New time portal sends visitors back in time to a Bognor Regis of days gone by

A new time portal, which opened on Bognor Regis seafront on Friday (April 29) is sending visitors back in time with the power of augmented reality.
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To use it, visitors simply scan a QR code to the right of the time portal itself and follow the instructions. After lining up their phone camera with the red arch, visitors are invited to step through the portal into a world gone by, where bathing machines still line the shores of the beach and the legendary Mary Wheatland keeps the seas safe for swimmers.

Attending Friday’s opening was artist Matt Reed, who designed and conceptualised both the time portal and the computer-generated images of bathing machines it produces.. “I’m interested in the way new technology can change the way we see the world,” he said. “I want to use this stuff to bring history back to the places where it happened. Museums and books are great, but this is a way for us to experience history in that location."

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He added that Bognor’s new time portal could, hopefully, be the first of many similar projects designed to bring history back to life all over the country. “This my hometown,” he said, “so it’s great to have it here.”

Vicky Edwards as Mary Wheatland.Vicky Edwards as Mary Wheatland.
Vicky Edwards as Mary Wheatland.

Joining Mr Reed at the opening was local figure Vicky Edwards, author of Sussex World’s very own Vicky Meets column, who made for a very convincing Mary Wheatland.

"I met with Matt and he tried to explain the idea to me, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the tech,” she said. “But when I did I was really excited. I just thought ‘that sounds like something I would very much like to do.’

"I think it’s just really exciting for Bognor. The funding came from an Arts Council grant, and you just think, if Bognor didn’t apply for it, somewhere else would have got it.

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"I don’t mean to sound trite, but (playing Mary Wheatland), is a real honour. She was an extraordinary woman – to think, at a time when women were supposedly very demure, she was out there doing hard, heavy work and saving lives.”

The Augmented Reality bathing machines have to be seen to be believed.The Augmented Reality bathing machines have to be seen to be believed.
The Augmented Reality bathing machines have to be seen to be believed.

As well as the Arts Council grant, the installation was also made possible by a £10k award from Arun District Council’s share of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Although the project is not funded by the Bognor Regis BID, the portal is considered part of a wider project by the BID to improve perceptions of Bognor Regis Town Centre.

Bid COO Heather Allen added: ““Businesses have been really clear that the BID should focus on promoting Bognor Regis as a tourism destination, and changing the way people think about the town. It’s been amazing to see so much interest from people in person on the seafront this weekend, and the national news coverage showcasing something really positive taking place in the town has been amazing!”

The project was also supported by in-kind support from creatives, technicians and partners involved, including Niantic Labs, better known as the creators of Pokemon Go, who agreed to waive 18 months of commercial fees to support the project through their 8th Wall website.