public to put their words into the mouths of four other statues, including William Shakespeare at The British Library no less. You can enter the competition here with the winning pieces set to be recorded in time for Christmas.