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26 May 2020

Ancient Mariner Big Read

Ancient Mariner Big Read

Stars of the stage and screen, arts and music 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.

The Ancient Mariner Big Read – commissioned by The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth – brings together renowned public figures, artists and scientists, including Beth Gibbons, to retell the poem for a modern audience. The 150-verse poem has been divided into 40 readings, with readers including Tilda Swinton, Cerys Matthews, Ali Smith and Beth recording a sequence of three to four verses that are available to listen to as one symphonic piece with a specially designed soundscape by Jay Auborn.

The 40 readings are accompanied by works from artists who have interpreted the themes through perspectives such as ecology and the environment, colonialism, morality, and human vulnerability. Artist Nadav Kander’s photograph Water 111, England, which accompanies Beth’s reading, is pictured.

The project has been curated by author Philip Hoare, artist Angela Cockayne and Dr Sarah Chapman, Director of The Arts Institute.

To listen to Beth reading, visit

or go to Spotify