The Ancient Mariner Big Read and John Hansard Gallery’s online arts recommendations

In the week that we welcome students back to a new term at University of Southampton, we’ve got a veritable toolbox of cultural wellbeing goodies lined up for you to dive in to. Though so much has changed, we’re #InThisTogether and here to help you relax with your culture fix.

In our first blog post of the term, we share details of an amazing online cultural project hot-off-the-press – The Ancient Mariner Big Read – launched this weekend. We also bring you a top 5 choice of online cultural encounters to be had, selected by the team at the University’s own John Hansard Gallery – enjoy! Stay tuned for another top 5 recommendations from the team at Turner Sims, coming up later in the week.

The Ancient Mariner Big Read

John Hansard Gallery, part of University of Southampton, is pleased to be a partner for The Ancient Mariner Big Read, curated by author Philip Hoare (Professorial Fellow in English, University of Southampton), artist Angela Cockayne and Sarah Chapman (Director of The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth).

Launched on Saturday 18 April, stars of UK stage, screen, music and the arts are helping to transform one of English Literature’s most celebrated poems for the digital age.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an epic tale of adventure, fear and fascination; a work of 18th Century science fiction that has prophetic messages for the natural world, climate breakdown and mental health globally relevant in the 21st Century. 

Over the coming forty days, The Ancient Mariner Big Read will broadcast daily online readings from the poem, featuring readings by actor and activist Jeremy Irons, alongside recordings by Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, Hilary Mantel, Marianne Faithfull and Lemn Sissay, plus many more familiar voices. On Thursday 28 May, the final poem will be available to listen to as one symphonic piece.   

Free to access online, the project is accompanied by stunning artworks from international contemporary artists who have also responded to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The result is an inclusive work of audio and visual art, which reflects the sweeping majesty of Coleridge’s poem.

The Ancient Mariner Big Read follows the hugely successful Moby-Dick Big Read first broadcast in 2012, which has since gathered over 10 million views. 

This project also corresponds with a touring exhibition – Mariner: a painted ship upon a painted ocean – opening at John Hansard Gallery later this year, previously shown at The Levinsky Gallery, University of Plymouth and The Edge, Andrew Brownsword Gallery in Bath.

Online Arts Top 5: John Hansard Gallery recommends…

1. Spotify Playlist by Haroon Mirza 

Haroon Mirza is a fantastic artist but also a fantastic DJ. First created in 2019 to celebrate Elephant Magazine’s tenth birthday, here’s a playlist from Mirza to get your (house) party started!

2. Lindsay Seers interview on Tate Shots

John Hansard Gallery showed the work of artist Lindsay Seers earlier this year. Here, Lindsey talks to Tate about the captivating relationship between subject and object in photography in her work. 

3. Philip Hoare: I was a Dark Star Always

In 2018, John Hansard Gallery presented writer and University of Southampton professor Philip Hoare’s film I was a dark star always, a new work marking the centenary of the death of the WW1 poet Wilfred Owen. The film, written by Hoare and directed by Adam Low, incorporates readings by actor Ben Whishaw of letters and poems by Owen, filmed at key locations from his life. Read more and view the full film here.

Look out for more Philip coming up in April as The Big Read launches across the UK.

4. Stair/Slide/Space’s Invisible Tour

John Hansard Gallery Associate Artists Stair/Slide/Space created this interactive sound piece in 2018, developed through interviews with our staff and visitors based on descriptions of feelings, sensations and experiences of past exhibitions and artworks at the Gallery.

5. Sean Lynch: A Murmur, Repeated, review by The Irish Times

John Hansard Gallery showed Sean Lynchs exhibition, A Murmur Repeated, back in the summer of 2019. It has since toured in 2020 to Kevin Kananagh gallery in Dublin, where The Irish Times reviewed the work.


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Arts at University of Southampton

Whether you’re a student, staff or from our wider community, there are plenty of exciting cultural opportunities for everyone through Arts at University of Southampton.

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