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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Ian Dury inspires audio benches
Bench
The prototype bench is dedicated to pop star Ian Dury
Benches in a town in Cumbria are being fitted with audio equipment and solar-powered batteries so that visitors can hear a story when they sit down.

Different benches will play separate chapters, meaning each visitor will need to travel on to a different street in order to hear the entire story.

The project, in Barrow-in-Furness, will cost about 24,000, which will be paid for using lottery money.

The idea is that disjointed areas of the town, like the business and shopping districts, will be drawn together as people go from bench to bench.


I have always been a fan of park benches and I remember when everybody used to use personal stereos.

Mil Strichevic, product designer

Irene Faith, the public art officer for Barrow Borough Council, said: "It is a first for Barrow. An artwork which can be interactive is unique.

"Most people know how to use earphones and it is not alien in any way."

"We were already trying to gather the centre of Barrow together, and the prototype bench seemed like good fun."

'String'

There are 12 benches in all and they combine to tell a story called "String".

It is described as a piece of fiction about a metaphorical ball of string, and what a man does with it in order to link the historical sites of Barrow.

At each location the surroundings will be described for the visitor.

Cumbrian artists are working on the Barrow benches, but the prototype was created by Yugoslav product designer Mil Strichevic.

He told BBC News Online: "I have always been a fan of park benches and I remember when everybody used to use personal stereos.

Reasons to be cheerful

"When you see dedications on benches you wonder why people liked the places they used to sit at.

My prototype was a memorial bench I did for Ian Dury.

"It plays eight of his songs and has "Reasons to be cheerful" carved into it."

In August, the Ian Dury bench will be placed in Richmond Park in London, where the pop star used to take his children before he died.

The benches use a universal jack plug which allows visitors to bring their own headphones.

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