Artist uses Augmented Reality to bring The Tolpuddle Martyrs artwork to life

Jason Wilsher-Mills at Parliament
Credit: Jason Wilsher-Mills

A new augmented reality artwork will bring the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs to life like never before.

Acclaimed artist Jason Wilsher-Mills worked with descendants of the Tolpuddle Martyrs to create a new artwork for Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester, Dorset. The exhibition opens on March 19th 2019 and will feature the six Dorset farm labourers, whose trial and imprisonment at Shire Hall kickstarted the trade union movement, brought to life through augmented reality.

Everything within the artwork will have meaning and be brought to life through augmented reality. Jason said the Tolpuddle Martyrs oath, the ship they were transported on and even Australia itself, which will be formed by a swarm of bees, will float in front of visitors’ eyes. He said: “It’s really bonkers, amazing stuff.” He said he hoped the artwork would create debate around the Martyrs story but also around contemporary issues like what it means to be British.

Jason Wilsher-Mills’ artwork for George Loveless, the leader of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Please credit: Jason Wilsher-Mills

As a disabled artist, Jason’s previous work with young disabled people, Brave Boy Billy, was displayed at the Tate Modern and his new project, Jason and the Argonauts, which explores the aspirations and experiences of disabled groups, has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Unlimited art funding. Unlimited supports ‘ambitious, creative projects by outstanding disabled artists and companies.’

Jason said: “I wanted to return them to Tolpuddle. The clothes they are wearing feature leaves from Tolpuddle trees and I spent time photographing the local insects, so they could be included too. I wanted to make them of Dorset.

“I wanted to get the sense that they were part of Dorset, their hearts were in Dorset. Their families and the earth they tended, and the local wildlife had such an impact on them. I wanted to link that into the artwork. I wanted to show them as humble, very religious, which they were, and strong. There’s a steeliness in their eyes.”

Augmented reality uses technology to superimpose computer-generated films, images and interactive components on what someone is seeing in the real world. This could be by using a tablet or mobile phone to view the original artwork and then ‘seeing’ the augmented part as 3D on the screen.

The exhibition opens on March 19th 2019 and will be free with a valid Museum Ticket (which also acts as an Annual Pass).

For more information visit

Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, High Street West, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1UY