#BeingHuman: Digital Storytelling: When, why, how? 14 Nov

fest dates press release

“If the 20th century was about the quest for knowledge, the 21st century is about experience.”

As a devout reader of physical books and someone whose idea of heaven is loitering around libraries and bookshops I’m somewhat surprised that my career as a writer is being defined by digital storytelling. But it’s a contradiction I embrace due to the infinite opportunities of expression it affords.

Writing serves many functions. On one level it acts as a form of therapy that enables individuals to make sense of both themselves and the environments they inhabit. Writing is also about control in that it enables an individual to be the master of the worlds they create. Digital is about being a master of galaxies and entire solar systems and so naturally appeals to the vanity of someone deluded enough to think they have something worthy to say.

Writing is also about experimentation, placing the author in the minds of characters and situations to try to better understand what it is to be human. Experimentation is at the heart of creativity and digital enables a writer to think themselves not only into the mind of a character but into how the character exists across mediums and digital platforms, all of which come with their own grammar.


I fell into digital storytelling because an opportunity arouse and I took it. I haven’t looked back since and will be talking about this journey as part of the Being Human humanities festival on Saturday 14 August, of which Nottingham is one of five named ‘creative city’ hubs. Last year Paul Fillingham and I created Being Arthur, the first ever 24 hour Twitter presentation of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning for the inaugural Being Human festival and this year I want to share a little bit of my journey with the hope that it may help others who are thinking of giving literature a digital makeover.

Whether we like it or not, digital is changing our experience of reading and our understanding of literature. No longer limited by the confines of the physical page, writers can now present content across media platforms as well as offer multiple narrative paths into the text to suit the needs of every type of reader. I’ll be showing how I’ve done this with the Sillitoe Trail (which was voted in the top ten of content for BBC/Arts Council multimedia platform The Space) and Dawn of the Unread, a graphic novel that explores Nottingham’s rich literary history (and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in March).


I’ll also be sharing experiences on two other projects I’m currently putting together: Untold Stories, a multi-collaborative graphic novel that will give voice to “The lives that dare not speak their names” and addresses issues of censorship and persecution around the world. This is planned for 2016 and will follow the format of Dawn of the Unread but this time will combine philosophical arguments with direct calls to action.

mem theatre

The DH Lawrence Memory Theatre is pencilled in for some time in 2017. DHL embarked on a journey of self-discovery known as his ‘savage pilgrimage’ which took him across the globe. Accompanying him on his journey was a travel-trunk which had various compartments and drawers. Paul Fillingham and I are hoping to retrace this Savage Pilgrimage, explore Lawrence’s significance as a writer, and develop his personalised travel-trunk as a ‘Cabinet of Curiosity’ or Memory Theatre.

Memory Theatres were filled with rare and expensive artefacts and once used by the aristocracy to convey cultural capital and status. Our Memory Theatre will journey in both physical and digital form. It will be a beautifully crafted work of art in its own right, to be explored and admired, stopping off at key locations. The drawers will contain real objects including; documents, poetry, paintings and essays, produced by a variety of creative practitioners. Some drawers will house interactive touch-screens, offering a glimpse into the digital heart of the Memory Theatre.

The digital component will be available as a web-service across various media platforms. Users will virtually ‘open’ drawers with content geared towards the capture and sharing the users’ experience. As the Memory Theatre travels in physical and digital form, its aesthetic and emotional value will grow, accumulating its own savage history and provenance.

The 'dots' contained within the side panel in this image are the 'code', enabling the artist to then create an image around them to 'hide' the code.

The 4 ‘dots’ contained within the side panel in this image are the ‘code’, enabling the artist to then create an image around them to ‘hide’ the code.

We may very well use aestheticodes (QR Codes with a lot of slap) as a means of recording the journey. If you want to learn more about what these are then catch the talk before mine (10.30 – 12.30) at the Writers’ Studio.

The aim of the talk is give an insight into issues involved in putting together a digital storytelling project: audience, partnerships, funding, narrative, platforms, creative ‘production line’. It will be followed by a Q&A and the opportunity for other artists to discuss their own ideas for digital projects.

Digital Storytelling: When, why, how? Nottingham Writers’ Studio 1-2 pm, 14th November.

To register for this event please follow this link.

‘Letters Remember’ Light Night (6 Feb)

light nightLight Night is without a doubt the best event in Nottingham’s increasingly busy calendar. This year I’m putting on an event at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio that takes Light Night back to its original routes by opening up creative spaces to the public and inviting guests in. The event is loosely themed around letters and memories and is an opportunity to learn about some exciting local projects that will take us from the tunnels of Welbeck Abbey to Uganda.

Each talk will be a maximum of ten minutes so that we can finish bang on time and get out and enjoy other events. I’d expect this event to be rammed because the talks are so diverse, but you never can quite predict who’ll turn up in Nottingham. There will be refreshments available on the night and the opportunity to carry on discussions afterwards. And yes, you can bring a light sabre along with you if you want to…

That’s enough rattle, here’s what you’ll get for giving up an hours worth of oxygen.

prt_400x268_1363110975SUNIL SHAHUganda Stories is both a subjective journey to recollect the past and a study in photography’s documentary potential to reassemble history. In the current New Art Exchange exhibition, Sunil Shah explores very personal themes linked to his family’s roots and heritage as Ugandan Asians, and offers wider narratives around exile, displacement and dispossession.

loudwalk_v-nightingale_mg_93581Letters to the City In 2013 Nottingham Contemporary invited the artist Polly Brannan to join The Loudspeaker project to develop a piece of work that would extend the project into the city and bring the women’s voices to the wider public. The result is the beautifully powerful and poignant ‘Letters To The City’. I met Polly a few times when she started the project (she’s based in Liverpool and wanted to know about local female literary figures) so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Dawn of the Unread is my baby and the reason this website has been given the cold shoulder recently. One of our featured literary figures for this Notts-based graphic novel is the 5th Duke of Portland, an eccentric aristocrat who built a vast labyrinth of tunnels under Welbeck Abbey to hide away from society. Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves explores the possible reasons for this strange subterranean preoccupation, and in particular, a mysterious letter he received from his distant father years before. Larkin was right, they do fuck you up…

white dolFalse histories Matt Shelton discusses a paid opportunity for writers to fabricate histories for local craft beers he is promoting. The beers are: Ghost Rider, Twisted Genius, American Saviour and English Rebel. He will be joined by White Dolemite creator Reverend Video Matt, a master hoaxer who has created a cult around false film posters.

letterspagemainThe Letters Page Offers an alternative to the immediacy of digital culture by taking us back to the basics of communication in the form of pen, paper, envelope and stamp. This literary journal edited by NWS Patron Jon McGregor explores what letter writing means to people – and has meant since writing was invented – in their literary cultures and their personal lives.* (tbc)

No need to book places but you are advised to arrive early to get a seat. Friday 6 Feb, 2015 (6-7pm) FREE Nottingham Writers’ Studio, 25 Hockley, NG1 1FH.