Hayling Island banner

Refugees, tourists, circus acts, smugglers, a destitute Russian princess and escapees from the industrial mainland: Hayling Island’s many sea-level lives exposed through a digital story map and a series of spoken word events

  • Acclaimed artists will collaborate with a literary geographer to explore the hidden histories of Hayling Island’s working class community using short stories, spoken word, audio soundscapes, visual art and an evolving online map of the island.
  • Work in progress versions of short stories and audio will be shared at three literary events across October 2017 held in Hayling, Manchester and Durham.
  • The short story collection will explore themes including climate change, human migration, economic shift, disability, and LGBT+ issues

A true island completely surrounded by sea, Hayling is off the south coast of England in Hampshire, near Portsmouth. It is home to a working class community and is rich in overlooked histories, from the arcades and smugglers’ tunnels to the nearby military base. It is a place of resilience and contrasts, and as the water rises, there are no climate change deniers to be found.

Using remembered histories of local people and the geography of the island itself as inspiration, four Manchester-based artists, led by writer and spoken word artist Michelle Green will create an interactive digital map housing a short story collection and accompanying audio.

The stories and soundscapes will be shared as work-in-progress at the following events:

Durham Book Festival event Sat 7th October 2017
Book tickets here, priced £6/£4

Hayling Island Library event Sat 21st October 2017
Book free tickets here.

International Anthony Burgess Centre event Thursday 26th October 2017
Book free tickets here.

All events are supported by Arts Council England and New Writing North.

Michelle Green is an acclaimed writer and spoken word artist born on Hayling, now based in Manchester. She was two when her parents left the island, and so her ‘memories’ take the form of many stories from her extended family, centred on the arcades, bingos, cafes and clubs they ran in the 70s along one of the tourist strips, just as the arrival of package holidays was beginning to take its toll on the local economy. Hayling has always been a tenacious place, and it is from this that interesting stories grow. Michelle is particularly interested in the lives that are pushed to the margins – working class, disabled, disenfranchised – and those living at the water’s edge as the sea rises.

Ahead of the events, lead artist Michelle Green says: “This map has been growing inside me for years. My family moved around a lot, and so I carry a map of other people’s stories and landscapes as a way of connecting to the places that have shaped our lives. As mainstream discussions of class and economics become a binary caricature with talk of ‘strivers and shirkers’, good and bad, I want to push back with the complexities and resilience that I know lives within every ignored or abandoned working class community. I want to push back against the idea that art and culture is inherently middle class. People who live on a low lying island know just how near the edge is, and I want to invite the audience to walk along those edges and listen, a short story at the tip of each finger.”

The Hayling Island digital story map will be designed by Maya Chowdhry, an interactive artist, writer and poet. It will comprise collage of historical documents, hand-drawn elements and audio hotspots where audiences can listen to or read the stories. The map will also link to local tidal reports and will change according to the real-time tide on the island.

The audio elements of the map, overseen by facilitator in sound and ‘sonic enchantress’ Caro C, will take a sensitive radio-quality approach, adding depth to the world of each story and providing access to audiences who struggle with text. Caro will also create a unique piece of music that responds to the sonic environment of the island.

Creative non-fiction co-author and literary geographies consultant Dr David Cooper is a senior lecturer in the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University. He will co-author pieces of creative non-fiction with Michelle Green, as a geographic exploration of the island that takes subjective experience of the place as the starting point.

In the run-up to the live events lead artist Michelle Green will release three exclusive blog posts through the website of partner organisation Comma Press, who will also promote the work via their MacGuffin literary jukebox, a portal hosting stories and poems in both text and audio form, so users can either read, or stream on the go.

Green continues: “I am particularly grateful to be working with the support of Hayling Island and Havant Libraries. The library staff care for an incredible collection of local histories, clippings, and memoirs of the island, including a gorgeous array of historic, nautical, and hand-drawn maps that have already had a huge influence on what we are creating. When we take our work-in-progress to the Hayling Library in October we will be inviting audience members to add their memories to a physical map of the island, as we want the event to be an exchange, and the fiction we create to be informed by as many different ‘versions’ of Hayling as possible.”

“We knew very early on that it didn’t feel right to do a straightforward fiction reading for the live events, as that would ignore the huge influence that sound and presence has on story, and how different it is to be told a story aloud, rather than reading alone. Our live work-in-progress events will explore the overlaps between sound, voice, words and images, as well as fiction and non-fiction, and they will be relaxed, meaning people can move if they need to, tic if they need to, and relax and respond naturally.”

Becca Parkinson of Comma Press said: “We are so excited to be a part of this project, as we are big fans of Michelle and everyone involved. We are very much a press which supports showcasing marginalised stories and through our apps LitNav and MacGuffin we have tried to encourage these narratives to be told through digital storytelling. We can’t wait to see the results of this project.”

For further information, images and interviews please contact:

Abigail Ward – Production Manager
Haying Island – stories at sea level


Michelle Green is a writer and facilitator of multi-form storytelling, working in poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, spoken word and artist book making. Recent commissions include short stories for BBC Radio 4’s Border Crossing series, Protest! – a collection of short fiction and historical analysis from Comma Press, and the digital literary mapping app LitNav. Her critically acclaimed short story collection, Jebel Marra (Comma Press, 2015), was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award, and longlisted for the Polari, Edge Hill and Frank O’Connor prizes.

Maya Chowdhry is an inTer-aCtive artist, theatre-maker and Transmedia storyteller. She makes work for web, radio, film, live art, Installation and theatre, using digital storytelling and interactive theatre-making to create immersive and democratic experiences for audiences.

Caro C is an artist, engineer and facilitator in sound. Described as a “sonic enchantress” (BBC R3), she specialises in technology, voice and found sounds. Caro has released 3 albums, appeared on CBBC, toured Europe and performed at UK venues from RNCM to The Royal Institute of Science.

Dr David Cooper is Senior Lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University. A founding co-editor of Literary Geographies journal, he is increasingly researching the synergies and tensions between creative and critical approaches to place.


Arts Council England Hayling Island: stories at sea level is supported by Grants for the Arts, a National Lottery funded programme of work by Arts Council England

Also supported by: New Writing North | Durham Book Festival | Hayling & Havant Libraries | Comma Press | Commonword