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1831 Riot!

Creative Directors Liz Crow and Ralph Hoyte
Audio installation trialling new wireless satellite technology 2004
With transcription

A primary age boy stands at the edge of the Square wearing a backpack and large earphones, whilst Jo sets the handheld computer.


It’s 1831 and there’s a riot going on! Bristol is a tinderbox. The spark is Sir Charles Wetherell, widely loathed for portraying the city as anti-Reform, and come to open the Assizes. The people are rising up and thousands have filled Queen Square to demand the vote. Faced with civil disruption and carnage, Mayor Charles Pinney and the commanding officer, Colonel Thomas Brereton, are at a loss for how to act. Each waits on the other to be decisive. All the while, the riot is escalating.

Based on the historical Bristol Reform Riots, 1831 Riot! is an audio installation, a world-first voice-play for mobile computer technology. Each scene is written for a specific location within Queen Square. As visitors move around the square with a GPS-connected mobile computer and headphones they access one of the multiple scenes allocated to that location. In this way they become immersed in the riots in the very place were they took place more than 170 years before.

1831 Riot! has been commissioned as one of the flagship projects of Mobile Bristol, an ongoing research project run jointly by Hewlett Packard Laboratories and University of Bristol to push the creative boundaries of mobile computer technology and to test users’ responses beyond the laboratory and into the streets.


Finalist with Hewlett Packard’s Mobile Bristol, Computing Awards for Excellence, 2004

Shortlisted,  New Statesman New Media Awards, 2005


  • A blackened statue of a man on horseback rears up against an orange wall of flame. Superimposed nearby is a set of black headphones. Below the image is text, set out  in white on a black background, like a film poster: Mobile Bristol presents 1831 Riot! An interactive play for voices BY LIZ CROW AND RALPH HOYTE, QUEEN SQUARE BRISTOL, 15 APRIL – 4 MAY” Also listed are other credits and funding logos.
  • Two photographs. The first shows a hand-held GPS-connected computer and a satellite receiver the size of a large matchbox. The second shows them being worn by a user in a small backpack, with a cable running up to earphones.
  • A primary age boy stands at the edge of the Square wearing a backpack and large earphones, whilst Jo sets the handheld computer.
  • Six primary age children stand at the edge of the Square wearing large earphones, other classmates waiting just behind them to kit up.
  • Three primary age children stand in the grassy Square, wearing large earphones and excitedly exchanging their experiences of 1831 Riot!
  • Three primary age school children wearing large headphones gather in Queen's Square near a statue of a figure on a horse, animatedly compare experiences as they listen to the audio.
  • Four primary age children and a teacher stand in a grassy area of the Square wearing large earphones, each absorbed in the audio and looking to different areas of the Square.
  • Ralph and Liz in conversation with two children who move through the Square wearing large earphones.
  • Two primary age school boys wearing large earphones stand in the grassy Square deeply absorbed in the audio.
  • Three primary age girls stand on gravel path in the Square, wearing large earphones and sharing their experiences of Riot. In the background is a plinth with a statue of a figure on horseback.
  • Four primary age school children wearing large earphones stand together at the edge of the Square listening to the start of 1831 Riot!
  • Black and white print taken from a watercolour. A cobbled street and pavement lead around the edge of the Square. A wooden-rail fence on the left marks the boundary of the grassy, tree-lined centre of the Square. The outer edges are lined with elegant three-storey houses. People walk along the pavements to the right of the picture and a horse-drawn carriage makes its way along the street.
  • A colour-tinted print show the Square, with gravel paths cutting through expanses of grass and bordered by mature trees and elegant Georgian houses. People stroll, play and recline leisurely in the grounds. In the centre is a raised statue of a figure on horseback.
  • Black and white lithographic print shows the dragoons on horseback, galloping through the tree-lined Square and slaying rioters with their swords. In the background is a haze of smoke from burning buildings.
  • A heavy curved brass blade around a metre long lies alongside its brass cover. Each has a rounded handguard at the handle and the scabbard has two hooks for hanging from a belt.
  • The notice is plain black text on white and reads: BRISTOL GENERAL UNION The Council of the Union know that Sir CHARLES WETHERELL has Left the City, and that the ASSIZES are Postponed – They earnestly entreat that every man will immediately return to his own home. Outrages only injure the Cause of Reform. By Order of the Council W HERAPATH, Vice-President SUNDAY MORNING 12 o’Clock. Mills and Son, Printers
  • A reproduction of a watercolour shows the Mayor’s House consumed by fire, its stone walls collapsing inwards, while people gather all around in the tree-lined Square.
  • A full page from a newspaper. Above three long columns of text, a headline 'Trial and Execution of Clark, Davis, Gregory, and Kayes for Riot and Arson,' the executions having taken place that morning in front of Bristol New Gaol. The headline is followed by an illustration of the four men hanging from a gibbet above the gaol gates set into a high brick wall, a large crowd gathered below.

Further Reading


  • 1831 Riot!

    Written, produced & directed by
    Liz Crow & Ralph Hoyte

    Sound designer
    Armin Elsaesser

    Chris McCalphy
    Tim Prior
    Ben Tinniswood
    Peter Townsend
    Leona Walker
    Christine West

    Stefan Hoyte
    Simon Toomer

    Project originator
    Ralph Hoyte

    Mobile Bristol Team:

    Project Manager
    Jo Reid

    Software Architect
    Richard Hull

    Authoring Tools
    Ben Clayton

    Logic Implementation
    Kirsten Cater

    Supported by:
    Mobile Bristol
    HP Labs
    University of Bristol Computing Department
    Appliance Studio
    Yucca Media


  • “The first ever located radio play, designed to unfold as you walk around Queen Square”

    Guardian, 25 March 2004
  • “If you think history and technology don’t mix, this might just change your mind.”

    BBC Points West
  • “I felt I was in a world of my own and when someone rushed over to me and told me walk in the middle of the square he made me jump and I thought 'who’s this strange person?' because I felt I was in another world.”

    Audience member
  • “Oh it’s good because otherwise you walk here and you say oh a very nice Square, a statue, and you would sit on a bench and take a picture and then you would move on. Whereas now you see that it is filled with history.”

    Audience member
  • “Yeah, there’s one thing to read about something and see pictures, but when you actually hear the pain and the anguish and a bit of the gore that went along with it, it makes you think, well this actually happened.”

    Audience member

Campaigns & Resources

A narrative of the dreadful riots and burnings: which occurred in Bristol, Printed by P. Rose, 1831

Caple, J (1990) The Bristol riots of 1831 and social reform in Britain (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen)

Macdonald, P (1995) Hotheads and heroes: the Bristol riots of 1831 (Petmac Publications)

Thomas, S (1999) The Bristol Riots (Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, University of Bristol)

Trial of Charles Pinney, Esq. in the Court of King’s Bench, Blackwood, 1833

I predict a riot, The Guardian


  • HP Invent
  • University of Bristol
  • Creative Partnership

To cite this page: Crow, Liz & Hoyte, Ralph (2005) 1831 Riot!, Roaring Girl Productions [online] [Available at:] [Accessed 14/07/2024]