Celebrities lend their voices to ‘Talking Statues’ to help bring Leeds history to life

Some of the 'Talking Statues', and centre, Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan recording her voiceover.
Some of the 'Talking Statues', and centre, Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan recording her voiceover.
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SO much of our time is spent dashing around these days that we rarely stop and soak up what’s going on around us.

But an interesting new project that has gained the support of several celebrities aims to peel people away from their smartphones and errands to re-engage with the city.

Talking Statues will help bring Leeds’s history to life by giving a voice to some of the most well-known landmarks.

Stars including Vic Reeves, Brian Blessed and Game of Thrones actress Gemma Whelan have recorded voices for iconic statues such as The Black Prince and the lions outside Leeds Town Hall.

Passersby can swipe their smartphones on nearby plaques to hear their stories and interact with the statues.

Gemma, who plays Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, is voicing the Drury Dame on City Square. She said: “I’m from Leeds and I know City Square very well.

“To be given the opportunity to voice one of the dames was a dream project. I have a bit of the inner dame myself!”

Radio presenter and writer Ian McMillan, who is voicing the Petanque Player at Bond Court, said: “I’m always wanting to explore new ideas of getting language performed in places you don’t expect it, and you certainly don’t expect statues to start telling you a story!”

Colette Hiller, director at Sing London, which came up with the idea, said: “Most of us hardly notice the statues around us. Talking Statues Leeds aims to change this.

“We have gathered a stellar line-up of writers and actors ready to put themselves in the shoes – or in some cases the paws – of Leeds’ statues.”

The Black Prince at City Square will be voiced by Vic Reeves, the lions at Leeds Town Hall will be performed by Brian Blessed, the James Watt statue at City Square will be voiced by Coronation Street’s Drew Cain and the Aaron Arthur statue at Eastgate roundabout is being performed by Shameless actor Lee Toomes.

But three are still awaiting a voice. The Talbot Hound – a Victorian stray dog at Trevelyan Square, John Harrison – a wool merchant from 17th-century Leeds in City Square, and Equus Altus – the giant horse at Trinity Leeds, are yet to have a voice.

Budding writers are invited to put pen to paper and come up with a monologue for each remaining statue.

The winning entries will be recorded by well-known actors later this year.

Talking Statues Leeds launches on June 28 and is part of the Yorkshire Festival, which runs from June 16 to July 3.

Matt Burman, artistic director at the festival, said: “Talking Statues is a fantastic project mixing culture, technology, a little bit of history and a lot of fun.

“We walk past these statues every day but by bringing them to life with some well-known voices, not only will locals and visitors be entertained, they will also learn something about the historical figures who inspired each of these long-standing works of art.

“This is just one of many fantastic projects we have that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of our Yorkshire cities.

“We can’t wait for the festival to get under way.”

For details on how to enter the writing competition, visit www.talkingstatuesleeds.co.uk from June 16.

Fore more about the Yorkshire Festival, go to www.yorkshirefestival.co.uk.