Maya Chowdhry

Story Trail | Online

Experience the Story Trail from wherever you are in the world.

Story episode delivered via augmented realityTravel to Manchester’s waterways and historic buildings via episodes of Tales from the Towpath. Discover hidden, lost and imagined lives of the city. New mythologies are created and, whether you believe them or not, thrive.

Lives intersect like flotsam, like the past that washes up again and again. Two futures are possible: one where water is at risk and the world turns upside down, or one where nature proves her power.

For the full digital experience you will need to download Zappar and Geocaching apps to your mobile device, wear headphones and view the map below in a desktop browser.

click the map to start the story trail



GeocachingTales from the Towpath is an immersive literature work, sited in Manchester, the Story Trail is available until the end of 2014.

If you are reading this located in Manchester you can follow the self-guided Story Trail.

About The Project



Tales from the Towpath is a story of Manchester waterways and their ecological fate. It spans the Victorian city to an uncertain future 50 years from now. Three characters circle one another across time.

Danny, a bargeman, transports raw cotton for 19th century mills. Decades later, as an eminent Manchester businessman Daniel Adamson, he orchestrated the building of the Bridgewater Canal. As his next incarnation, in 2014, Dan is a prospector, looking for the next big thing in energy solution. Adamson appears 50 years from now, as a successful marine biologist with big ideas and questionable ethics.

Tib Aberforth is spirited. Seemingly as irrepressible as water, and as imperfect as a Greek goddess. Once an indentured slave, then a zero-hour contract worker turned hydro-activist, her strange biology is advantageous to her, if troublesome to others. She takes the weight of the world on her shoulders, and is determined to do her bit for human and marine-kind, whatever the cost.

A Canal Shark lurks in the water beneath bridges and round the brick bends of the city canals…but is it really so sinister? Its origin is surrounded by myth. Since the first sighting at the end of the 19th century, the original Canal Shark has been joined by more. In present day Manchester, the Canal Sharks flourish, and begin to negotiate their way in a human world.

Augmented Reality | The weight bridge

Augmented Reality | The weight bridge

Transmedia Elements

Geocaching, augmented reality, micro-elements and a live performance fused to tell the story.

The geocaches explored the past of the story, the zap codes the future, and the performance linked the two by revealing the decision made that informed this future…

The microprojection and origami boat presented the flux and connection of the characters in the canals, waterways and landmark buildings that formed the environment of the story.



Michelle Green performing

Michelle Green performing

Tales from the Towpath | Manchester Literature Festival 2014

Tales from the Towpath premiered at the 2014 Manchester Literature Festival: the storytrail was available to the public from 6 October, culminating with the performance on 17 October. Two workshops in immersive writing were held, on 12 and 18 October, and the micro-print publication was distributed around the city from 6 October. Micro-projections appeared around the landmarks of Manchester’s waterways. Free guided tours of the storytrail were offered nearly every day during the two-week festival season. The content from all of the story elements is now accessible via the online version


Augmented reality via Zappar

Augmented reality via Zappar


Audiences came across these elements visiting historic buildings significant to the story. These formed the backdrop to the history of Manchester’s waterways and the character’s decisions.


Maya Chowdhry, Michelle Green, Sarah Hymas and Helen Varley Jamieson collaborated to make Tales from the Towpath, an immersive literature work for Manchester Literature Festival 2014.

maya chowdhryMaya Chowdhry is an award-winning writer and inTer-aCtive artist making work for radio, print and installation. Previous work includes ‘destinyNation’ an interactive poetic tapestry for the web. Kaahini was nominated for Best Children’s Theatre: Writers Guild Awards. She’s currently writing an immersive multimedia story for B Arts that is touring libraries and arts venues in Stoke-on-Trent.


M Green 2012Michelle Green is a multi-disciplinary artist specialising in poetry, spoken word, short fiction and participatory arts. Her writing and performance explores community, environment, and conflict, with some of her work recently featured in Short Fiction Journal and the ‘beautifully intuitive’ digital-mapping story app LitNav. Her debut collection of short fiction, ‘Jebel Marra’, is due from Comma Press this autumn.


sarah-hymasSarah Hymas is a writer, specialising in poetry, performance and artists’ books. Her writing has appeared in print, multimedia exhibits, dance videos, lyrics, pyrotechnical installations and on stage. She has performed with musicians, singers and other writers. ‘Host’, her poetry collection, is published by Waterloo Press. Her artist’s booklet ‘Lune’ (2013) was runner-up in the Sabotage Awards and featured in The Guardian Books Blog as an excellent example of the form.


Helen Varley Jamiesonhelen is a digital artist, theatre practitioner and writer. Recent projects include We Have a Situation!, a series of networked performances and discussions addressing topical issues in Europe, and make-shift, which connected participants in two geographically separate houses with audiences around the world via a public online interface to discuss issues of disposability and consumerism in domestic and global contexts.


Here are a collection of reviews of Tales from the Towpath:

writing immersive stories workshop

Writing immersive stories workshop

Writer Sarah Jasmon went along to both Tales from The Towpath workshops and sent in these reviews to Manchester Literature Festival:




Using Zappar to explore story episodes

Using Zappar to explore story episodes

Sarah Walters from MEN met Maya Chowdhry at The Bridgewater Basin to discuss how Tales from the Towpath was conceived, it’s aims and her obsession with water.


Audience Feedback

I loved the interwoven voices of the story from performers, from the audience and from the participants of the trail. Please, more of this fantastic project from beginning to end: trail, performance, and the workshops. Very complete!

“My favourite moment of the performance was the combo of darkness and motion of the boat gently rocking to immerse you into the story further.”

I enjoyed it all. The origami boat was a good teaser for things to come. The guided tour was great because I needed some help with the technology, and the guide was very clear and made it all very easy to use. The story trail was great fun. Reading the stories made the locations come alive. It was really imaginative and a very successful example of site-specific writing.”

I enjoyed hunting for the different parts of the story. It was exciting when you found the next bit and it took me to places in Manchester that I hadn’t been to before.


The performance is the present moment for the story – October 2014. It is the bridge between the Victorian past and the uncertain future of 2064. It took place on a traditional narrowboat moored in the Castlefield Basin.

Watch an excerpt from the performance:

SapientNitro sponsors Tales from the Towpath

SapientNitroWe are really excited to announce that SapientNitro are sponsoring Tales from the Towpath! Here’s some information about their work:

SapientNitroSM, part of Sapient® (NASDAQ: SAPE), is a new breed of agency redefining storytelling for an always-on world. We’re changing the way our clients engage today’s connected consumers by uniquely creating integrated, immersive stories across brand communications, digital engagement and omni-channel commerce. We call it Storyscaping, where art and imagination meet the power and scale of systems thinking. SapientNitro’s unique combination of creative, brand and technology expertise results in one global team collaborating across disciplines, perspectives and continents to create game-changing success for our Global 1000 clients, such as Chrysler, Citi, The Coca-Cola Company, Lufthansa, Target and Vodafone, in 31 cities across The Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. For more information, visit

Storyscaping® is how we help our clients create experiences and tell their story in ever-present and never ending ways by marrying imagination with systems thinking. The power and intimacy of story is enabled through a vast interconnection of technologies and platforms that weave into the lives of connected consumers and make it ever-actionable, regardless of where or when a person comes in or out of it. Whether they’re experiencing it in advertising, social conversations or clicking the buy button, Storyscaping® creates a ubiquitous presence for a brand’s story and promise in this always-on world of possibilities. And now we’ve literally written the book on it to share our approach and methodology. Visit to learn more.

What is interactive story-telling?


Use red-green glasses to view in 3D

I’ve just returned from an amazing RIDERS project summer school (Research in Interactive Drama Environments, Role-Play and Storytelling) at York University. We experimented with a variety of storytelling methods from LARP (Live Action Role Play) to 3D film-making. We debated interactivity long into the night, took 3D photographs of ducks and told our favourite joke using only audio. My creative juices are overflowing (like the Medlock into the Bridgewater Canal) and I can’t wait to put some of my newly found skills and ideas into action on this project!