Ten decades of music history in London's West End


Arts & Culture

Digital Placemaking

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Carnaby Echoes is a digital placemaking visitor experience that leverages the cultural heritage of a world renowned shopping and dining destination in London’s West End. Created for our client Shaftesbury Plc, the prestigious real estate investment company, Carnaby Echoes has been supporting the local economy of central London since 2013.


The rich history of Carnaby Echoes

London’s Carnaby Street is a hotspot for people from all over the world. Home to a number of global fashion brands and some of the UK’s biggest media and creative agencies, around 40 million people flock to this fascinating place every year. Carnaby Street is most famous for its rich and diverse music history, and it’s this cultural legacy that inspired the creation of the Carnaby Echoes visitor app.

The app reveals the hidden stories behind 10 decades of local music history, from 1930s jazz clubs to the introduction of Ska. As visitors walk around the street, they can see a host of commemorative plaques at key historic locations. The app enables people to be immersed in the sounds, stories and characters that relate to these plaques; providing a visitor with a greater connection to the destination as they are guided around the area.

It’s a simple proposition that really brings the place to life by drawing on its unique and rich musical history.

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Echoes of the past, remastered for the future

2021 sees the latest release of Carnaby Echoes, proving its endurance as a key strategic visitor product for Shaftesbury plc. 

The first version of the app was created with artist Lucy Harrison and Sister London in 2013. Like so many long standing apps, Carnaby Echoes needed remastering to reflect the modern world. Eight years is a long time in app development and the technological landscape shifted significantly – smartphones have transformed in size and shape, beacon technology is now long out of its nascency and 5G is only at the beginning of its promise to revolutionise the ways in which we experience locative media. Similarly, the ways that users interact with their mobile devices has changed dramatically.

For the 2021 refresh Calvium made a series of updates, including: adapting the app to be usable by the current diversification of mobile screens; making it more accessible for all mobile users; updating the sophisticated mapping feature and providing an overall visual refresh.

One of the great things about projects such as Carnaby Echoes is that, while digital is fast-moving, good storytelling and engagement with place endures. The Carnaby Echoes app has remained a key visitor experience product since its conception and its longevity is testament to its value to the area.

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Place Experience Platform

Today, Carnaby Echoes is built upon Calvium’s pioneering digital placemaking platform – the Place Experience Platform. This allows the area’s place managers to take control of the app’s content, updating it in real-time as they desire, 24/7. Calvium offers ongoing support to future-proof the app, keeping it live and fresh and making the Place Experience Platform a truly sustainable platform.


Think and practice accessible design

Updated accessibility guidelines for mobile apps will be coming into effect this year and this is something we wanted to make sure we addressed as part of the refresh. This meant thinking about additional functionalities like transcript-to-audio and screen readers, and how we could seamlessly integrate these into the app.

The Government notes on its website that accessibility means more than just putting things online and we are always thinking about how we can drive real, meaningful change in this area. Accessibility is critically important if we are to build a fairer, more accessible mobile future for everyone. The sad reality is that unless accessibility is designed into a product upfront, often it is not included in retrospect.

As Calvium has grown and evolved over the years, we have increasingly factored accessibility into any new design from the outset. While some feature types, such as maps, are not mandatory as part of EU mobile accessibility standards, we hope good practice will ultimately prevail and the majority of businesses will be compliant. 

For companies that do not invest in improving their accessibility or that do not adhere to the guidelines, perhaps they will notice a decline in the use of their services?

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The Future of Carnaby Echoes

Our mobile-first world demands that visitors are able to satisfy their desire to engage with a place through digital placemaking experiences. Carnaby Echoes has demonstrated how the unique cultural heritage of a place can be harnessed to support place-based growth over time, and support deeper meaningful connections between people and a destination. 

As Shaftesbury plc continues to invest in the opportunities that Carnaby Echoes offers its visitors, the experience will continue to expand – based on expertly crafted storytelling and technology combined.

Please call or email us to discuss how the Place Experience Platform could benefit your business or organisation: hello@calvium.com / 0117 226 2000

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