Thursday 13th April, 2000 (page10)

Back to the future... left Steve Hall, Forest Heath District Council assistant leisure services manager and programme co-ordinator Joe Thompson

History project shortlisted for national award

By John Goode

A UNIQUE computer-based heritage project has been shortlisted to represent the eastern region in a national showcase of millennium schemes. The 22 Villages Project, which involves communities throughout the Forest Heath district, has also attracted attention from Queensland, Australia, where the local heritage authority wants to start a similar scheme.

Villages have been given redundant computers from the council offices to help input information and view the project's website. Joe Thompson, co-ordinator of the project, has previously worked on computer presentations for pop group Take That and Virgin Records.

The latest technology can allow three-dimensional views of buildings such as Eriswell's historic church and can replay recordings of pensioners talking about village life. "We have said to everybody involved, 'Don't worry about the technology,'" said Mr Thompson. "Some villages have said that the technology is brilliant and they want to use it but others just want to use a low-tech approach. "Every one is very enthusiastic and we're all very proud of what has been achieved." He said that as far as he was aware there was no similar scheme anywhere in the world.

The project is costing around 30,000, of which 26,000 has come from the Millennium Festival Awards Scheme. Since it started, the scope of the project has been widened to include the district's three main towns, Newmarket, Mildenhall and Brandon. Tony Bass, the council's leisure services manager, said the scheme had been shortlisted to represent the eastern region in a national showcase.

It has also won support from US Air Force, which has agreed to take aerial photographs of all the villages. The project is due to run until the end of the year. It will result in the production of 1,000 multi-media CDs, 1,000 colour books and a website for each community. The project's website is

Reproduced by kind permission of Cambridge Evening News