St Fagans National Museum of Welsh History is one of the best days out you can have out around Cardiff. They’ve just launched a new app to help you make the most of your visit. We sent intrepid reporter and local boylesque star Ernie Sparkles along to try it out and report back to us.

In June, I met Alison John, Producer at Yello Brick at the entrance of The National Museum of Wales, St Fagans. Armed with my iPhone, she handed me a pair of headphones and pressed the Traces Olion app button that I had pre-downloaded to my phone. Traces is a new app that Yello Brick had developed with Cardiff University and the Museum with the help of Hoffi to build the app. Their app description: Traces is not an audio guide. Nor is it a tourist guide. It is a companion telling you a story that reveals fragmented moments of intertwining fact and fiction inspired by St Fagans; the space, its stories and archives.” Naturally I was curious as to what magic lay in store for me, and wow, I was not disappointed.

With the option of enjoying the experience in pairs or on your own, Alison agreed to join me for the adventure (it’s worth mentioning here that you must both press the buttons on the app at the same time as timing is important to the partner journey). The beautifully designed app is very self-explanatory and simple to use, and I later found out it continues to play even when you lock-screen so you can put it in your pocket to get the full adventure.

The clear, yet relaxing storyteller voice of actor Natalie Paisey is accompanied by beautiful music composed especially for the app by Jak Poore. Both of which lead you almost into a meditative state while you are guided around the castle gardens at the museum. The story (written by Sara Lewis) is based on material from the museum’s collection, and focuses on characters who may ‘have lived and experienced’ the castle and grounds in the early twentieth century.

During the course of the journey you are drawn into a new way of interacting with the place, noticing details and things you may not otherwise have noticed. The app takes you almost to a new dimension as you are taken beyond the realms of your usual audio trails and into a fully immersive experience. Pulling you into the world of the story, but leaving behind elements of your own story at the same time.

Like any good adventure, there are moments of pure beauty, but also of sadness, but always beautiful. I must admit, before I was fully immersed in the story there were a couple of laugh out loud moments that were a little cheesy – but you get over that pretty quickly!

A review left on the android app store from Lucy Hansen-Clarke says:

“What a wonderful, beautiful experience! It was an emotional journey and I fell in love with my partner all over again x” Lucy Hansen Clark

I must admit I did think shortly after the journey that it would make a perfect date activity!

The only downside to me was that there was no follow up or information as to which parts of the story were taken from the archives – perhaps the National Museum could be encouraged to create a page on their website or a small display in their new visitor centre when it opens its doors.

I would thoroughly recommend everyone goes and has the experience of Traces. It really is a beautiful 30 minutes out of your busy day and you will not be disappointed!

The Traces app can be downloaded from either the ITunes Store or Google Play and you will need to have a pair of headphones to enjoy the experience fully. It is recommended to download the app, which is free of charge, before you arrive at St Fagans.

Yello Brick is a company that specialises in digital and physical events that intertwine narrative and brand into exciting and playful experiences.

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