FUTURISTIC talking benches will soon be dotted around popular Headington hotspots.

At the touch of a button, bench sitters will be able to toggle through soundbites reeling off decades of local history.

However the plans for the benches are not to rival tourist guides, books or apps, but instead aim to offer Headington residents a run-down of local stories and events within minutes.

Richard Bradley, treasurer for Headington Action who are spearheading the project to install around 10 pews, said: “They are really directed at residents and people passing by: the clips will contain local history; who’s lived there; what you can see.

“A lot of people go to the park, but not many people know about the house and the dispute and the coffins which were carried across the land – all the fascinating stories.”

The benches, which will be powered by sunlight and wind-up handles, will be scattered along London Road – home to some of Headington’s skyline icons.

The idea follows the installation of 20 'listening benches' in Essex.

Essex’s Heritage Lottery-funded project, charmingly titled ‘You Are Hear: Sound and Sense of Place’, features clips of stories from historic county archives.

Despite initial problems with the solar panelled benches – including sunshine levels, vandalism and the clips being played in the early hours of the morning – the benches have now become a community asset, and their buttons pressed more than 240,000 times.

Oxford’s version – ‘Hear in Headington’ – will be run by volunteers from Headington Action alongside the city council, which is funding the benches with developer money from Oxford Brookes University.

Mr Bradley said: “Part of the conditions for building the John Henry Brookes building was that they had to provide money to the council, and that money is being used to develop Headington.”

Mr Bradley said that his group are hoping the first bench, carved from a oak tree which fell in an Oxford park, will be put in Bury Knowle Park over the summer.

However, it will be some time before all the benches can be spotted as they are still with the developers – the same people behind the ‘Land of the Lions’ in London Zoo.

Headington councillor Roz Smith said: “I think it will be good for Headington. I’m excited about it. There will be quite a lot of information in listenable chunks.”