Giving voice to the Cathedral Village, with an app

A digital walking tour of the Cathedral Village goes live Wednesday evening.

What stories would the neighbourhood tell if it could talk?

The audio walking tour features 15 stops that will tell tales of the Cathedral Village. (Submitted by Evie Ruddy)

A local Regina woman has given a voice to the Cathedral Village with the help of a smartphone app.

Evie Ruddy created an audio walking tour for the neighbourhood, a digital tour anyone can access at their fingertips on a smartphone.

To take part in the tour, the user just needs a pair of headphones and the free app called izi.Travel. The Cathedral Village walking tour is called Village Voices. The journey begins at the corner of Angus Street and 13th Avenue and has 15 stops.

Ruddy developed the project during a four month stint as an artist in residence for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival. This year will be the 25th anniversary of the event. 

Throughout her residency Ruddy immersed herself in the Cathedral Village, gathering stories and sounds of people and places for the project.

A segment narrated by Ruddy will play at each destination. The app is geolocated, so in theory users won't have to touch their phones for the approximate hour and a half tour. On the tour, a wide range of tales are told, including stories of graffiti murals, the 1971 flood and love found in unconventional places.

Ruddy said the man who shared his experience of the 1971 flood said water was up to car windows and people were paddling out of the Cathedral neighbourhood in rowboats. 

"He tells the story about paddling up to the backdoor of his house and he can see loaves of bread floating in the basement," she said. "There's lots of stories actually that are really interesting."

Historical events and homes

In another instance Ruddy interviewed the people who currently live where Tommy Douglas did while he was premier. 

She also spent one Monday morning with Olga, a pie maker at the Mercury Cafe & Grill. 

"She had three pies in the oven and was baking a lemon meringue pie," Ruddy said, adding what interested her the most was that Olga's theory about the moon and the connection to her pies. 

Olga said her mom taught her the fluffiness of the meringue was dependent on the moon.

The idea of an audio walking tour first came to Ruddy while on another artist in residence program last year. There was a visiting faculty member who had worked on audio walking tours in San Francisco. 

"What was interesting about their approach is that its not just that you go and stand in front of a sculpture, for example, and they tell you the date it was constructed and installed and give facts and dates, but its narrative driven."

Ruddy mimicked that approach describes the audio tour as a series of mini radio documentaries.

Ruddy said she was humbled by the opportunity to create the app, and said she hopes to create more walking tours in other Regina neighbourhoods.

"I would love to branch into other areas. I actually have a meeting with the Warehouse District coming up, so that would be a wonderful neighbourhood."

Ruddy also created a series of videos on the history of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival during her residency. 

The app will be launched Wednesday evening at the Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre.

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition