Soho's history of youth rebellion, told by the National Trust


Arts & Culture

Digital Placemaking

Executive Summary

The National Trust protects some of the most important spaces and places in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Through a range of activities, restorations and events, the National Trust encourages tourism and creates capital to ensure the longevity of many of the UK’s landmarks.

To celebrate 60 years of Soho – and in a strategic move to attract younger members – the National Trust wanted to create a mobile app storytelling guide that would bring the many tales of underground Soho to life.

In partnership with the National Trust, Phantom Productions LLP commissioned Calvium to create an immersive soundscape app that recounts the hedonistic lifestyles and colourful stories from the characters who lived, worked and played in Soho from WW2 to the present day.


One of the National Trust’s long standing challenges is attracting new, younger audiences. Ivo Dawnay, Director of the Trust, decided a solution to this was to create something that contained slightly more risque content that might be more attractive to the 18-30 bracket, delivered free and made accessible via a modern medium.

“Heritage sometimes feels a bit old school – something for retirement. The clear majority of Londoners are under 40. My research showed that if you found the right stories, there was absolutely an interest in heritage for all age groups.” Said Dawnay.

Dawnay wanted to present the ‘history of youth rebellion’ within a mobile app. This had to be done while maintaining the quality and image that The National Trust is renowned for.


How Calvium Helped

We provided Phantom Productions with a bespoke system for easily specifying story locations, background ambience and music which was combined seamlessly as you walked. Our well defined process for creating audio specific mobile app guides meant that the project ran smoothly and all deadlines were kept. This was particularly important due to the other various activities and celebrity bookings that surrounded the app launch.

We worked closely with the graphic design team to create a visually stunning, reactive design that works on all iPhone and Android phones. In doing this we were able to ensure that the National Trust’s reputation for producing high quality work was not compromised.

Results & ROI

As hoped, the Soho Stories app managed to put the National Trust in the spotlight and had newspapers nationwide celebrating the Trust’s new, edgy and slightly controversial image.

The National Trust’s excellent new Soho Stories app takes such curiosity beyond Wikipedia and offers site-specific audio history and information. The level of detail is excellent but never tedious...

Matt Warman, The Telegraph

The app received over 1000 downloads in its first week of being live, 4.5 star ratings on both the Apple app store and Google Play, and  swooped gold in the ‘not-for-profit’ category at the European Digital Impact Awards.

Soho Stories Launch | Philippa Gedge Photography
Soho Stories Launch | Philippa Gedge Photography


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