The actor who gave voice to John Wesley on new audio guides for the recently opened state-of-the-art museum at Bristol’s New Room, also known as John Wesley’s Chapel, returned this week for the unusual experience of being guided around the venue by his own narration.
James Bradwell, who is about to start his final year of training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, was recorded as the voice of Wesley in February 2017 – one of 10 performers from the school who contributed to the audio guides as a way of bringing history to life for visitors to the museum.
Twenty-two year old James, who has spent most of August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the four-star reviewed Take Thou That theatre company’s production of Jason and the Argonauts, was delighted to finally see the exhibits which were under wraps at the time he made the recording.
James said: “I was struck by how outspoken John Wesley was in opposing social injustice, both when I did my background research and later when we recorded the excerpts of his diary. Wesley’s message is clearly still promoted here at the New Room, and is explained in such an interesting way in the new visitor centre museum.
“Coincidentally, the Edinburgh Fringe show I’ve just taken part in tied in narratives that highlighted the refugee crisis, immigration, and the treatment of those who are seen to be different, and was performed in support of Help Refugees, a great aid organisation that supports refugees worldwide.
“For me it was a happy coincidence to be involved in two such socially-aware projects, and it also feels rather good to know that my voice is a part of that as a permanent feature of the museum.”
Training at the world-renowned Bristol Old Vic Theatre School includes workshops in radio, which James Bradwell says he finds great fun.
James continued: “Being recorded as John Wesley was a great opportunity to immediately use this training, and it was a pleasure bringing life to his written word. I hope my voice sounds the part for someone who was undoubtedly a great speaker, but I’ll leave that for the visitors to judge.”
David Worthington, manager of the New Room, said: “It was lovely to welcome James, who brought John Wesley’s text to life so well on the audio guide, and we hope visitors to the new museum will enjoy listening to his interpretation of the great man’s words.
“All of us at the New Room continue to be impressed by how Wesley’s words from the 18th century still remain as powerful and challenging as they were when he first wrote them.”
Recognised as the starting point for the Methodist movement which now has over 75 million members across the globe, the New Room was built in 1739 and is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world.
The historic significance of the Chapel was acknowledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which part-financed the recently completed 18 month multi-million pound development of the New Room’s brand new visitor centre, which features not only the museum but a brand new café and gift shop, a much-needed education/conference centre and a historically-important library and archive.
The New Room and visitor centre are open from Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 4pm all year. Entrance to the chapel is free, and visitors can enjoy a Fairtrade coffee and home-baked cake or light lunch at the brand new café.
Admission to the new museum is £3 for children and £6 for adults, with family tickets at £9 for one adult plus children, or £14 for two adults plus children. School groups and workshops cost £4 per pupil. Other concessions and group rates are available, for details see www.newroombristol.org.uk