Unboxed Festival plans to showcase “creativity at the heart of the everyday”

The cultural festival will take place between March and October in 2022, and features high profile commissions involving the likes of Assemble and Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun.

The organisers of Unboxed Festival – previously known by the placeholder name Festival 2022 – have revealed details about its event, which will engage more than 600 creatives across 10 projects over the course of 2022.

Festival 2022 was originally commissioned by Theresa May’s government. Because of its origins, it has been colloquially referred to it as a “Festival of Brexit”, under the impression its programme will be politically motivated.

Launching Unboxed, however, chief creative officer Martin Green said the event was about “bringing people together”, and “celebrating creativity”. Green – who was in charge of the Olympic ceremonies for London 2012 and Hull’s City of Culture programme – also mentioned the programme would be beneficial for students and young people, as well as creating jobs and skills development opportunities across the four countries of the UK.

10 projects in total

A line-up of high-profile designers and studios were announced for the festival earlier this year, including Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun and Turner Prize-winning spatial designers at Assemble.

Some 30 projects were initially shortlisted for inclusion in the festival, and were funded through a three-month R&D phase. A total of 10 have since been chosen for the final line-up.

These projects will appear across the UK, and will also be available to be engaged with via traditional broadcast and digital platforms too, according to Green.

A visualisation of About Us

About Us

The festival will kick off in March 2022 with About Us, a project taking place across Paisley in Scotland, Derry-Londonderry, Caernarfon, Luton and Hull. It is billed as a “journey through 13.8 billion years of our history”.

About Us will combine live shows and multimedia installations, designed and produced by design studio 59 Products and in collaboration with Stemettes and the Poetry Society. Using the five towns and cities as large canvases, the project will utilise bespoke animations, project mapping and sound to “transform buildings and landmarks”, Green says.

Additionally, an outdoor installation will incorporate submissions from a UK-wide poetry and computer coding competition for children and young people.

A visualisation of Dreamachine


Taking up residence across the UK’s four capital cities, Dreamachine is a project inspired by radical artist Brion Gysin’s 1959 invention of the same name. The homemade “dreamachine” was a flickering light device designed to creative vivid illusions in the mind of the view and is considered to be the first artwork to be experienced with closed eyes.

Assemble has partnered with composer Jon Hopkins and scientists and philosophers from Glasgow and Sussex Universities to develop a “radically reimagined” participatory programme inspired by the original Dreamachine. Director for Dreamachine Jennifer Crook says the project “will engage audiences across ages and cultures in a powerful new kind of collective experience”.

“The rich kaleidoscopic visuals created by the Dreamachine will come from within, providing a magical insight into the extraordinary potential of our own minds,” she explains. “Beyond the confines of screens or devices, our programme will creatively explore the most fundamental of human connections: how we perceive and create the world around us.”

A rendering of Green Space Dark Skies

Green Space Dark Skies

One of the most ambitious projects of the festival comes from a collaboration between outdoor arts group Walk the Plank and technology company Siemens. Their project Green Space Dark Skies is a nod to the 1932 Kinder Scout mass trespass, an act that led to the establishment of access rights to the countryside.

The project will engage the help of 20,000 participants from across the UK. Known as “Luminators”, they will be recruited from local communities and equipped with handheld lights that make moving pictures across the landscape.

The tech has been developed by Siemens, and uses geo positioning to animate the lights, so that each light can be known in relation to the others. The large-scale images that the collective lights will produce will be available to see online from April.

A visualisation of Tour de Moon’s convoy

Other projects

Our Place in Space will feature a 10 kilometre sculpture trail in Northern Ireland and Cambridge, designed by Oliver Jeffers. The sculpture trail will depict a scale model of our solar system, and will use an interactive augmented reality app, as well as offering learning and events programmes.

Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun’s project Tour de Moon aims to open “conversations about future utopias” through its own mini programme of festivals, satellite events and nightlife experiences. The designer says all work will be produced “in collaboration with the moon”, and will result in a new musical genre. As part of the work, she has launched an open call today, and will award bursaries across eight programming strands including sport, publishing, filmmaking and debate.

Meanwhile in Birmingham, PoliNations will see a “monumental pop-up forest garden” planted in the centre of the city. The forest will begin with a single tree in Edinburgh, and will “grow” into an immersive forest filled with architectural and real trees, as well as plants, grasses and flowers grown with local communities.

Our Place in Space rendering

“The future is about combining STEAM”

One of the claims made by Green is that Unboxed will support and engage young people and students. When asked about how this fits in with a government narrative that is currently disenfranchising arts education, he said he hopes this event will be part of a wider conversation around education.

“One of the aims of this will be to break down the walls that exist between science, tech, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) and to increasingly see them together as we travel through this fourth digital revolution,” Green says. He adds that the projects will be working with schools and universities all year to see how subjects can be combined in new ways.

“The future is about combining STEAM,” Green says.

To find out more about Unboxed, and to get involved, visit the unboxed2022.uk website.

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