BCA unveils virtual ‘escape room’ on Bedford High Street

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Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) has been working with digital artists to bring a new interactive game to Bedford’s High Street, launching this Sunday (8 October).

“The Vault” invites players to use their mobile phones to search for clues on the High Street that will uncover hidden facts and stories about the history of the street and the many businesses and people associated with it going back to the 18th Century.

If players successfully find all the clues, they will “crack open” the Vault – depicted in a 3D ‘anamorphic’ mural on the site of the old Barnard Bank and will be rewarded by an Augmented Reality animation on their smartphones.

The game has been developed as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) Cultural Programme and was inspired by the 3D anamorphic illusion mural painted by internationally renowned artist Julian Beever in 2021 as a pilot for the Cultural Programme.

You can see it on the stie of the old Barnard Bank on the ground opposite Nandos.

Read: High street 3D illusion art captures public imagination

Ami Aubrey, Programme Producer for BCA said: “We’ve had so much fun working with digital technologist Clemence Debaig and her team on the development of the game, including artist David Thatcher, a local Bedfordian and Unity specialist.

“The game is a fun, interactive way to discover more about Bedford’s High Street history. It takes about 15 minutes to play and is suitable for people aged nine to 99 years.

“The code for The Vault is going to change every month over the next six months so even once you’ve played it, you can come back again and again, and have a different experience each time.”

In addition, BCA has used Augmented Reality to develop animations for other murals in the town centre including the mural on Lime Street (Bedford Learning Centre) and Mill Street (A1 Taxis).

“We really hope this will be a great demonstration of how public art can be more than meets the eye through digital tech,” said BCA director, Elaine Midgley.

The Vault game is accessible for free using the QR codes on the mural site from Sunday (8 October). The AR animations on the Lime Street and Mill Street murals are also accessible via a website using a QR code under the mural itself.

ARA on Manton Lane has supported the Re-imagine the Skies mural on Lime Street.

Chris Burke, Head of Market Expansion from ARA said: “ARA is grateful for the opportunity to support this wonderful interactive artwork. Bedford can be very proud of both its storied aviation heritage and its world-class aerospace engineers who are developing the next generation of aircraft today.”

The portfolio holder for town centres and planning, Cllr Andrea Spice, said: “BCA are doing some incredible work to bring the history of Bedford High Street to life and this new augmented reality game takes it to a whole new level by giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in our town’s heritage.

“So, get your detective hats on and head to Bedford High Street to see if you can crack the code and open the vault.”

The HSHAZ Cultural Programme is funded by Historic England and BedfordBID, supported by SEMLEP and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It Is facilitated by the Bedford Players Trust. The murals on Lime Street and Mill Street are funded by Bedford Borough Council through the Town Centre Priority Fund, BedfordBID, Bedford College and ARA.