Unlocking the lost voices of pioneering female writers in new augmented reality experience at Exeter
The captivating stories of female writers whose work lies in Exeter Library’s “cage” have been brought to life in a new augmented reality installation. “Unlocking the Cage” has been researched, written and narrated by first female James Bond author Kim Sherwood and launches on International Women’s Day, 8 March. It can be experienced for free at Exeter Library.
Exeter Library’s special collections lie below the library floor in what is known as “the cage”. Out of 800 books in the collection, only 8 are written by women. Unlocking the Cage is an immersive visual and audio journey through the lives and works of four of these women, whose books reside within the “cage”.
The installation features a uniquely designed book which viewers use to navigate their journey. With each turn of the page, a new chapter begins on the screen, breathing life into the intricate illustrations.
Unlocking the Cage has been researched, written and narrated by award-winning author Kim Sherwood. Kim, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2019, is known for her award-winning debut novel Testament, and has been selected to expand upon the 007 universe as the first woman to write a James Bond novel with her upcoming trilogy later this year.
Of Unlocking the Cage, Kim Sherwood said: “Though there are only eight books written by women in the Cage, these few names represent a long revolution, from the rise of Bluestocking salons to the campaign for female suffrage. Immersing myself in the lives of these pioneering women connected me to a line of writers stretching back to the eighteenth century. I’m thrilled to bring their inspiring stories into the now with this exciting collaboration.”
You can experience Unlocking the Cage for free at Exeter Library, from Tuesday 8th March for 6 weeks during library opening hours. The exhibit can be enjoyed alone, or in groups of up to 4 people at a time and takes approximately 28 minutes to complete.
Daniel Clark, Creative Director of Libraries Evolve, said: “We are really pleased to be sharing these women’s stories at Exeter Library on International Women’s Day and beyond, and to showcase the innovative work of the artists involved in creating this moving experience.”
He added, “Anyone can come along and discover the story behind these incredible writers. Just visit Exeter library and take a seat at the installation. You are in control of your own experience, turning the pages of the specially designed book to start a new chapter. The stunning illustrations are brought to life on a screen with the fantastic accompanying audio narration – Unlocking the Cage is a unique experience, not to be missed.”
Kim Sherwood worked with composers John Matthias and Jay Auborn, illustrator Sarita McNeil, creative audio company dBs Pro, and the Augmented Reality developer Zubr Curio to bring the stories to life in the innovative installation.
The four writers featured in the augmented reality book are:
- Elizabeth Montagu (1718–1800), critic and host to literary salons
- Elizabeth Carter (1717–1806), poet and translator
- Lady Rosalind Northcote (1873 – 1950), nature and place writer
- Ethel Lega-Weekes (1864 – 1949), historian
Selected works by these trailblazing authors will be available to view as a part of the exhibit.
Unlocking the Cage launches alongside Redressing the Balance, which is an online interactive showcase – curated by artist and producer Becca Gill – championing the work and contributions of women and non-binary writers and artists. Whereas Unlocking the Cage features the work of women who have been unseen in 19th and 20th century culture, Redressing the Balance adds to this with the work and influences of women and non-binary people, who have to fight hard for their space to be heard and seen in the present and for the future.
Redressing the Balance will include profiles of the women featured in Kim’s research and the Unlocking the Cage augmented reality experience, but this is just the starting point for the online archive making the work of women and non-binary artists of the past, present and future more visible. Redressing the Balance will be available to access online via from International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th March.
Libraries Unlimited is the charity responsible for running Devon and Torbay Libraries. Unlocking the Cage is just one of the activities in the wide Libraries Unlimited cultural offering. Evolve is delivered in partnership with artists and communities and funded by Arts Council England and Exeter City Council.
For further details about Evolve and future events, please visit
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