Image: Phil Crow

Lincoln Castle is home to one of four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, a document which is generally recognised as the foundation of constitutional democracy and the source of many of the civil liberties enjoyed in free countries today. This weekend not only celebrated the eight hundredth anniversary of signing the historic document but the launch of, a digital platform which considers the relevance of the Magna Carta in the digital age as a stimulus for young people to to discover, debate and create. is a University of Lincoln initiative funded by an Arts Council England Exceptional Award, and will operate over the next 25 months culminating on 6 November 2017, 800 years on from the anniversary of the Magna Carta’s sister document, The Charter of the Forest. The platform will be managed by the young people who use it, featuring contributions from young people and contemporary artists which inspire debate on resonating principles of the Magna Carta in our digital age, learning resources from the British Library and polling by YouGov, and will be supported by six artist commissions.

The Castle’s recent refurbishment has brought the educational tools of the facility into the twenty first century, so what better place to launch an initiative which celebrates the possibilities of technology? Simon Hollingworth, previous Creative Director of the Drill Hall, was asked to devise the launch event which was held on Sunday 14 July in the Castle’s Victorian Prison. Promising the experience would be like walking through’s website, the audience were invited to walk through the prison cells discovering the history of the site through a variety of platforms. Amongst these featured, The Empty Throne, a film penned by A Younger Theatre’s previous Features Editor, Laura Turner, and performances from spoken words stars Mark Grist & MC Mixy, and singer songwriter Elliott Morris.

Hollingworth commented on how the theatre scene in Lincoln has evolved over the past 30 years in line with’s ambition to evolve and adapt the principles of the Magna Carta: “It’s not just about what goes on in those official venues now but this kind of thing, it just reflects the fact that there’s a subculture that exists here and it’s happening everywhere. So theatre will appear in the most unlikely of places, including here today.”

Indeed, despite this essentially being an educational school trip for several of the school groups in attendance, the theatricality of the experience appeared to make engage everybody. Advocate for the project, Phoebe Wall-Palmer described the digital platform as, “a creative way of engaging young people. I think people should be educated in using the internet in positive ways and hopefully projects like this will do this.” Project Manger of Lincolnshire One Venues (an organisation which aims to engage young people into the arts across Lincolnshire), Emily Bowman, supported this view, commenting, “making something creative, interacting with it kind of brings it to life a bit more because I think a lot of people think, 1215, that’s a long time ago, whereas actually…, it uses the creative arts to make it more relevant and accessible to young people.”

The launch event also revealed the a first of six artist commissions for the platform, Time for Rights, by digital artist Tim Kindberg, with a performance which used four synchronised mobiles to play four prisoners’ voices from four different prisons to reflect how technology can bring people together. Time For Rights will be an app that offers young people the opportunity to express their thoughts on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 12:15pm on International Youth Day, 12 August 2015 through creating short films. Hollingworth described the relevance of this digital call to arms:

“You probably can’t imagine a world without the internet, it’s part of everybody’s lives … it’s about creating the world we want…that’s what the message at the end of the app launch is about: this is up to you. You are the young generation, you are the most important people now…if you don’t like something you can change it. Hopefully this is a massively empowering message.”

Wall-Palmer concluded that, “I think the evening was a big success and I hope that people start debating, discussing and creating…it feels like Lincoln has started something brilliant here.” For locals, isn’t just putting Lincoln on the map culturally but it’s become the gateway to an internationally accessible digital platform. Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England acknowledges the ambition of “Exceptional awards are an opportunity for the Arts Council to invest in really outstanding ideas or opportunities of national significance which don’t come along every day…and this new digital platform will be an exciting place for cultural and artistic exchange for young people in Lincoln and beyond.”

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