BBC’s new voice-activated VR experience lets you follow in the footsteps of the suffragettes

Fabulous! You’re really brought into the story. You’re asked not just to look, but to use your mind and your voiceHelen Pankhurst
Date: 07.12.2018     Last updated: 11.12.2018 at 17.35
An empowering new virtual reality experience from BBC VR Hub puts viewers in the shoes of the suffragettes.

Released on 7 December for free on the Oculus Store, Make Noise uses a combination of VR and voice technology, and encourages viewers to follow Emmeline Pankhurst’s advice and "make more noise" - as they hum, sing and shout to change the virtual world around them.

Inspired by the suffragettes, who a century ago spoke up for a woman’s right to vote, Make Noise transports viewers to a series of colourful and abstract worlds that represent the stages of the suffragettes’ struggle, and invites them to find and use their own voice and consider what it means to speak up in a world that doesn’t value it.

Viewing the interactive experience at the Havering literary festival earlier this year, Helen Pankhurst (pictured), great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, said: “Fabulous! You’re really brought into the story. You’re asked not just to look but to use your mind and your voice. I think that focus on the voice and your own engagement with it is incredible.”

Throughout the experience viewers hear audio clips of real-life suffragettes, taken from the BBC Archive, as they explain how they used their voices to change the world forever. Voices heard in Make Noise include Edith Pepper, Charlotte Drake, Charlotte Marsh, Mary Richardson, Lillian Lenton, Victoria Liliard, Grace Roe and Elizabeth Dean.

Actor Nikki Amuka-Bird narrates the experience, and encourages viewers to speak up and "make noise". Voice technology in the headset then detects and reacts to every sound the viewer makes. They’ll need to find their voice and use it to name the women that have inspired them, and to call out the objects that have oppressed women for centuries - changing the virtual environment around them as they do so.

Produced by BBC VR Hub and created by Anagram, Make Noise is now available to download for free from the Oculus Store, and has been designed to be used with an Oculus Go headset. It will also be available to view at a range of libraries across the country, including Taunton Library, Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre, Skipton Library, Brecon Library, Longton Library, Salisbury Library, Crownhill Library, The Library at the Curve, Slough, Beckton Globe library in Newham and Southport Community Centre.

May Abdalla, co-founder and director of Anagram, who directed Make Noise, says: “We wanted to find a way to really connect the stories of the suffragettes to our lives - we didn't want the aesthetics of Victorian England to get in the way of the fact that standing up for something when people are trying to shut you down is something we all can relate to.

"By using bold abstracts shapes to make playful worlds that mess with scale, each chapter represents the emotional journey of their path to victory; from frustration though finding solidarity and resistance. In these strange visual universes the punk attitude of these inspirational women really stands out.”

RB