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From August 19, stars such as Dominic West and Prunella Scales will give statues in London and Manchester a voice for the first time. For the next year, passers-by will be able to swipe smartphones next to 35 sculptures to hear stories of their past. Here is the history behind four of the most interesting ‘talking statues’:

1. Queen Victoria

This likeness (pictured below), unveiled in 1893 outside Kensington Gardens, was made by the Queen’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise, who had studied sculpture and had a studio in the palace. The tip of Queen Victoria’s nose was blown off during the second world war and not repaired until 1952, in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

2. Alan Turing

Unveiled in 2001 in Sackville Park, Manchester, the computer pioneer is shown holding an apple – he died of cyanide poisoning, and a half-eaten apple was found close to his body so, although never proven, it was assumed that the apple was laced with poison. Inscribed under Turing’s name are the words “founder of computer science” as they might appear if encoded by an Enigma machine: “IEKYF RQMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ”.

3. Achilles

This 18ft statue in Hyde Park was ordered by King George III to commemorate the Duke of Wellington, and was made of bronze from cannons captured by Wellington on his campaigns. Designed by Richard Westmacott in 1822 and unveiled the same year by George IV, the Trojan hero was London’s first public nude statue since Roman times. Despite a strategically placed fig leaf, the nudity proved controversial.

4. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln was sculpted by American artist George Grey Barnard in 1916 and unveiled in Platts Field, Manchester, in 1919 as a symbol of Anglo-American unity. Barnard worked to create a rugged, realistic Lincoln but it received mixed reactions. George Bernard Shaw said it was the “mirror of Lincoln’s soul” but Lincoln’s son Robert said: “The result is grotesque as a likeness, and defamatory as an effigy.”


Photograph: AFP

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