The Evolution of Story: how story shapes our world

THE EVOLUTION OF STORY was a one-day symposium at Solent University on Wednesday, February 19th 2020. The symposium exploreed how from its origins to its contemporary forms – story shapes our world.

The symposium was organised by the team behind Cursed City Dark Tide, includes a panel with Matt Wingett, author of Thye Snow Witch. It asked questions about the nature of storytelling in the current age and offered a case study that examines the Cursed City project.

The Evolution of Story Panel 3: Cursed City – Dark Tide Case Study

From its origins in oral storytelling, cave drawings, dance and ritual, through the earliest forms of writing, then printing and now the various ubiquitous forms of modern communication, storytelling has always been a primary form of communicating ideas, expressing our intrinsic nature and for shaping our world.

Technology empowers storytellers to explore new mediums, methods and approaches. To step into the void and explore new ways of narrating stories. Increasingly storytelling is becoming more immersive and experiential.

Theatre, dance and other performative arts have embraced the immersive experience as a means of engaging with audiences. Technology offers possibilities for fully immersive and mixed reality experiences that push at the boundaries of conventional narrative forms. Transmedia ties together story experiences across multiple platforms and channels. While interactive media, games and television drama place audience choice at their heart.

This one-day symposium aimed to explore the ways in which story has evolved beyond the linear, the stage and the boundaries of the screen. It aimed to take the lid off new forms of storytelling and offer a snapshot of current practices.

The symposium asked:

  • Is story still king/queen?
  • Do we need new paradigms for thinking about story?
  • When does storytelling cross over to co-creation/story listening?
  • Is the traditional 3-act structure still relevant?
  • Does the Hero’s Journey still work if we no longer depend on one ‘hero’ and focus on a collective?

You can all the info you need here!

Meet the writers behind Cursed City – Dark Tide

As we draw towards the end of our story we would like to introduce you to the writers behind the story and the creators of our tale.

Their journey began some months ago with a series of writing workshops at Portsmouth University. At that time there were some 20 or so people involved but as the months progressed and the writing started this slowly dwindled to just a handful of committed creators.

They have been working almost constantly over the last few weeks to bring to life the story that was started all those months ago. We think it is rather special and those of you who have been following it will agree I am sure, that this is an unusual and possibly unique approach to storytelling. It’s not like a play where the lines are given to actors, nor is it a novel where the lines are committed to print. This is something else, it is evolving, spontaneous and captivating.

So please say a big thank you to this dedicated team of creators:


Eileen Phyall: lives in Southsea, she enjoys writing and performing short stories and poetry. She is a member of Portsmouth Writer’s Hub and Front Room Word and a committee member of T’Articulation, where she helps to organise and take part in spoken word events. Eileen has written for projects across the city such as the 200th celebration of Dickens and the Gallipoli Centenary. Currently her poem the Dockyard Gate can be found in a short film on the new DarkSide PortSide trail. TeaTray Creatives was formed by Eileen, this year it meets weekly for fellow writers to read, give and receive feedback on their work.


Mark Eyles: at 1981 company Quicksilva Mark Eyles was prominent in the UK games industry, working at incorporating storytelling in games. He was then a freelancer, entrepreneur and joined Rebellion as Head of Design. He wrote series for ‘2000 AD’ and ‘Sonic the Comic’ and was published in Fear magazine. 2003 – 2019 he established and ran games courses at the University of Portsmouth, founding Women in Games in 2004. He is an advisor to games trade association TIGA and was awarded TIGA Person of the Year in 2017. He now splits his time between the games industry and writing.


Christine Lawrence: a member of Titchfield Festival Theatre, Christine has acted, directed, organised the wardrobe and worked behind the bar.  She has published two novels: Caught in the Web and Payback and a collection short stories, Moments of Darkness, many of which she has performed at events in Portsmouth.  She is published in Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grownups, Day of the Dead, Star and Crescent’s Pompey Writes, 2012 – Writers to Watch.  One of the founder members of Portsmouth’s spoken word group – T’Articulation, she has organised several spoken word events in the past two years.


Kim Balouch: I make abstract visual interpretations of sounds, feelings, dreams and thoughts. Writing creatively is also something I’d like to do more of but I struggle to keep a reign on my thoughts long enough to put them together in some sort of semblance. When a series of workshops on collaborative writing, gamification of stories and transmedia storytelling popped into my Facebook newsfeed, I was intrigued. I signed up and I’m now a part of the Cursed City production team and learning so much in the process. In between working full-time and following my creative pursuits, I run a record label with my partner. I manage the social media pages and also make promotional videos for all the releases.


Elena Sommers: is a visually impaired children’s story author, who wrights the most captivating fairy-tales for kids, (age between 3 and 12). Her stories are about: Kings, Queens, princesses, forces of nature, fairies, gnomes, goblins and elves. Each story has enchanted objects for instance: magic stones, flying broomsticks, invisibility elixirs, teleportation taxis or a wishing fish. They encourage the young readers to dive into magical worlds of fairy tale and experience for themselves the enchantments of reading.


Matt Wingett: is a writer, publisher and public speaker. A former scriptwriter on ITV’s police show The Bill, he has written short stories, local history and novels. He is the author of Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light, 1887-1920, Portsmouth A Literary and Pictorial Tour, The Snow Witch, and Mysteries of Portsmouth. He republishes classic local history books, and has produced an acclaimed facsimile of the scarce first edition of Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet. His collaborations with other writers include Day of the Dead, Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups, Dark City and Pompey Writes.

Check out the Facebook page for more information and updates when Cursed City – Dark Tide launches this October.

Cursed City – Dark Tide is funded by Arts Council England to produce a transmedia story experience that will be delivered this autumn as part of Darkfest 2019.


The Snow Witch Art Exhibition Opening and Preview

Not your average evening at Cascades shopping centre.

As I walked from my taxi to the entrance of Cascades on a dark autumnal evening it became clear this was not going to be your usual exhibition opening. A mysterious black-clad woman is playing the violin outside in the deserted shopping precinct, a few hardy souls are watching rapt. Where have they come from?

On reaching the entrance I’m offered my drink of choice, a cold white wine, by a charmingly dressed smiling young man. There’s music playing, dozens of people are smiling and chatting, there are cameras, lights, action! A strange man is offering Tarot readings, a beautiful woman is singing and playing the guitar and spooky tales are being told.

What is going on here?

An empty unit in a city centre shopping mall has been transformed into a magical wonderland by a dedicated team of writers, artists, musicians and performers from Portsmouth and beyond and this is all in response to a shout out by local blacksmith artist Lucille Scott for artists to create a piece of work inspired by the Portsmouth based novel The Snow Witch by writer and historian Matt Wingett. Over 40 artists have taken part and the venue is filled with amazing, beautifully displayed and lit, original work from across the spectrum, fine art, sculpture, glasswork, gilding, poetry, film but that isn’t all…

Suddenly a row erupts, the mysterious violinist from outside is yelling at the strange man with the tarot cards, the room goes silent… she is furious…why is this?All I can tell you is that it is the launch and part of the annual extravaganza of all things dark and the underworld, PORTSMOUTH DARKFEST, in association with transmedia storytelling project CURSED CITY-DARK TIDE. The exhibition will be open for three weeks and runs alongside dozens of events and happenings on the streets of Portsmouth.

To find out more, and become part of the story, just follow those links!


Cursed City – Dark Tide: be part of the story!

  • Join the group…
  • Solve the puzzle…
  • Save the city from a crazed and vengeful spirit!

Cursed City – Dark Tide invites you to be part of the story. Meet the characters who will guide you on your journey as you try and save the city from a lost soul, trapped between life and death. Until this soul is released the city of Portsmouth is in grave danger. Only you can save it!

Join the Cursed City Against the Tide Facebook group and meet the team. They have been collecting stories about this dangerous and confused spirit for many months and they have lots to tell you.

Read the Dark Tide Dossier that has already been collated and get up to speed on what has been happening in the city these past months. The stories in the FREE downloadable booklet are not for the faint-hearted, they will tell tales that you will have your hair standing on end.

Meet the men and women who are working to save the city from an impending doom:

Carys Llangibby

Carys Llangibby SQSingle, Welsh ex-detective with a tragic past. You’ll find Carys talking conspiracy theories with anyone who’ll listen down at her local pub. She’s on a mission to find out why people keep going missing in the town.

Amie Pannet

Amie Pannet SQFun-loving, loves music, often seen at Astoria dancing and drinking Snakebite. Will read Tarot for anyone who asks but her interest in the mystical and spiritual world may have drawn her into the darker side of these crafts.

Glenda Blake

Glenda Blake SQBarmaid, crystal healer and Mother figure, runs the King Street Tavern almost single headedly (she thinks). Searching for her roots which may be in Southsea or Poland.

Conor Reynolds

Conor Reynolds SQWould like to be a full-time magician and be accepted into the Magic Circle. He is kind but sceptical. He loves solving puzzles and believes there is a rational, logical answer for everything.

Andre Nikolaev

Andrei Nikoleav SQThoughtful cabbie Andy (Andrei) is overflowing with mysteries and conspiracies. Has spent his life trying to find out what happened to his mother, who vanished in the mid-80s while working for the Ukrainian nuclear programme.

Catherine Bastet

Cat Bastet SQMystic, tarot reading cat whisperer, a wannabe Ancient Goddess often to be seen talking to her cats. Her thoughts can often appear cryptic to those who don’t know here but those who do, say she is worth taking a moment to listen to.

Donitza Kravitch

Donitza Kravitch SQA traveller with a magic touch Donitza can often be seen busking around town, brightening up the city with her fiery Balkan music. Schooled in the ancient arts by her mother, her life was torn from her at an early age.


lissitch SQWannabe street artist, shapeshifter, old god, a trickster who enjoys a bit of mayhem from time to time. Has a message for the people of Portsmouth if they can only just decode his cryptic clues in time.

Check out the Facebook page for more information and updates when Cursed City – Dark Tide launches this October.

Cursed City – Dark Tide is funded by Arts Council England to produce a transmedia story experience that will be delivered this autumn as part of Darkfest 2019.


Cursed City Dark Tide – meet the cast!

As we get closer to unleashing our tale upon the city of Portsmouth we thought you might like to meet a few of the cast members. Amongst other things, there are plans for a few immersive theatrical experiences that will form part of the story. Moments when you might encounter our characters in real life and really become part of the story!

We have already started working with the cast to develop these encounters and they are a really enthusiastic and talented group of people. The Cursed City team are extremely proud top have the opportunity to work with them and we hope you will enjoy meeting them.

Cursed City – Dark Tide Theatrical Cast


Natalie is a professional contemporary dancer who graduated from Chichester University in 2013 with a BA and MA in Dance. Since then she has performed nationally and internationally with MCDC, Nexus Dance Theatre, Manic Stage Productions and Hayley Barker. Alongside her performing, she teaches and choreographers in a wide variety of educational and community settings. 


Hana Maria is a New Zealand-born violinist, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. She moved to England at twelve, where she studied at The Purcell School, leaving to pursue a career as a session musician and in rock bands, most notably with her own project Hana Piranha. She tours the UK and abroad incessantly and has played venues ranging from Wigmore and Royal Festival Hall to Wembley and 02 Arenas.


Scott Jowett is a former professional musician with UK festival tours and Irish national TV and radio appearances under his belt. More recently, Scott has won best actor in the DV Missions 48 Hour film challenge, an event which he has since MC’d for in the past three years. This role typically combines hosting, acting and dancing. With all this, plus stand-up comedy appearances, a live solo performance piece as Mephistopheles, live poker tournament wins – Scott Jowett can easily be considered a fearless performer on any stage, at any table, for any reason.


A recent musical theatre graduate who trained at the University of Portsmouth. Brittany is always dedicated to any role she is given and has a wide set of skills and interests when it comes to performance work, including immersive, children’s theatre, scare acting, voice-over and much more. Since receiving her first class degree, she quickly dove headfirst into jump starting her acting career, landing roles within projects in the area as well as outside of Portsmouth. Most recently getting involved in a touring pantomime company in which she will star as Dusty the Dame in a production of Beauty and the Beast commencing in late November. Not only that she is now represented by the well-known agency Buzz Talent and is looking forward to all the opportunities that await her. 


A long-serving member of Titchfield Festival Theatre, Christine has acted, directed, organised the wardrobe and even worked behind the bar.  She was previously a psychiatric nurse and now is proud to be known as an author, with two novels to her name as well as a collection short stories and poems, many of which she has performed at events in Portsmouth including Dark Fest, Book Fest, Victorious and Portsmouth Festival.  Her work is published in Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grownups, Day of the Dead, Portsmouth’s Star and Crescent, Pompey Writes – The best of Star and Crescent, 2012 – Writers to Watch.  She is one of the founder members of Portsmouth’s spoken word group – T’Articulation and she has organised several spoken word events in the past two years.

Check out the Facebook page for more information and updates when Cursed City – Dark Tide launches this October.

Cursed City – Dark Tide is funded by Arts Council England to produce a transmedia story experience that will be delivered this autumn as part of Darkfest 2019.