In January 2020, we were accepted onto the RGU Start-Up Accelerator programme with our proposal to launch a new location-based digital storytelling platform. The idea for the platform emerged from an earlier project that myself and Dr Stewart Massie worked on, the Orkney Folklore Trail. Forming part of a pump priming project the folklore trail was established in collaboration with storytellers from Orkney, Tom and Rhonda Muir, and provides an Android App driving trail of ten locations on the island. At each stop users can listen to folktales, immerse themselves in the landscape and find out more about local attractions and businesses in the area.
The Orkney Folklore Trail was a successful project which is now available to the public, and has attracted over 430 users. However, this project highlighted to us a problem with creating digital story trails. Firstly, they are expensive to develop, particularly if you are looking for a cross-platform solution and take time to create. Secondly, once they are created it is difficult to update and edit these trails without technical expertise. From a researcher perspective this caused problems in terms of creating a sustainable output from a project that was not only viable from its first release, but could go on to support heritage and storytelling in the future.
As researchers interested in digital storytelling we wanted to explore if there was a way to create a more sustainable solution that could help heritage organisations and communities tell their stories, and for researchers to work with these groups to easily and cost-effectively create digital story outputs. It was this problem, and an interest in finding a solution, that inspired our application to the StartUp Accelerator programme.
In January we started our journey by expanding our team to bring in Glenn Forbes – our Tech Wizard. We also started our first sessions with the Innovation Team, and began considering how our idea could become a reality. As a team, it was really important to us to put community at the heart of our approach – stories, after all, are not stories without the communities they emerge from. This helped to inform our values, and our direction as a Community Interest Company. We also required a name and after much consideration we felt that Storical was a good fit. Our aim is to create a platform that can be used by anyone to create digital story experiences and through this share the history, landscape and culture of the places we live and visit.
It has been a busy few months as we balanced developing Storical, alongside our normal academic commitments and of course the changes imposed by Covid-19. The innovation team have been incredibly helpful in working with us to craft a direction for Storical, and formulate our ideas into a more focused approach. Whilst we still have a long way to go in terms of developing the platform, and establishing Storical as a spin out entity from RGU, we feel more confident in the pathway ahead.
Last Sunday we took part in the StartUp Sunday Showcase and were delighted to win the Best Pitch category. Since then we have had a number of organisations get in touch about working with us, and to express their enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve. This is exciting, and has helped us to recognise the value of Storical for the heritage sector and the communities it aims to benefit. The current circumstances surrounding Covid-19 have had a dramatic impact on the heritage and tourism sector. Our hope is that Storical may provide an affordable solution for the heritage sector and destinations to create alternative experiences for their visitors. Stories have always been an important way for communities to reflect on their past, and by providing a platform to share stories more widely we hope that they will also provide a way to look positively into the future.