The O2 Tales (2010)

The O2 Tales (2010)

The O2 Tales was inspired by my work for if:book’s hotbook – a digital literature project for young teens. My favourite piece in hotbook is Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales set as a rap.

I wanted to create a snapshot of 21st Century Britain and chose a modern day ‘pilgrimage’ to a pop concert as a vehicle for bringing together my own collection of ‘sondry folk’. Thing is, people don’t talk to each other unless something goes wrong and so I trapped my unsuspecting characters on a tube train and sent along the lovely Polly Melibee to capture their tales. I matched Chaucer’s characters to what I saw as modern day equivalents (with plenty of artistic license) and threaded various references from the original tales into my stories, to give my fellow Chaucer fans a challenge.

I wanted to create something to play with and make the reader smile but hoped the simple tales might draw the reader in to discover the deeper meaning. On the surface The O2 Tales is a humorous collection of individual tales but beneath there is a hint of the blitz spirit that comes out occasionally in adverse times and causes us to be a little nicer to each other.

The poet Chaucer began his career as a page* in the household of the countess of Ulster garnering a reputation for being mannerly and polite in the society of his time, the same was later said of his writings. In The O2 Tales, Anna modernises the kernel of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales; it’s prologue, which can be understood as a survey of the social landscape in England in 14th century. Religious pilgrimage is replaced by fan fascination for television and media particularly the British popular music talent show called x-factor. The soundtrack was thus wonderfully playful bordering on the naivety and amateurism of some of the TV shows contestants but may have benefited from a user control interface. An assembled cast, trapped in a tunnel, exchange tales and ideas with the reader and main character Polly. Consequently this new media work broaches the same picaresque tradition, like it’s more substantial new media forbearer the collaborative hypertext novel The Unknown, by William Gillespie, Scott Rettberg, and Dirk Stratton. Like The Unknown, The O2 Tales is peppered with humour whether textual in nature; “I’ll never hear the end of it If I don’t make the start” to simply funny ideas like ‘Jedward Bread’. Anna constructed this entertaining story and its cast of modern day pilgrims while also incorporating social media tools, Twitter and Facebook as part of the broader experience of the piece.



*A page being a youth in attendance on a person of rank or, in medieval times, a youth being trained for knighthood.

*The O2 is a large music venue in London, whose name is provided by it’s sponsor, the O2 mobile network.

Review: Ulrike Küchler