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About Us, Paisley Abbey 1 to 6 March 2022

THE UK’S MOST AMBITIOUS CELEBRATION OF CREATIVITY OPENS TODAY WITH A THRILLING RIDE THROUGH 13.8 BILLION YEARS OF HISTORY 

UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of creativity taking place across the UK in 2022, launches today, 1 March, with About Us, a spectacular, free open-air event created by 59 Productions, The Poetry Society and Stemettes exploring 13.8 billion years of history through the infinite ways in which humans are connected to the cosmos, nature, and one another.

Opening at Paisley Abbey, Scotland, About Us will also be presented in Derry-Londonderry, Caernarfon, Luton and Hull and combines multimedia installations and live performance to immerse audiences in the history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the present day. At dusk, local landmarks are transformed into vast canvases combining awe-inspiring live projection-mapped animation with poetry, music, and live choirs, including a new score by Nitin Sawhney CBE and poetry by Llŷr Gwyn Lewis, Jen Hadfield, Jason Allen-Paisant, Khairani Barokka, Grug Muse and Stephen Sexton. 

By day, LED video installations will showcase the creativity of children and young people from schools across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales through poems and Scratch animations. In Scotland, audiences will congregate in the open air at Paisley Abbey with the 25-minute show presented through the evening from 7pm to 9.15pm until 6 March. 

About Us is the first of 10 major multi-site and digital creative projects commissioned as part of UNBOXED, an entirely free UK-wide programme, with events and activities stretching from the Outer Hebrides to Southampton, from Omagh to Swansea, and across traditional and online media until October. Each of the UNBOXED projects share new ideas and possibilities for the future and are the result of collaboration across science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. Arts organisations and designers, scientists and international research projects, tech companies and universities are amongst contributors forming new partnerships to develop and realise each project – hundreds of people have been employed as a result, including freelance creatives in addition to skills development opportunities and bursaries offered by the projects.

Martin Green CBE, Chief Creative Officer of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, said: 

About Us is the first of UNBOXED’s ten awe-inspiring major projects given life through creative collaboration across all sectors. As a result, they have created truly extraordinary audience experiences that will demonstrate the power of creativity and how important it will be to the way we work, live learn and play in the future. 

About Us dramatically touches on themes seen across all the UNBOXED projects, from mankind’s relationship with nature, responsibility for the environment and future possibilities for planet Earth to how people understand and interact with each other as individuals and communities. Everyone involved in making UNBOXED happen has been compelled to think about what is most important to all our futures and manifest this in projects designed to be fun and exciting, that will bring people together across the UK this year and provide inspiration for many years to come.” 

About Us has been created by the award-winning 59 Productions, one of the creative and technological forces behind the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony; Stemettes, an award-winning social enterprise working to inspire and support young women and non-binary people into science, technology, engineering and maths careers; and The Poetry Society, one of the UK’s most dynamic arts organisations. 

Lysander Ashton, Director of 59 Productions and Creative Director for About Us, said: 

About Us has been a unique collaborative process bringing together poets, scientists, musicians, visual artists and school children from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. All of these unique voices have contributed to create a dazzlingly rich composite view of the extraordinary universe we all share. About Us is an invitation to experience a world where you are made of stars, you’re built from a trillion intricate cells working in harmony, you are related to dinosaurs and you can make a connection to a billion people with the press of a button; it’s a celebration of some of the incredible things that make us, us, and I can’t wait for audiences to come and see it”.

The UNBOXED projects open throughout the year with activity taking place across the UK until October 2022. They also include: 

  • Dandelion, commissioned by EventScotland, a Scotland-wide project inspired by the global ‘grow-your-own’ movement, featuring Unexpected Gardens, vertical farms, free music festivals and plant giveaways that reimagines the harvest festival for the 21st century; 
  • Dreamachine, presented in the UK’s capital cities, an artwork experienced with your eyes closed that unlocks the power of the human mind; 
  • GALWAD: A Story from our Future, a transmedia experience that sees Wales propelled thirty years into the future, commissioned by CreativeWales; 
  • Green Space Dark Skies, with 20,000 ‘Lumenators’ creating outdoor artworks in 20 of the UK’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; 
  • Our Place in Space, a 10km sculpture trail scale model of the solar system designed by artist Oliver Jeffers including an interactive augmented reality app, commissioned by Belfast City Council; 
  • PoliNations will see giant fabricated trees and thousands of plants take over the centre of Birmingham, creating a colourful canopy for a festival of live performance including spoken word, music and drag; 
  • SEE MONSTER, a decommissioned North Sea offshore platform in Weston-super-Mare transformed into one of the UK’s largest public artworks; 
  • StoryTrails, which uses new developments in 3D internet technology and augmented and virtual reality to reveal the hidden and forgotten histories across 15 UK towns and cities; and 
  • Tour de Moon, a festival of nightlife and countercultures inspired by and created in collaboration with the Moon is travelling in convoy around England

UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK is funded and supported by the four governments of the UK and is commissioned and delivered in partnership with Belfast City Council, Creative Wales and EventScotland.

About Us opens the UNBOXED programme across the UK and is also the first of six events to be presented in Scotland in partnership with EventScotland including, Dandelion, which has been commissioned by EventScotland. 

Minister for Arts (HM government), Lord Parkinson, said: 

“I’m delighted this fantastic series of events is kicking off today in the historic town of Paisley. This opening performance will take people through an awe-inspiring trip through world history. 

“UNBOXED is about bringing people from across the UK together, and forms part of a fantastic year of creativity, renewal and excitement alongside Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.”

Permanent Secretary in the Department for Communities (Northern Ireland), Tracy Meharg, said: 

“I am delighted to see UNBOXED open in Scotland today. About Us kicks off the festival with a celebration of our creativity and talents, and the incredible world we live in. I have no doubt that the rest of the events will have a similar impact, and I look forward to experiencing the variety of programming taking place in Northern Ireland later this year, showcasing local creativity on a grand scale. 

“Science, technology and the arts, which unite across the UNBOXED programme, all depend upon creativity and the ability to see the world in new and different ways. This is a fantastic opportunity for our communities to come together, learn from each other and inspire each other for the future.”

Culture Minister (Scotland), Neil Gray, said:

“Scotland is a destination for world class cultural events and it is great that the Unboxed celebration of creativity is launching its programme at Paisley Abbey with the multi-media spectacular, About Us. 

The Scottish commission, Dandelion, will begin in April with a series of activities rolled out across the country as community groups come together to showcase the best of Scottish music and innovation.”

Deputy Minister for the Arts and Sport (Wales), Dawn Bowden, said:

“This year promises to be a celebration of creativity, based on co-creating, and involving communities right across Wales, and I’m delighted that the UNBOXED programme of events is starting on St David’s Day.

“It’s exciting to see some of the projects come to fruition and we look forward to welcoming the first of the UK commissions, About Us, to Caernarfon later this month. I’d encourage people to take a look at what’s going on their area and get involved in these inspirational projects.

“We’re also looking forward to Wales’ lead commission, GALWAD, which will be the finale of the whole UNBOXED programme in October.”

Central to UNBOXED are extensive learning and public participation opportunities, reaching hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, young people and communities. These opportunities include invitations to be a part of UNBOXED through school trips, lessons, competitions, community workshops and citizen science projects. There is a full suite of resources for teachers and continuing professional development as well as new employment and skills development opportunities for diverse young creatives and freelancers. There are also partnerships with the BBC, the British Council and the RSA (the royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce) to further global conversations about the importance of creativity and collaboration to shape better futures for people and planet.

Projects presented in Scotland are About Us (Paisley), Dandelion (Scotland-wide), Dreamachine (Edinburgh), Green Space Dark Skies (Scotland-wide), PoliNations (Edinburgh) and StoryTrails (Dundee and Dumfries). 

Projects in Northern Ireland include About Us (Derry-Londonderry), Dreamachine (Belfast), Green Space Dark Skies (Various locations), Our Place in Space (Derry-Londonderry and Belfast) and StoryTrails (Omagh). Projects in Wales include About Us (Caernarfon), Dreamachine (Cardiff), GALWAD: A Story from our Future (Blaenau Ffestiniog, Merthyr Tydfil, Swansea), Green Space Dark Skies and StoryTrails (Swansea, Newport).