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The Unsettled Ground trailer
Try it 10 months left
Unravel the secrets of Pentowan, a seaside town where the ground has been shifting beneath young people’s feet. A file lands on your desktop: the last documents of the journalist Angus Bead. Draw your own connections. Read like a detective.
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The Inside Story

The Unsettled Ground was created by Thomas McMullan as part of Alternarratives, a Nesta led programme to help writers explore innovation in short-form storytelling. Nesta are collaborating with BBC Taster to help test the experiences - please view, rate and give us your feedback above.

What is it?

The Unsettled Ground is an interactive story, told using a fictional computer desktop belonging to a BBC journalist. You are that journalist, and you have been given a job by your editor to search through documents belonging to your lost colleague, Angus Bead.

As well as email, chat, notes and photos, you have access to interviews with four teenagers. But these interviews are fragmented. To make sense of what has been happening in Pentowan, you will need to search for words using the iTranscribe app on the BBC journalist’s desktop. For example, type ‘earthquake’ into iTranscribe and see what happens…

Do I need to read everything?

No, although you can if you want to. Your editor has given you around ten minutes to learn as much as possible. You can spend longer than this if you want to, but it is perfectly okay to finish at your deadline. The Unsettled Ground is designed for you to draw your own connections and come to your own conclusions.

If you know someone else that has played The Unsettled Ground, perhaps you could discuss what you found. You might have come across different things - or have different interpretations of what happened in Pentowan.

Who are you?

I am Thomas McMullan. My debut novel - The Last Good Man - is due to be published by Bloomsbury in November 2020. I have written for publications including the Guardian, BBC News, Frieze, Times Literary Supplement and Sight and Sound. I have had fiction and poetry published by Lighthouse, 3:AM Magazine, The Stockholm Review and Cours de Poétique, and in Best British Short Stories. I have also worked with visual artists, game studios and theatre companies

The programming and engineering behind The Unsettled Ground was made by Rik Chilvers. He has worked in education for over ten years, has a MSc in Psychology of Education and currently plans support for students with special needs. He writes code in his spare time.

More about Alternarratives

Nesta ran an open call for bold, creative ideas that explore new ways to tell a story and push the boundary of how we consume literature and engage 13-16 year olds with reading. This was a chance for writers to consider the future of storytelling and make use of new technologies or formats.

Nesta provided nine creators with bursaries and bespoke support to make their ideas a reality - now we need your help to pick a winner. BBC Taster and Nesta are asking the public to test, rate and provide feedback on the live projects.

Anyone can view them and have your say on who wins, but we’re specifically encouraging 13-16 year olds to tell us how they engaged with the works. We will view the public feedback with an expert panel to help select the final winner.

Find out more about the programme.

The Unsettled Ground