Future and Form events present six visions of a literary future

Published by  Communications

On 15th Apr 2021

Future and Form authors

Pictured above (l-r): Tash Aw, James McDermott and Mona Arshi


Marking its 50 year anniversary, UEA’s world-renowned MA in Creative Writing programme presents, as part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2021 (17-30 May),  six new multidisciplinary, experimental works that explore the interface between contemporary literature and creative technology, starting 21 May. 

“You’re taking a form that is probably aligned most with our humanity and putting that up against the idea of technology and thinking about how those two things have a conversation with each other” — Mona Arshi

Discover extraordinary new experimental works and virtual and physical realities: performances, walks, interactive installations and digital engagements invite you to explore the very interface between contemporary literature, storytelling and creative technology. 

The six works address issues of provenance, history, ecology, inclusivity and ultimately engagement, taking you on a journey from medieval Norwich, to the wilds of the North Norfolk Coast, via Nigeria and Hong Kong.

“The intersection between technology and writing is such that we will find ways to reach wider audiences. It’s always been the aim of literature to capture the way we live and disseminate that.” — Tash Aw 

Future and Form brings together international UEA alumni writers Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Mona Arshi, Tash Aw, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Mitch Johnson and James McDermott with UEA faculty, creative technologists Guildhall Live Events and Mutiny, and key regional cultural organisations and schools. 

“We set out to push the interface between contemporary writing and technology. We wanted to engage new and inclusive audiences in strikingly new ways, and question the very concepts of both author and reader. The six resulting multi-modal works, premiering at NNF, are prototypes, or possibilities. This work could not have been possible five years ago, let alone 50 years ago.” — Henry Sutton


Mona Arshi and Mutiny 

Location: Norfolk Wildlife Trust at Cley Wildlife Reserve
A version of the event will also be available online: futureandform.net 
A multimedia poetry installation inspired by the coastal landscape of Cley.

The shifting nature of the North Norfolk coast is evoked through the subtle choreography of voice, natural sounds, video, photography and sensor data in this new multimedia poetry collection by Mona Arshi. Inspired by and recorded at the stunning vistas of Cley Wildlife Reserve, Arshi draws on the ancient Arabic poetry form of ghazal combined with cutting edge audio techniques from sound artist Peter Cusack, and beautiful imagery from Norfolk-based photographer Matthew Usher, to conjure this elemental landscape. Experience the installation at Cley Wildlife Reserve, where you will also be able to listen to location specific excerpts on your phone as you explore the reserve, visitor centre and bird hides, or access online at futureandform.net 

Mona Arshi worked as a human rights lawyer at Liberty before she started writing poetry. She completed her Masters in poetry in 2011 at the University of East Anglia with a distinction. Her debut collection Small Hands won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2015. Mona’s second collection Dear Big Gods was published in 2019 by Liverpool University Press. Her debut novel will be published in 2021.

Imogen Hermes Gowar and Mutiny

Location: Starting at Norwich Castle, Castle Meadow
A version of the event will also be available online: futureandform.net
Human bones have been discovered in Whitefriars in Norwich. Could they be the mortal remains of the controversial Lady Eleanor Talbot? 

Using a combination of augmented reality software and audio, accessible via a specially-devised web app on your phone, Imogen Hermes Gowar’s medieval interactive ‘whodunit’ invites you to explore both the timeline and the physical city in this immersive walk through Norwich. Assemble your own narrative from sensory immersion in the city, information about its tendentious past and your own findings. What conclusion will you draw? If you’re unable to access the route in person, join the experience remotely via the app. 

Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut historical novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writer Award, among others, and won the Betty Trask Award. She is a graduate of UEA’s Creative Writing MA Prose Fiction. 

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and Mutiny 

Location: National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall 
A version of the event will also be available online: futureandform.net 

Follow the journey of the sacred ibeji from Nigeria to Norwich. 

This multi-screen immersive play, created in collaboration with author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and creative technologists Mutiny, tells the compelling story of twins separated by death. Follow the journey of the sacred ibeji artefact from its creation in Benin in 1895 to present-day Norwich, in a story that spans continents, cultures and lifetimes. Directed by Marcus Romer, Provenance asks important questions about decolonising museum collections. Experience the play live at Dragon Hall, performed by Marva Alexander and a recorded cast, or online from anywhere in the world. 

Ayọ̀bámi is a graduate of UEA’s MA Prose Fiction and the author of the acclaimed novel Stay With Me (Canongate, 2017), shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Wellcome Book Prize and described as a ‘stunning’ debut novel by the New York Times.

Mitch Johnson and Guildhall Live Events 

Location: futureandform.net
Experience the effects of climate change in a 360 VR world. 

What will the world look like 50 years from now? This was Mitch Johnson’s provocation. In this 360-degree interactive VR imaginarium, school-children of today imagine visions of a future affected by climate change. Change the temperature and explore the consequences, with narration from Mitch. 

After graduating from the University of East Anglia with an award-winning first-class BA in English Literature with Creative Writing, Mitch completed Kick, his debut novel for middle-grade readers which won the Branford Boase Award. Mitch’s second novel Pop! was published in February 2021.

Tash Aw and Guildhall Live Events 

Location: futureandform.net
Using computer technology, participate in a writer’s process with author Tash Aw

Become an active participant in the writer’s process: combining immersive technology and fiction by novelist Tash Aw, the choices you make in this interactive installation will affect the story’s outcome. Discuss your experience in a workshop with UEA creative writers.

Tash is the author of three novels – The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), which won the Whitbread First Novel Award; Map of the Invisible World (2009) and Five Star Billionaire (2013) – and a work of non-fiction, The Face: Strangers on a Pier (2016), was a finalist in the LA Times Book Prize. Tash Aw is a graduate of UEA’s MA Prose Fiction.

James McDermott and Guildhall Live Events 

Location: futureandform.net
This digital love story integrates live theatre with virtual reality technology, underpinned by concepts of social media.

Fusing traditional stagecraft and live theatre with unprecedented use of state-of-the-art immersive film-making and VR techniques, McDermott’s new hybrid play is a timely exploration of love, longing and the challenges of communicating how we really feel.

Recent UEA Scriptwriting MA graduate, James McDermott, has built a reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative performer/writers for stage and screen in the region and nationally.

Tickets and Further Information
Full timings and booking for in-person events: nnfestival.org.uk

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