New digital public art commission puts Chester folklore centre stage

An unmissable new digital artwork which marries centuries old Chester folklore with 21st Century technology has been unveiled by Storyhouse. 

Researcher and visual artist Donna Leishman’s augmented reality work To Have & To Hold is the latest public art commission by Chester’s acclaimed cultural centre. 

Anyone with a smart phone can enjoy the work which is accessed through a QR code or via a website on your phone or tablet. 

The artist selected and responded to three pieces of Chester folklore – the story of Charlotte Lucy Beatrice Egerton, Billy Hobby’s Well in Grosvenor Park and the city’s ‘impossible’ stairs – to create the online body of work. 

And to emphasise that folklore is living and ever evolving, people are also encouraged to voice their own thoughts and stories through a link on the project website. 

Donna Leishman explains: “During lockdown, we’ve missed things, people, places and wished for the return of our past ways of life.  

“Through this new project I’ve been amazed and fascinated at Chester’s rich history of wishing and rituals of aspiration which reveal both strange and surprising ways of manifesting hope in precarious conditions. This feels very relevant today. 

My own wish is that through this body of work I can inspire both local communities and future visitors to Chester to spend time with the region’s deep past and think about the pertinent themes of health, aspiration, love and self-realisation. 

“This project has been a pleasure and privilege to work on.” 

To Have & To Hold is co-commissioned and funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council and is the latest in a four-year programme of new public artwork which is being created for indoors, outdoors – or, in this case, online. 

Previous pieces include award-winning artist Bedwyr Williams’ atmospheric Hypercaust – a computer-generated video which brought back to life the Roman Fortress Bathhouse, and filmmaker Sven Werner’s immersive audio-visual installation Poulsen Arc Dream Radio. 

Donna Leishman’s artistic practice is a combination of critical writing and practice-led research in digital art. The Edinburgh-based artist investigates a range of subjects including social and literary identity, immersion and interactivity and creates narratives based on historic and folkloric myths. 

She gained her doctorate at the Glasgow School of Art and is currently an associate professor at the renowned Northumbria University’s school of design. Her work has been presented across the world including New York, Toronto, Melbourne and Milan. 

To experience To Have & To Hold, visit 




For more information, contact:   

Nancy Davies   

Marketing and PR Manager  


07886 743531