Bedford BID's talking statues project launches

If you walk past a statue in Bedford with a conspicuous purple plaque next to it - reach for your smartphone.

Hover your phone over the QR code and you will get a callback from the stone figure towering over you.

You might just find out something about the statue, and the person it represents, thanks to a project which launched this week.

Arts producers Sing London, the Love Bedford Business Improvement District (BID) and some famous Bedford faces are bringing seven iconic statues across the town to life this spring.

Two more will also come to life later this summer, with organisers asking budding local writers to submit scripts for a competition (see below).

"Most of us hardly notice the statues around us," said Sing London director, Colette Hiller. "Talking Statues aims to change this. After bringing statues in London, Manchester, Leeds and Chicago to life, we are delighted that the statues of Bedford will now be able to make their views heard too. And each statue has a story to tell."

A map of the town's talking statues is available below, and is also available to download Open PDF

The project, which will be launched on April 11, has been funded by The Harpur Trust and town centre businesses whilst working in partnership with Bedford Borough Council, The Higgins Art Gallery and Museum, The Place Theatre, Lifebox Theatre Company and Bedford Central Library.

Award-winning comedian and Bromham lad Matt Berry will be lending his voice to the Bunyan statue (below). He said: "Being born in Bedford, the John Bunyan statue was an integral part of growing up. Even if you didn't know who he was, you couldn't fail to notice him.

"I like the fact that he went to prison and wrote a bestseller while he was there. So if you should go to prison, why not write a book - because you might get your own statue."

The Place Theatre and Lifebox Theatre Company also worked with inmates at HM Prison Bedford to write a monologue for prison reformer John Howard. This will be voiced by Bond actor Colin Salmon.

Laura Pottinger, manager of The Place Theatre, said: "As theatre practitioners we love a good story so we were delighted to be invited to help create new stories for these important local landmarks."

Bedford storytellers Mark Steinhardt and Richard Mann give a voice to the War Memorial situated on The Embankment.

Richard said he was 'thrilled' to be able to lend his voice to a local project.

"The Talking Statues are a fantastic idea," he said. "They are a great way to learn bite-size local history in an interactive way and I had a lot of fun providing the voice for the Jagger and Glenn Miller statues in Bedford."

Richard Mann and the Charles Sargeant Jagger statue in Bedford's Embankment

Richard is also the voice of Bedford Corn Exchange's Glen Miller statue.

Toby Litt ( deadkidsongs, Journey into Space) wrote the message from the iconic musician and composer. He imagines Mr Miller zooming back through space and time to tell us what he's seen since his plane disappeared in 1944

Toby said: "When I first used to go to record shops, I'd go through the compilation LPs of Swing and Big Band music, checking out the names and the hairdos. My favourite Swing musician was always Glenn Miller.

"Later on, when I discovered his plane was thought to have disappeared whilst flying through the 'Bedford Triangle' (like the Bermuda Triangle, but smaller and with more brick pits) my interest was renewed. I was really delighted to be given the opportunity to bring Glenn back from wherever he's been, all these years. His music just makes life feel better.

Now, organisers are asking for more people to join in with the project - submitting a script for two more statues in the town.

Sing London is giving budding writers the chance to bring two Bedford statues to life with the Talking Statues Public Writing Competition.

Coordinator, Elizabeth Dearnley, said: "You've heard from John Bunyan, John Howard, Glenn Miller and more, but some of the other statues of Bedford are also waiting for their chance to get a word in.

"What will they say? Are you the one to tell us?"

The two statues to write for are: Sir William Harpur and Trevor Huddleston

The winning pieces will be recorded by well-known actors associated with Bedford and included as part of Talking Statues, ready to chat in summer 2017. They'll talk for a whole year.

Winners will also be invited along to their monologue recording and receive a copy of the final recorded script to keep.

To enter, submit a short monologue (maximum 350 words) from the perspective of your chosen competition statue to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the heading 'Public Writing Competition Entry'.

Deadline: 21 May 2017

Read Sir William Harpur Competition Notes here

Read Trevor Huddleston Competition Notes here