A major new visitor attraction recreating a key moment in Winchester’s Anglo-Saxon history, brought to life through the world of video game franchise Assassin’s Creed®, opened in the city’s centre on Saturday 12 November.
878 AD takes visitors back to a pivotal point not only in the history of the city, but in the history of England as an emerging, unified nation: the defeat of the Vikings by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Edington in May 878. Opening at Winchester’s The Brooks Shopping Centre, 878 AD will recreate the atmosphere of the city and the lives of the people who lived in it on the eve of the battle, as they anxiously await its outcome.
The experience is the result of a unique collaboration between Winchester-based charity, Hampshire Cultural Trust, and Ubisoft, creator of the global best-selling gaming series Assassin’s Creed and its educational experience, Discovery Tour, which is free of combat and adapted for audiences of all ages. Winchester featured heavily in the world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and 878 AD will draw on imagery and assets from the game to create an engaging representation of the city at the time. Sugar Creative, one of the UK’s leading immersive tech innovation studios, is the third partner in the collaboration.
878 AD is an experience made up of two distinct but integral parts: a physical visitor attraction and an immersive app. The attraction will give visitors an insight into Anglo-Saxon Winchester through live performance, telling the stories of the thief to the reeve, the soldier to the slave, alongside innovative interpretation. Contemporary Anglo-Saxon objects from Hampshire Cultural Trust’s collections will also be on display, including the exquisite Winchester Reliquary, the only known Anglo-Saxon reliquary to have been found in England. Interactives to explore include Anglo-Saxon games, as well as podiums with interactive content inspired by Discovery Tour: Viking Age, where visitors can find out more about the Anglo-Saxons and their Viking foes and then test their knowledge with a quiz. This part of the attraction has been delivered by Sarner International, the multi award-winning company behind some of the world’s best-loved historical and cultural attractions.
After discovering the result of the Battle of Edington, visitors will be able to journey through Alfred’s legacy – the city of Winchester – in the second part of the 878 AD experience: 878 AD: Winchester Revealed, an app which has been specially developed by Sugar Creative and which uses the spectacular Assassin’s Creed universe. Through the power of augmented reality technology, users will visit key historical points throughout Winchester where buildings from the city’s past, including the Nunnaminster, are brought to life. They will also be able to undertake challenges along the way, including virtual archery practice, creating a shield and throwing an Anglo-Saxon pot.
Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust, commented: ‘878 AD is without a doubt the most exciting and innovative project that we have embarked on at Hampshire Cultural Trust. Our partnership with Ubisoft and Sugar Creative is a pioneering collaboration between the heritage sector, the gaming industry and technology innovators. We have an incredible team of historical advisors working on this project and are pleased to have funding from and the support of both Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council. We are also delighted to have received funding from Arts Council England, Garfield Weston Foundation, Art Fund and The Syder Foundation. Together with generous contributions from a number of donors, this funding is enabling us to bring this one-of-a-kind project to fruition.
‘We want 878 AD to attract more visitors to our city, increasing its reputation nationally and internationally as a cultural destination, supporting the local economy through the creation of local jobs and bringing more visitors to the high street. Most of all, we want to create a sense of wonder and excitement for our visitors and through the use of gaming assets, innovative technology and real Anglo-Saxon objects, opening up our history and heritage for everyone to discover.’
‘We see this immersive experience as a unique opportunity to enable players to complement their gaming experience with a physical one,’ commented Amy Jenkins-Le Guerroué, Strategic Alliances Director at Ubisoft. ‘They will be able to learn even more about Anglo-Saxon England through the new visitor experience thanks to this collaboration with Hampshire Cultural Trust and Sugar Creative. We are pleased to see this innovative and thrilling cultural initiative come to life, perfectly timed for the 15thanniversary of Assassin’s Creed. ‘
More information about 878 AD is available at the attraction’s website, 878AD.co.uk.