The Arts Institute of the University of Plymouth came up with a splendid way to alleviate the dolours of lockdown: to get forty of the world’s best and brightest authors and artists to read, in turn, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Jeremy Irons and Glenn Brown led the way, followed by Jeanette Winterson and Lisa Wright, and in number forty (‘A sadder and a wiser man/ He rose the morrow morn’) is Alan Bennett, the illustration by Angela Cockayne. In between are Judy Collins, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Frances Barber and Hilary Mantel.
The blurb from The Arts Institute reads as follows:
Stars of the stage and screen, arts and music transform one of English Literature’s most celebrated poems, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
It is an epic tale of adventure, fear and fascination – a work of 18th century science fiction that has prophetic messages for the natural world, climate breakdown and mental health globally relevant in the 21st century. Free to access, it comprises 40 online broadcasts narrated by celebrity voices, each paired with a piece by a renowned contemporary artist.
This online digital artwork also includes scientific, cultural and personal commentary from friends of the Big Read such as Richard Holmes, Coleridge's biographer, and the University's Professor John Spicer. Visitors to the site can now enjoy the complete Big Read as one symphonic piece, edited with an atmospheric soundscape.
Commissioned by The Arts Institute, the Big Read is curated by director Dr Sarah Chapman, with writer Philip Hoare, and artist Angela Cockayne.
Other artists featured include Glenn Brown, Lisa Wright, Sarah Chapman and Linder.
Marine zoologist Professor John Spicer is the scientific advisor for the Ancient Mariner Big Read, here he recites the 35th broadcast of the project alongside artwork by Grace Schwindt, Hot and Copper Fire.
Throughout the project John also contributes scientific, cultural and personal commentary, commenting on the environmental lessons of Coleridge’s tale from the perspective of a marine zoologist.