Animated Trails were created by a multi-disciplinary group of artists and performers working together, often assisted by local volunteers, to bring alive the unique character of each walk.
The creative stimuli were provided by the drama of spaces and glimpsed vistas, the natural or man-made materials inherent in the places encountered, repeated patterns or decorative detail, elements of scale and surprise encounters. They were not history walks but might weave in elements of folk tale or local superstitions, archetypes, and aspects of myth and legend.
Animated Trails were performances that took place in an outdoor setting, led by a narrator character (usually Jan Dungey) who was the point of contact between the imagined and real worlds.
Along the route the audience would encounter static installations and interventions, observe short scenes enacted by strange characters, or catch sight of distant or fleeting images or strains of music. The natural or built settings contributed to the sense of wonder, beauty and surprise – dark alleyways, soaring towers or spires, little noticed corners or architectural details; copses, mossy banks, distant vistas, natural hollows, trickling rivers, and sinister woods.
One of the aims was to stimulate in audiences heightened sensory awareness of the environment and a stronger sense of connectedness to it. To do that effectively the small details needed to be noticed and celebrated and this was achieved by artists working on site, over a residency of two or three weeks, to identify the touchstones for their creative contribution and develop an individual and collaborative response.
Sometimes the creative team involved adults or school groups in the creative process, and in the performances. The series of walks around Littleport, Coton, and Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire, the Reydon Woods project in Suffolk, and Animated Trail of the South Bank Centre in London were educational projects in which the children’s experience and contribution were paramount.