illuminated monitor screens in theatre

The Future of Writing



Future and Form explores possible new futures for literature and creativity in the digital age.

As 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of UEA’s renowned MA in Creative Writing, we look to the future. What will writing look like in 50 years? What role will authors and readers play?

This flagship project builds on UEA’s rich history of literary innovation. Generously supported by Arts Council England, it aims to increase engagement with literature among new and traditionally hard to reach audiences, while providing prototypes for possible literary futures.


Future and Form considered how far we can push the boundaries of literary form, through exploring the interface between contemporary literature, creative technologies and space.

Our research investigated multi-modal forms of writing and how collaboration with new digital mediums extends what we perceive and understand as ‘literariness’ as well as the practices of authorship and readership. The programme also examined creative processes and the accessibility and inclusivity of new forms of literature.

Established and cutting-edge UEA Creative Writing alumni collaborated with UEA faculty, creative digital technologists and cultural partners across East Anglia to produce innovative and interactive literary experiments. The result was six new creative works (see below) designed to engage new audiences with ideas about the future of reading and writing.

We continue to share these original works online and regionally, nationally and internationally to inspire creativity and collaboration. We also have produced academic publications, exhibitions (virtual and physical) and share our research and key findings on the 'Future and Form' website.



Six writers. Six works. Six visions of future literary practice and engagement.


Where Do Stories Come From?

Tash Aw explores what it feels like to begin to imagine a novel, giving people a real insight into the writer’s creative process. Viewers become participants in story-writing, joining authors of their own imagined works.



This vivid and emotional, multiscreen immersive installation, created in collaboration with author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and creative technologists Mutiny, tells the compelling story of two twins separated by death. It follows the journey of a sacred Ibeji artefact from its creation in Benin City, Nigeria, in 1895, to present-day Norwich. Along the way, important questions are raised about decolonising museums through a story that spans continents, cultures and lifetimes.


Shifting Lines

The wildlife sanctuary at Cley, North Norfolk, is the inspiration for Mona Arshi’s new collection of poems. In a collaboration with sound artist Peter Cusack, the poems are presented through an elemental installation at one of the UK’s prime nature reserves.



James McDermott’s new multi-modal play is a timely exploration of love, longing and the challenges of communicating how we really feel. Fusing traditional stagecraft and live theatre with unprecedented use of state-of-the-art immersive filmmaking and Extended Reality techniques, we watch two people try to establish a loving ‘real’ relationship in a world where all communication and contact is slowly shutting down.



Imogen Hermes Gowar’s multimedia project explores the controversial life of Lady Eleanor Talbot, who lived an eventful life as a 15th-century noblewoman in Norwich. During immersive walks through the city’s history, audiences co-construct Talbot’s powerful story, as she speaks across time about gender, power and history.


The Living Book

An immersive 360 Virtual Reality experience that invites us to explore the long-term consequences of climate change, as imagined by children today. Inspired by Mitch Johnson and created in collaboration with students from Norfolk schools, it brings to life a collective and emerging imaginarium through virtual and augmented reality, allowing young people to create their own book of the future.



To explore how interdisciplinary collaboration with and through creative technologies changes the role of the author, reader and even the form itself, UEA alumni Ayòbámi Adébáyò, Mona Arshi, Tash Aw, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Mitch Johnson and James McDermott with UEA faculty, creative technologists, cultural organisations and schools.

We worked with a wide range of partners, including:

Explored new approaches to interpretation and presentation of art and cultural objects.

Learn more about the Sainsbury Centre.

Writers and technologists unlock the city’s history together.

Learn more about the Norwich Museums Services.

A multi-screen narrative work with integrated live performances reaching an international audience online.

Learn more about the National Centre for Writing.

Developed an experimental immersive play with virtual set design and audience interaction.

Learn more about Norwich Theatre.

Provided widespread access to inspiring archive material and encouraged active participation in a writer’s creative process.

Learn more about the British Archive for Contemporary Writing.

Supported and promoted interactive and immersive works across the city and region.
Provided a space for immersive works created by schoolchildren in collaboration with a writer.
Offered readers new ways to access literature, start writing and get inside a writer’s mind.
Collaborated to create and share new forms of poetry at Cley Marshes.
Helped schoolchildren build a new virtual story-world.
Mutiny and Guildhall Live Events, with support from GRIT, Immersive Studios and StoryFutures Academy.


The future

Future and Form anticipates the development of writing across the 21st century, as well as its changing relationships with other modes of expression. 

In this first instance, we are contributing to the global conversation on the future of writing through making our original works available free to experience online as well as publishing papers and reports of our research, including key findings, methodological practice and recommendations, for all to access.

It is a platform and a resource that we will build on to explore the interface between technology and the arts for decades to come.

Steering group

Professor Jean McNeil
Author, UEA Professor of Creative Writing and Co-ordinator of the International programme for Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

Professor Tessa McWatt
Author, librettist, Wasafiri trustee and UEA Professor of Creative Writing

Professor Henry Sutton
UEA Director of Creative Writing and Professor of Creative Writing and Crime Fiction

Tim Wright
Executive Producer (Digital)

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