Join a virtual reality choir at Keswick Museum as part of commemoration for First World War centenary

People are being invited to join research sessions to experience what it’s like to sing with a massed choir on the summit of Great Gable without having to walk a single step, thanks to an innovative research project led by the National Trust, the University of York and Dr Dave Camlin, a Cumbrian musician, songwriter and researcher.

The research uses virtual reality technology to investigate whether people experience the same health and wellbeing benefits from group singing ‘with’ a choir in virtual reality, as they do in the real world.

In the privacy of the wheelchair-accessible Crosthwaite Room at Keswick Museum, visitors will put on a virtual reality headset, a pair of headphones and a microphone and will be instantly transported to the summit of Great Gable to sing with the choir who were recorded on the iconic summit earlier this year.

The research is part of an arts project to commemorate the Lake District summits gifted to the National Trust after the end of the First World War. 14 Lake District fells were placed in the care of the National Trust in what was described at the time as the ‘world’s greatest war memorial’.

Jessie Binns, Visitor Experience and Engagement Manager for the National Trust in Keswick, says “As soon as I read the words of Geoffrey Winthrop-Young’s speech from the dedication of the memorial fells in 1924, I knew it was important to do something to recognise the amazing vision of that gift of fells to the nation, to be cared for by the National Trust. 

‘I thought it was really important that the project should be informed by the mountaineering principle of ‘leave no trace’. That’s why we commissioned Dave Camlin, a talented Cumbrian singer-songwriter, to set the words of the dedication speech to music.

‘The fact that, through this research project with the University of York, we’re able to share the experience with people who might not be able to physically make it to the summit, makes it even more poignant.”

The research is led by Dr Helena Daffern from the University of York. Dr Daffern says
‘This project is particularly exciting as it combines finding innovative ways of using technology to engage wider communities with group singing alongside increasing our understanding of why singing together improves your health and wellbeing. Working with partners like the National Trust and Keswick Museum allows us to find ways to maximise the beneficial impact of group singing in the future.’

The new composition by Dave Camlin is funded by Arts Council England as part of Trust New Art, a scheme that funds artists to create new works of art that respond to National Trust places. The virtual reality singing experience at Keswick Museum is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Visitors can take part in the research by booking a free timed ticket in advance for Sunday 8, Monday 9, Sunday 15 or Monday 16 July. The research sessions take approximately 20 minutes and participants will be asked to give feedback about their experience to contribute to the research findings.

Tickets can be booked online from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/borrowdale .

There is also a small exhibition about the project in the free to access Fitz Park Gallery at the museum from 23 June – 31 July.