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BBC documentary: The People’s Piazza, A History of Covent Garden

BBC documentary: The People’s Piazza, A History of Covent Garden

  • Date09 November 2022

The People’s Piazza, A History of Covent Garden will be presented by StoryTrails Executive Producer, David Olusoga, on BBC Two on Sunday 13 November.

David Olusoga

David Olusoga

TV historian, presenter and StoryTrails Executive Producer David Olusoga’s companion documentary film to StoryTrails, The People’s Piazza, A History of Covent Garden will follow the film’s premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October as part of the LFF For Free programme.

StoryTrails, the UK’s largest immersive storytelling experience has been travelling across the UK this summer, from Omagh to Dundee and Swansea to Slough. Showcasing hundreds of local stories and hidden histories using exciting new interactive technologies, StoryTrails has been commissioned as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK.

Telling the story of one of the nation’s best-known public spaces, the Covent Garden Piazza, from its early years as a playground for the aristocracy, through decline and dereliction to eventual rebirth, TV historian, presenter and StoryTrails Executive Producer David Olusoga steps back in time to explore the iconic piazza’s tumultuous history. Over four centuries the Covent Garden Piazza has been a market, a meeting place, and a site of protest, performance and renewal. In this documentary David Olusoga explores its history, and with the help of a host of experts and eyewitnesses, conjures up the ghosts of the past – market traders, orphans, artists and activists.

Co-produced with StoryFutures Academy the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, the team behind StoryTrails and the BFI, the innovative film weaves together a wealth of archive film, including Lindsay Anderson’s Every Day Except Christmas (1957) from the BFI National Archive with virtual production techniques to bring to life the history of this iconic civic space.

Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryTrails said “StoryTrails harnessed the magic of immersive storytelling to bring to life untold stories from the past, using augmented and virtual reality to reanimate public spaces in towns and cities across the UK, transforming town squares, local libraries and streets into virtual portals through which to explore stories of historical change. David’s documentary is a companion piece to StoryTrails, focusing on the hidden and untold stories of arguably one of the nation’s best known public spaces, the Covent Garden Piazza and uses state of the art virtual production techniques to bring different historical periods to life”.

Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences at the BFI, said: “Following its successful premiere at last month’s BFI London Film Festival, we’re excited that audiences everywhere will now be able to enjoy this fascinating documentary on BBC Two and iPlayer. The People’s Piazza is a love letter to one of the nation’s most iconic public spaces, drawing extensively on the rich collections of the BFI National Archive to bring its stories and forgotten histories to life. We’re so pleased to have helped audiences across the UK reconnect with their public spaces via the innovative and ground-breaking StoryTrails project, and it’s been stimulating and rewarding realising this ambition with David Olusoga and the Uplands team as well as with our partners at StoryFutures and the BBC.”

David Olusoga, Presenter and Executive Producer wrote: “The Covent Garden Piazza is a place that has always fascinated me and thanks to the help of our production partners I’m delighted that we’re finally able to bring its remarkable story to the screen. I hope the film resonates with viewers and inspires them to see their own public spaces with new eyes.”

Audiences can discover for themselves local stories and hidden histories from 15 towns and cities across the UK, including London through augmented reality story trails and experiences via the free Story-Trails app These digital experiences have been created using film and television archive from the BFI, BBC and national and regional archives to present a unique and magical window into the past.


Phil Batty, Executive Director of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, said: “StoryTrails is a fascinating journey through some of the people and places that make up the UK. Like other UNBOXED projects it’s the result of new creative collaborations, here combining developing immersive technologies and the arts to tell stories in thrilling new ways. It’s also gone to the heart of communities, through the local knowledge and enthusiasm of the 50 young creatives who have helped develop the project. I hope David’s wonderful film will inspire people to explore the many tales that have been uncovered in the other 15 towns and cities and make up a new people’s history.”

The free Story-Trails app is available to download from the App Store and Google Play . The app includes all the augmented reality story trails and experiences from each of the 15 locations the project has visited this summer, bringing to life untold local stories from different communities across the UK. Audiences can do their local trail themselves on the streets of their local town or from the comfort of their home. 

In addition, StoryFutures Academy presents, in association with Uplands Television, The People’s Piazza: Behind The Scenes of a Virtual Production. This four-episode “Behind The Scenes” series explores how virtual production helped bring to life the archival material of the historically renowned Covent Garden Piazza, and is available on StoryFutures Academy from 21 November 2022.

StoryTrails is led by StoryFutures Academy, the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling and delivered in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI), broadcaster and filmmaker, David Olusoga, the BBC, Uplands Television, and leading immersive specialists ISO Design and Nexus Studios. It uses cutting edge technology from Niantic, makers of Pokémon Go, and brought to life in The Reading Agency’s national network of libraries and by event-making specialists ProduceUK.

UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK is funded and supported by the four governments of the UK and is commissioned and delivered in partnership with Belfast City Council, Creative Wales and EventScotland.

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