University of Plymouth

Ancient Mariner Big Read

Launched in April 2020, at a time when the themes of isolation, loneliness and the environment were unusually relevant, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Big Read is an immersive work of audio and visual art. With 40 sections of the poem released over 40 days, stars of stage, screen, arts and music transformed this 18th century epic into a powerful online fable for the 21st century.

Readers included Alan Bennett, Willem Defoe, Marianne Faithfull, Jeremy Irons, Hilary Mantel, Iggy Pop, Lemn Sissay, Tilda Swinton, Neil Tennant, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge – a sixth generation nephew of the poet. Contemporary art works also accompany each reading, with contributions from Marina Abramović, Glenn Brown, Stanley Donwood, Nadav Kander, Lucy + Jorge Orta, Cornelia Parker, George Shaw, Yinka Shonibare, Gavin Turk and Lisa Wright.

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‘For the extraordinary, if not crazy challenge that was the Ancient Mariner Big Read design brief, Intercity responded with equally extraordinary and crazy brilliance. Melding moving water with graphic clarity, they achieved something truly remarkable: a fluid entity that became more than the sum of its parts, evoking the weird beauty and sublime terror of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem.’

Philip Hoare – Author, broadcaster and co-curator of the Ancient Mariner Big Read
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Client

University of Plymouth

Curators

Philip Hoare, Angela Cockayne and Sarah Chapman

Sound Production

dBs Pro

Online Platform

Controlled Frenzy

Intercity created the overall identity for the project, including a series of atmospheric videos depicting various water states. These water states, or temperatures, vary in intensity depending on the section of the poem. They were captured by playing sound through liquid contained in the cone of a specially-constructed speaker - a concept that helped visualise both the changing states of the sea within the poem and the audio of the readings themselves.

Additional work for the project included animation for each of the 40 releases, a full design guidelines document, website design, print design for posters/invites, various animated assets for advertising and social media, plus a full edit of the complete poem with end titles.

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