About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Alternarratives: winner announcement

We set out to find the UK’s most exciting proposals for a new form of short storytelling for 11-16 year olds, and in the process, uncovered geocaching trails, Shakespeare AI, ancient dialects, missing persons and everything in between (alongside a global pandemic and a few pivots).

From our shortlisted nine, we used public feedback from BBC Taster and worked with an expert panel to help select the final winners:

Gavin Inglis, The Reader Remix
Winner - £15,000
The Reader Remix tells the story of an up and coming DJ en route to a party. The audience is invited to follow characters on a journey and to make their own soundtrack. Gavin plans to develop his story and make the code behind it open source so others can add their own stories and music to the platform, further expanding the experience.

“Lots of people believe music-making is out of their reach. With The Reader Remix, I wanted to make the reader an active participant in the story of a first-time DJ; creating the backing track themselves without needing any previous experience. It was such a privilege to have time and support to work on this, particularly as the pandemic hit. Everybody at Nesta was so encouraging and there was a community spirit among the longlisted creators. It was fascinating to see the other projects develop from concept to prototype. Watch out for them.”

Rachael Hodge & Felicity Brown, WillPlay Romeo & Juliet
Runner Up - £2,000
WillPlay’s Romeo & Juliet is an interactive and contemporary take on Shakespeare, where the famous story is retold through the medium of text messages. Audiences can be part of the story and influence the characters, whilst watching the drama unfold.

“Without Alternarratives, WillPlay would still be a short, glitchy pilot chat and a few pencil sketches. Nesta's programme not only provided the financial support to make the project possible, but also gave us the creative guidance, encouragement and impetus we needed to turn an idea into an interactive story that we hope young people will enjoy. We're so thrilled to have been part of the first ever cohort!”

Thomas McMullan, The Unsettled Ground
Highly Commended - £1,000
The Unsettled Ground starts as the title promises - dramatically. The last documents of the journalist Angus Bead are shared. They reveal that a small town in Cornwall has been wiped off the map, and the participant must unravel what happened by searching through Bead’s articles, diaries, notes, strange stories and troubling testimony.

“As a writer, it has been a privilege to be involved with a programme so open to different ways of thinking about text. The workshops with authors and artists, including Lucy Christopher and Duncan Speakman, encouraged a range of approaches to making literature for young people and I very much enjoyed playing with these ideas alongside - if only virtually - the other writers. It has been a pleasure to be part of the first Alternarratives cohort.”

Creative innovation unlocked

Our expert panel felt the cohort had collectively demonstrated a great breadth of storytelling and creativity. This was a steep learning curve for the writers - their first attempt at this kind of work - and they have shown the true potential of these types of platforms.

"There should not be a wall between creatives and code. If you can enable people from the arts to embrace technology, then powerful innovation is unlocked."

Sara O’Connor, Consonance.app and BookPenPals (Expert selection panel)

We have been so impressed with the inventiveness, ingenuity and resilience of all the shortlisted creators. The nine final projects showed us that we could generate genuinely new content, and the format helped support the creatives to take risks and explore what new formats make possible, as proven with the three winning projects which offer completely different experiences. We also think the projects show real promise to engage teenagers who might be losing interest in reading (or writing!), and would love to do more work to investigate this. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who entered, our brilliant steering group and the expert panel who brought a range of skills and expertise to decide our final winner and runners up.

You can find all the winners alongside the full cohort of projects on BBC Taster until September 2021.

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Fran Sanderson

Fran Sanderson

Fran Sanderson

Director of Arts Programmes and Investments

Alongside heading up the Arts, Culture and Creativity team, Fran also has primary responsibility for the Arts Impact Fund.

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Rachael Bull

Rachael Bull

Rachael Bull

Programme Manager

Rachael was the Programme Manager for Arts & Culture Finance.

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