Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Making The Timekeeper's Return: Legacy

After the big day, I was invited to run one more meeting with the Cathedral Quarter team – to talk about how The Timekeeper’s Return went, and to celebrate the efforts of everyone involved in making the event a success.

When planning my presentation for this meeting, I decided to gather all the information I could find that would gauge how much work went into the event’s development, and the impact we made on both participants and the wider public. 
I worked out that I’d spent about 800 hours of my time on the project in total (the equivalent of 33.3 whole days!), while voluntary work from other individuals included 24 hours of graphic design work, 22 hours of acting and recruitment, and 6 hours of continuous work from the film crew who helped us capture the day (and many hours on top of this to edit the footage).

I had no way of measuring the substantial workloads taken on by individuals in the Cathedral Quarter team, which included help with the initial concept and ideas, marketing, admin, logistics, printing and organising meetings. But judging from the many hundreds of emails that passed between us all, I know it must have been significant – certainly when you’re running a business at the same time.

I also spent some time looking at the impact we made on social media.

In total, the main event page on Facebook reached 17,300 people with nearly 1,000 total views; while posts from the Cathedral Quarter Canterbury page on Facebook were received by 6,100 people (up 1000% from before the event), with 1,700 of these users engaging with the posted material (up 1800%). This led to an additional 40 people ‘liking’ the Cathedral Quarter Canterbury page, an increase of 900%.

On Twitter, the Cathedral Quarter account made 10,600 impressions since the event’s online launch, with 38 link clicks, 36 retweets and 66 likes in total.


Let’s now have a look at some of the feedback from participants on the day.

Edd Withers, local entrepreneur and founder of Canterbury Residents Group:

The Timekeeper's Return was enlightening, exciting and intriguing. The storyline delivered a fascinating experience, and the people we met along the way enchanted with clues and messages from the story. The method of using hidden QR codes to keep us on the hunt to continue the game was easy to use and a great use of the technology we all have in our pocket, and the simplicity of the process was welcome. When we arrived to start the game, we were given clear instructions but still felt like we were starting on a mysterious journey. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon, exploring and learning - we felt like children again with a sense of wonder!

Lisa Carlson, CEO of Canterbury Connected Business Improvement District:

The Timekeeper’s Return was a magical and remarkably successful event, with more than 200 people of all ages enjoying following Mia Augustina’s adventures through time and space. Burgate was buzzing on the day, with locals walking alongside visitors from other parts of Kent (and even other counties) to discover what the Cathedral Quarter has to offer. What struck me most as I completed the treasure hunt was how Jack Lowe’s enthralling story weaved past and present together so expertly. Blending local history with real-life connection to businesses in the Cathedral Quarter today, participants had the opportunity not only to learn about the often-overlooked stories and landmarks that make this historic quarter so unique, but also to visit a diverse range of shops and eateries, engaging with people there who are passionate about what they do. It was heartening to see how much shopkeepers really seemed to enjoy the experience, playing their roles enthusiastically and doing their utmost to accommodate participants, even when they were busy. This is also a testament to the depth of planning that must have taken place to ensure all the different components of the event ran smoothly. Altogether, The Timekeeper’s Return will live long in the memory for the way it has helped to develop and promote a coherent, exciting Cathedral Quarter community. It’s a wonderful example of what can be achieved when the enthusiasm, work ethic and creativity of local artists and businesspeople come together. I can’t wait to see what Jack Lowe and the Cathedral Quarter do next.

Comments from feedback sheets and The Timekeeper’s Return event page:

I thoroughly enjoyed The Timekeeper's Return. Not only was it fun to spend the afternoon doing something different, but it also gave us an opportunity to get to know the history of Canterbury better, thanks to the vivid storyline. We also spoke to people we never would have had conversations with otherwise, like the shop assistants and other people who were doing the treasure hunt. Really impressed and I hope there'll be another treasure hunt soon!

Firstly, congratulations on creating such a fun treasure hunt! We spotted it advertised on Facebook and it looked great, so we thought we'd join in and do some exploring! Loved the simplicity of interacting with the QR codes, which are a good size to hunt for – learned a little about the area and Bell Harry Tower which we didn't know either! Impressed with how all the shop staff were keen to join in and make the event entertaining too!

Thank you so much for a great afternoon! We all had fun following the clues. The story was good and kept the kids interested. We went into a part of Canterbury we don’t normally venture to and enjoyed going in the shops we haven’t been in before.

That was so much fun! Learnt so much about the area and saw things I'd never noticed in the 30 years I've lived in Canterbury. Thanks so much for organising such a fantastic event!

And a big thank you to all the businesses that were involved for being so gracious with us treasure hunters even though they were so busy.

Very fun time, exploring and learning about the town. Loved the sense of discovery when you finally figured out a clue. Mia was the bomb – very immersive and convincing acting.

A well-researched, organised and interesting experience. A wonderful way to experience this part of Canterbury.

Brilliant event, well done to everyone involved. The organisers, the local businesses and the roaming helpers (who were very much needed!) This kind of event is what makes our local area great. Bravo.

Thank you for a lovely afternoon exploring shops and learning history from Canterbury that we had no idea about! It was so immersive and such a joy to take part in, from the hosts to the fantastic staff in the shops we visited we were thrilled!! Thank you again!

We had such a great time doing this!! Thank you so much for organising it. So many lovely shops we'd never been in before despite living in Canterbury. I'm planning a Christmas shopping day to revisit without the kids very soon!!

We had a great time following Mia's adventures and finding out more about Canterbury. Thanks for a great afternoon activity. Looking forward to another one?!

Absolutely brilliant idea. Our 3 year old loved it. Hope you do another next year :)

Thanks for creating this treasure hunt, it was great fun, and nice to see so many local businesses participating. Will the whole story be available anywhere to read through (when we're not excitedly rushing from clue to clue!)?

My partner and I thoroughly enjoyed the timekeepers return event. It was fun for all ages (we are both 21) to do and we learnt a lot more about the city we live in. I think more activities like this need to happen to encourage people to appreciate this city. Thank you!

Thank you. Had so much fun. Was reminded of history I learnt a long time ago, and learnt some new things too! Looking forward to the next trail.

Alongside this positive feedback, perhaps the most heartening interactions I’ve had since the event are with those asking me how I found sources for research into Canterbury’s history, how this fits into my own plans for the future, whether I’d be making other events or games of this type, and what it takes to make this kind of work.

On this last point, over the past year I have frequently given informal advice to individuals about the different possibilities of location-based and AR media for a wide range of projects. This has often revolved around particular apps and technologies that might be useful and the kinds of knowledge and/or skills typically required, as well as the possibilities and challenges for storytelling in these contexts.

Professionally, my experience of creating The Timekeeper’s Return has even led to consultancy work on location-based and narrative games.

Prize draw

As well as receiving rewards on the day, everybody who completed the treasure hunt was entered into a prize draw to win a bunch of excellent prizes donated by local organisations.

I had the pleasure of handing out the prizes to the happy winners in person two weeks after the event, at a small prize-giving held in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter.

We were especially delighted to see the winners of the grand prize – tickets for four people to attend the Christmas Pantomime at the Marlowe Theatre – enjoying their evening out.

The bigger picture

Since last autumn, Simon Yule from the Canterbury Cathedral Shop has written this short report of the event for the Cathedral Quarter website, and I gave a presentation that featured The Timekeeper’s Return at the Royal Geographical Society Postgraduate Forum Midterm Conference in April, which discussed the opportunities and challenges of making digital narrative works as a researcher.

Looking forward, many of you will be aware that this is just the start of my ambitions when it comes to designing location-based narrative games.

The research upon which my practice-based PhD is based involves creating, testing and producing more participatory media arts of this type, and I’ll be sharing further details about the work I’ve been doing for this project soon.

If you’re interested in getting involved in any upcoming game tests or public events I decide to run, stay tuned here and on my social media, or get in touch using the details on my About page.

As for the Cathedral Quarter, I’m pleased to say that the area is as welcoming and enchanting as ever, and the businesses have built on our previous success by hosting more well-received events.

Although small businesses are facing a very difficult economic climate across the country at the moment, particularly in retail, Canterbury has remained remarkably stable in comparison.

No doubt a big part of this relative success is down to the hard work and positivity of independent businesspeople like those in Cathedral Quarter, who make Canterbury city centre so unique.

I’d like to thank everyone at the Cathedral Quarter once again for commissioning me and for the continued faith they showed in me to deliver this project. I look forward to seeing you all and hopefully working with you once again in the future.


The Timekeeper’s Return
Designed, written and directed by Jack Lowe

Website design
AM Marketing

Graphic design
Sam Lowe

Canterbury Christchurch University Outreach

Oscar Dymond
Paul Dymond
Wendy Dymond
Tim Fairhall
Julian Steward

Maria Cockburn
Jack Lowe

Canterbury City Council Print & Mail Centre
Omicron Reprographics

Participating businesses (in order of appearance)
Canterbury Cathedral Shop
Fitzgerald Jewellers
Canterbury Pottery
Antoine et Lili
Biggs Opticians
The Chinaman
Fired Earth
Moat Tea Rooms
Veg Box Café
Stilwell Jewellers

Rewards kindly provided by
Canterbury Cathedral Shop

Prize draw prizes kindly provided by
The Marlowe Theatre
Moat Tea Rooms
Canterbury Cathedral Shop
The Chinaman
Antoine et Lili
Canterbury Pottery

Special thanks
Maria Cockburn
Stefan Colley
Adam Ganz
Sandra Hadfield
Chris Needham
Mark Pegg


Dr. Mia Augustina
Oksana Savchenko

Rebecca Sampson

Elizabeth Waterman-Scrase


Alex Preston

Camera operators
Zdravko Zhelev
Jules Davison

Laura Bailey

Assistant producer
Lexi Budd

Digital imaging technician
Morgan Davies

The Timekeeper’s Return was created by Jack Lowe on behalf of

Canterbury Cathedral Quarter

© 2018 Jack Lowe

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