StoryPlaces – Bournemouth Natural Science Society

This week we once again climbed down the long ivory staircase from the University in order to run the second of our location-based story events for the Leverhulme funded StoryPlaces project. This time as part of the Bournemouth Arts By the Sea festival, and focused around the wonderful collection and people of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society (BNSS).

In our first project we worked with creative writing students to create stories around Southampton, very much allowing them to lead in order to see how writers used the sculptural story engine unguided. In this second project we worked with local writers from Bournemouth and felt that we had learned enough to get more involved in the process, make suggestions on how they might use locations within their stories, and to encourage more hypertextuality.

Originally we had intended this project to be more directly focused around the BNSS itself. The BNSS are based in a beautiful gothic mansion at the edge of Boscombe, and we imagined stories more directly about the society and its history, perhaps playing out in the grounds and corridors of the museum. But when we first visited it was immediately apparent that the atmosphere of the building and interactions with the people of the society would only have been damaged by bringing technology into the space. Instead we decided to try and take that feeling out into the city, briefing our authors to explode the collection, and create thematic stories that resonated with the society and its goals.

The result were six stories of Bournemouth and the Natural World, including ‘The Pathways of Destiny’ by James Cole (of Bournemouth Arts University) who we commissioned as part of the project, and who wrote an adventure fantasy where younger readers can take on roles such as a geologist, an archaeologist, or a naturalist, and go on a fabulous treasure hunt with a mysterious alien friend.

It was enormous fun setting up our pavilion at Bournemouth sea front and speaking with the festival goers about location-based storytelling and the BNSS. Because the stories are non-linear we are especially looking forward to analysing how they were read, and seeing if we can deduce the heuristics that readers use to make decisions about how to navigate. This could be valuable information to future authors about how readers are likely to engage with their stories, and may highlight nodes that are unreachable not because of flawed logic in the story engine, but because they sit in dark and seldom visited corners of the story world.

The stories are all available on the StoryPlaces website, so if you are visiting Bournemouth please check them out, they are web-based (no app to download) and any modern smartphone should be able to run them.