Story Project 3: Crystal Palace Park

The Crystal Palace has been deemed notoriously difficult to narrativize by nineteenth-century commentators and twenty-first-century critics alike. Victorian writers frequently likened the spectacular glass structure and its expansive grounds to Fairy Land or a palace from the Arabian Nights. In its second, larger incarnation on Sydenham Ridge, it could be seen from many locations across the city, standing as a landmark to Victorian grandeur and innovation. Symbolically, the Palace spoke of panoramic horizons across the British Empire and wider globe, and famously hosted the 1911 Festival of the Empire.


After the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936 the park fell into a period of dereliction and decay. Today, archaeological traces of the Victorian pleasure park (including the pioneering Geological illustrations and dinosaurs) combine with twentieth-century features counting an outdoor concert stage, children’s farm and playground and national sports centre to create a multi-faceted outdoors recreation space at the heart of the Upper Norwood community.

In this story project we will work with community groups such as the Friends of Crystal Palace Park, Upper Norwood Joint Library reading group and junior library and the Phoenix Community Centre Writing Group to produce stories about the Crystal Palace Park today, inflected by narratives from its Victorian heyday. These will culminate in events including reading evenings, exhibitions (for example, at the Upper Norwood Joint Library), and a virtual exhibition of stories.

Call for Writers!

A FREE Digital Creative Writing Workshop with the University of Southampton
Sat 22 April 2017, hosted by Upper Norwood Library

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Imagine reading a story on your smartphone that unfolds depending on your location: pages pinned to bus stops, trees and street corners unlock as you explore a real landscape. Part-treasure hunt, part-walking tour, the new digital story form known as ‘location-aware’ or ‘locative’ literature does exactly that.

The StoryPlaces project at the University of Southampton, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is exploring the possibilities of this new form. So far, we have created location-aware stories for smartphones set around Southampton Old Town and Docks and Bournemouth Sea Front. You can read more about the stories, our research and our web app here:

Now, we are looking for local writing talent to help us tell the stories of Crystal Palace Park. Come to our free two day creative writing workshop at Upper Norwood Library 22nd April 2017 and create your own location-aware story, working with the StoryPlaces team from the University of Southampton.

There will be an (optional) welcome drinks reception for writers to meet the StoryPlaces team on the evening of Friday 21 April at the library, and a selection of the best stories will be added to our StoryPlaces web app and launched to the public at the Crystal Palace Overground Festival, 12-18 June 2017. There will also be a display of writers’ work in Upper Norwood Library.

The workshop is free, but places are limited. (Writers must be aged 16+)

For more information and to book a place contact:

Dr Verity Hunt (English, the University of Southampton) -

Also see the StoryPlaces @ Crystal Palace Park Events Page hosted by the English Faculty