App at the Junction brings the past to life

Take a trip into the past this month at Loughborough Junction, thanks to a new augmented reality app commemorating the outbreak of the First World War.

Actors were filmed against a green screen for the app. Photo courtesy of LJAG
Actors were filmed against a green screen for the app. Photo courtesy of LJAG

To mark the First World War centenary, Loughborough Junction Action Group (LJAG) has created an augmented reality app to give us a glimpse of wartime London. ‘LJWWI’ is an innovative project bringing together the latest smartphone technology, 23 unique paving slabs and some very talented local artists, writers and filmmakers. It’s part of the Seven Bridges arts regeneration scheme, an ongoing initiative to transform the Loughborough Junction area.

For the uninitiated, augmented reality lets you hold your smartphone up to objects in the real world and see things that aren’t there. In this case, by using the app in certain places around Loughborough Junction (marked by specially-designed paving slabs), you’ll be able to access short films and see the street transformed into a scene from 1914, complete with army recruitment posters and vintage shop fronts. Each piece of content is part of a larger story.

There will be three trails to follow, each with a story of its own. The team are understandably reticent with plot details at the moment but they told me that one story is pieced together with letters dropped by a local nurse. Along the way, you’ll hear her reading them out and meeting locals 100 years ago. “In every location you are where the story’s happening,” explains Walter, a member of LJAG and one of the project instigators.

The app in action. Photo by Barney Evison
The app in action. Photo by Barney Evison

Other themes covered by the stories include entertainment in the 1900s (Loughborough Junction was home to Fred Karno’s Fun Factory, where Charlie Chaplin started out), the Christmas truce of 1914 (local London Irish Rifles regiment hold the football kicked from the German trenches a year later when the truce was not repeated) and advances in nursing and medicine at Kings Hospital just down the road.

Why did the team decide to create an app? “From the start of Seven Bridges I thought it would be cool if you could just hold up your phone and see artwork that wasn’t there,” says Walter. He sees augmented reality as new way to involve people in their surroundings: “It’s little bit like magic….it’s a completely new way of telling stories.”

The stories are fictional, but incorporate true historical accounts from people in the area to give them a grounding in reality.They were written by Kate Horstead, who runs the JunctionWriters group, Simon Lewis, who has written several travel novels, and a nurse who used to work locally.

The app is a major group effort, and its creators came together serendipitously. “Wolfgang, the app developer, was the housemate of friend whose studio we were using to create the initial artworks,” says Walter “and we met Kate [Horstead] by chance at the Big Lunch two years ago.”

One of the paving slabs. Photo courtesy of LJAG
One of the paving slabs. Photo courtesy of LJAG

The idea of community is important and central to this project. “We decided that the idea of individual artists is ridiculous, that collective artists are much more interesting,” Walter told me. “If you’ve got big themes, you give them to lots of different artists and get their different takes – it’s a community of artists.”

The app is launching as part of Lambeth Heritage Festival on 6th September with a party from 2pm at the Cambria Road bridge. There’ll be talks from the Natural History Museum and the London Irish Rifles, as well as the chance to try out the app. Later in the day people can enjoy free tea and cakes and music from a DJ.

LJAG also hope that the app becomes a lasting resource, and intends to work with local schools to educate and enthuse a younger generation. Walter tells me there is scope to add more content and tweak it as time goes on. Time travel in Loughborough Junction may not be limited to just 1914!


  1. […] On the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, there’s plenty of commemorative arts events on offer for a discerning London culture vulture. Creatives across the capital have seized on this historical milestone as a hook for exploring established themes in new and exciting ways – only recently we covered the innovative Loughborough Junction World War One augmented reality app. […]

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