This summer, 35 statues across London and Manchester will begin telling tales of the past through the voices of recognisable British actors and words from our best writers.
To hear the statues, who first clear their throats today, visitors need to swipe their smartphones over signs near the statues. The phone will then ring and the monologues begin.
Playing some of our most notable characters from history - along with Dick Whittington’s Cat - will be Patrick Stewart, as the haunting voice of the unknown soldier at Paddington Station; Jeremy Paxman, who will defend free speech as John Wilkes in Fetter Lane; and Prunella Scales, as Queen Victoria, both on Blackfriars Bridge and in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens.
The statues will be brought to life as part of a project by Sing London (singlondon.org), a non-profit arts organisation, with the intention of lifting the nation’s spirits.
The following actors will read texts by the authors stated:
Sherlock Holmes – Anthony Horowitz / Ed Stoppard, Baker Street station
People keep rubbing his foot for luck but Sherlock has important things to be getting on with. Did you notice that suspicious looking man who just popped into the Bureau de Change?
Peter Pan – Ella Hickson / Daniel Roche, Kensington Gardens
This Peter suspects that the human people staring at him, may be wildly unimaginative - or, could they be new recruits for the Lost Boys?
Queen Victoria - Elizabeth Day / Prunella Scales, Blackfriars Bridge
This Victoria is not amused. There’s far too much traffic on the bridge and her sceptre is far too heavy to hold.
Dick Whittington’s Cat - Helen Lederer, Highgate Hill
Dick Whittington’s went from shining the shoes of the rich to becoming Mayor of London. And he owed his fortune to his rat-catching feline.
Hugh Myddleton - Tom Basden / Jonny Sweet, Islington Green
He stance is proud; he wears his medallion well… Yet the good folk of Islington haven’t a clue why he’s standing there. But, as he’ll tell you, his achievements are considerable and he deserves a row of statues...
The Broad Family Girl - Lucy Caldwell / Maisie Williams, Broadgate, City of London
This little girl loves playing Statues, the daring game in which she follow human passers by. She dares you to join her game.
The Goat – Hugh Dennis, Spitalfields Market
Dennis’s piece draws on history to explain why there’s a goat standing on a pile of crates.
Eye I – Sara Pascoe, Bishopsgate
A giant face of neon, she watches the world go by, sending love to strangers. She wants you to walk with a swing in your step, not to feel lonely in the city.
John Wilkes - Jeremy Paxman, Fetter Lane, Holborn
Advocator of freedom of the press, unabashed rake and proud pornographer. Oo-er.
Rowland Hill - Colette Hiller/ Alan Johnson MP, City of London
You may pass him by unnoticed but he isn’t the least bit offended...Even if he did invent the postage stamp.
Hodge the Cat - Catherine Hiller/ Nicholas Parsons, Gough Square, Holborn
Was his master indulgent to buy him fresh oysters? Hodge will tell you about himself without hesitation, repetition or deviation.
Couple on Seat - Nikesh Shukla/ Sanjeev Bhaskar/ Meera Syal, City of London
Hear two sides of a marriage, voiced by real-life married couple Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal.
She sold his wedding suit in a garage sale without his permission, and he wants it back. Which is why he’s dragged her to this uncushioned bench Canary Wharf to see if he can spot a banker who may be wearing it. As far as she’s concerned, it never fit him anyway. And she doesn’t know why he’s making such a fuss.
Isaac Newton - Timberlake Wertenbaker / Simon Russell Beale, British Library
The greatest scientist of all time? Perhaps, but he remains a great admirer of Albert Einstein.
The Unknown Soldier - Tony Harrison/ Patrick Stewart, Paddington station
People often think that what’s wrapped round his neck is a ribbon of bullets. In fact, it’s a red woollen scarf, knitted by his mother for her bewildered son.
Brunel - Rachel Wagstaff / Duncan Abel/ Hugh Bonneville, Paddington station
Not a modest man perhaps but what an achiever. Just look up at his ceiling and around at his station.
Ariel - Robert Seatter/ Matthew Horne BBC Broadcasting House
Why is he there, this symbol of air? And what’s all this nonsense about his, erm, manhood?
Being brought to life in October
Rush Hour – Frank Skinner, Broadgate, City of London
Victoria at the Palace – Katrina Burnett / Patricia Hodge, Kensington Palace
Achilles - Rachel Lenkiewicz / TBC, Royal Parks
Reading Girl – Jacqueline Wilson / Jenna Louise Coleman, Manchester Central Library.
She’s been reading the same book for over 100 years and yearns for new reading material. In Jacqueline Wilson’s piece, this barefoot girl of white marble searches the bookshelves at night.
Alan Turing – Mark Ravenhill / Russell Tovey, Fairfield Street, Manchester
Mark Ravenhill’s poignant piece uses verse to convey Turing’s modesty, brilliance and deep despair
Lowry – Kiran Benawra / David Neilson, Sam’s Chophouse
He used to drink at the bar, now he’s a permanent fixture. Getting to his seat wasn’t easy. They had to haul him in through the window.
Barbirolli - Michael Kennedy/ Timothy West, Bridgewater Hall
The great conductor saved the Halle orchestra from dissolution during WW2 . But don’t ask him to teach. Conducting, he says, is a gift with which you must be born.
Queen Victoria - Katrina Burnett/ Prunella Scales, Piccadilly Gardens
She is tired of sitting on this plinth and feeling a little bit sad.... How kind of you to lend the handkerchief (even if it is a bit grubby).