Nfld. & Labrador

Bannerman Quartet app wins international award

Bannerman Quartet, an interactive app that tells a story to listeners strolling through Bannerman Park in St. John's, has been honoured with an international award.

Stories from St. John's park net Special Achievement Award for New Media

Author and playwright Chris Brookes of Battery Radio is the creator of the Bannerman Quartet app. (John Gushue/CBC)

Bannerman Quartet, an interactive app that tells stories to listeners strolling through Bannerman Park in St. John's, has been honoured with an international award.

The fiction audio piece, created by veteran documentary producer Chris Brookes, won the Special Achievement Award for New Media from Prix Marulic, a week-long audio festival held annually on the island of Hvar, Croatia.

"It got screened there up against, oh BBC radio dramas and Australian long form documentaries and crazy sound art stuff from Germany, so it was a really eclectic mix," Brookes said.

The 2016 Prix Marulic festival featured drama and documentary works from 21 countries, including Australia, China, Russia, UK, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Croatia and Norway.  It was sponsored by HRT Croatian Radio.

"I thought, you know, they're going to be listening to BBC documentaries — documentaries that are very well funded and from major broadcasters from around the world," Brookes said.

"This is a little, small creation made in St. John's, Newfoundland. So we weren't exactly expecting headline top billing, you know. So it's great to get the recognition, it really is."

An interactive story experience

Bannerman Quartet's interactive stories are set throughout Bannerman Park, with a GPS prompting listeners to hear different characters from different stories, depending on where they are in the park. 

As you approach the bandstand, for example, you'll hear Sam's story — as told by actor Allan Hawco.

Brookes describes Bannerman Quartet as a place-based audio experience. He said he came up with the idea through his work with landscape documentaries.

"As you walk through an area it triggers automatically by GPS certain kinds of audio as you pass certain points, and I thought it would be interesting to see what this would be like with fiction," he said.

The inspiration for Bannerman Quartet came from the people watching he often does when in a park or public space.

"You wind up spending half your time just idly watching other people, and I often sort of wonder, you know, what are their lives like, what do they do, what are they going through at the time, what's in their mind," he said.

"So I kind of wanted to make that real with fictional characters. I wanted people to be able to walk through Bannerman Park and kind of have a fictional character, in a sense…turn up along side them and walk along with them in their ears"

Brookes, owner of the Battery Radio production company, shares the honour with writers Megan Coles, Joel Hynes (also a performer in Bannerman Quartet), Sara Tilley and Michael Winter, performers Allan Hawco, Petrina Bromley and Lois Brown, and composer Jake Nicoll.

"A great big thank you and congratulations to the writers and the performers for doing some terrific work," he said.

Listen while you stroll

The app was launched in December 2015, but that's not the most ideal time to stroll through Bannerman Park. So Brookes is hoping people will now be more inclined to throw in their headphones and have a listen while they walk.

"Have a wander through the park. If you like you can try and follow one particular character all the way through. But more than likely you're just going to wander around and see who turns up in your headphones," Brookes said.

"And if you wander around enough maybe you'll get a sense of all of these characters kind of wandering around the park with you. And I'd love to get some feedback about it."