A virtual journey into London Chinatown’s now and then
Feature image: Chinatown in London. Photography: Valentin Petkov @thefreak1337/Unsplash.
With giant flowers blossoming along the pavement, black and white banners written in traditional Chinese that were commonly seen in any Chinese city back in the 1900’s hovering in the air and iconic landmarks that were torn down before London’s Chinatown entered the modern era, visitors to this village will be able to experience a multidimensional adventure through a mobile app called Augmented Chinatown 2.0 from 15 September.
Developed by Donald Shek, a Liverpudlian and an architecture graduate of Liverpool University whose master’s thesis is being nominated for the President’s Medals Award, this app is built upon the completion of Augmented Chinatown – an augmented reality tour in London’s Chinatown that was part of the CAN Festival 2019 curated by Chinese Arts Now (CAN) – a non-for-profit organisation made up of British Chinese artists.
Bringing on board Joel Tan – a Singaporean playwright, director and co-composer An-Ting Chang, co-composer DJ QuestionMark and sound designer Michal Kuligowski, the latest version provides an updated structure and direction, while the feature of a combination of immersive AR world with music and drama remains to allow users to explore the multi-layered history of London’s Chinatown.
The tour starts in Newport Place and moves onto Gerrard Street and Wardour Street and returns through Lisle Street, covering historic features including the distinctive Chinatown gates, Lion Sculptures and businesses that are well-known to this area such as Loon Fung Supermarket, Wong Kei Restaurant and Ku Bar. Over the course of an hour, Tan’s narration looks at Chinatown’s history, architecture, and culture as well as ideas on what is to belong and identity.
There is also the opportunity to delve into hidden dramas at five locations along the way, where chatters in Cantonese pop up from time to time as users plunge into the lives of characters such as Kim – a stripper who met the Beatles, Anita – a homesick waitress and a woman whose home is raided by immigration officials that are played by actors Mia Foo, Jennifer Lim, David Yip and Daniel York with leisurely music created by musicians Midori Komachi and Xiao Wan in the background.
The tour can also be done remotely with an off-site version. The app will be available from 15 September to 31st December on Google Play for £2.99 with reduced features and full version which enables AR and audio drama can be purchased via the Apple Store for £4.99.
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