Multiverse Arcade – young people making waves


City of Dreams believes NewcastleGateshead can earn a reputation as the best place to be young. We can only make this ambition a reality if children and young have a powerful voice in our city.

Earlier this year Unfolding Theatre invented an exciting new way to give young people a powerful say in the future of our society. It is called MultiVerse Arcade, and over 3000 people took part.

We’re delighted that Artistic Director Annie Rigby, and Associate Artist Gary Lydon, have taken time out to tell us all about it.

Multiverse Arcade, an installation made with and for young people, welcomed 16,701 people through its doors.

Multiverse Arcade was created in collaboration with 51 young people at Young Writers’ City at Excelsior Academy (run by New Writing North) and Queen’s Hall Youth Theatre in Hexham. They worked with us at Unfolding Theatre to explore their feelings, concerns and dreams for the future. The piece they helped create was presented as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

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Multiverse Arcade invited its audiences on a mission. The journey started at arcade MVA 2machines places around the city – at The Mining Institute, The Gate, Sage Gateshead, Centre for Life and Northumbria University. Placing your hands into the arcade machine triggered a video message from 2066, projected onto your palms. The message describes how the future is in trouble. People have been listening to the same voices again and again. This has meant they’ve kept making the same mistakes again and again. Young people from 2066 invited young people in 2018 to find the Multiverse Arcade and add their voice – their ideas for the changes we need to make to save the future.

Perhaps, if we can make young people’s voices heard today, we can save the future.

Once inside the Multiverse Arcade, games invite visitors to think playfully about the future. Sound design and video projections share the ideas of other young people. This leads towards a specially created recording booth. Inside, young people can add their own voice. This generates a print-out of their sound wave, and a code to find their recording uploaded onto Instagram (@multiverse_arcade).

The whole piece is a mechanism to capture and amplify young people’s voices. Our inspiration for making the piece was a sense of injustice. We’d heard how young people at Eton College are asked, “What are you going to do when you’re in charge?”. We think this is a great question. However, we think it’s a question that all young people should be asked.

We talked with our young collaborators about how a lot of youth projects say, “If you work hard, you might…”, “If you think big, you might…” While these things are true, we wanted to make a piece that accepts that, whatever happens, young people are going to end up in charge. That’s just how growing up works. They might end up with influence and power within their family, their community, or on a larger-scale. But it’s when, not if.

With that in mind, we wanted to create a piece that is empowering for young people. What are the changes they want to see? The changes they want to be part of making?

We were knocked out by the response we had. Over 3,240+ young people added their voice to the arcade. Our Production Assistants, Garry Lydon and Katherine Bird, listened to, subtitled and uploaded their recordings. Garry created this film that reveals the most talked about issues. I’m now going to hand over to him, to share his experience of hearing what young people in Newcastle in the Summer of 2018 had to say.

Annie Rigby, Artistic Director, Unfolding Theatre

Student-Leaders-Multiverse-Arcade-765x510At the beginning of Multiverse Arcade my anticipation for what form of response we were going to get and how we could use the results from it was of great curiosity and excitement. I anticipated a good reception but what I experienced was an outcry for change on a daily basis from young people.

I knew the biggest issues we face in the 21st century would undoubtedly come up, I thought politics, Brexit and social unrest would lead the race of most talked about issues. However what I didn’t anticipate was the overwhelming response to one topic in particular; Environment, and in particular plastic pollution. 43% of all responses logged at the Multiverse Arcade were dedicated to environmental concern, the great majority of these were pleas from children and young adults to stop throwing plastic in the sea, to recycle, to stop the use of fossil fuels and switch the greener energy sources.

At a time when environmental concern has been dismissed at a global level by the most powerful in society, opinions held at disregard about its immediate political uselessness (or usefulness if you want to gain a particular type of vote) it filled me with joy to hear the voices of the youth when asked what the most important issue they would like to change in the world today is and the answer was unanimous.

I think these environmentally conscious ideas are now so deep rooted in the thoughts and collective mind of the youngest generations alive today, not out of practicality but out of absolute necessity, as children as begin the imagine the prospects of a future in demise from the errors of out ways today. Education and the way it’s applied around this topic undoubtedly plays a key role in understanding the imperative nature of global climate change and environmental concern, from what I heard each day this summer I can only express the hope I have for the future generations to carry on this mentality into adulthood and out into the world ‘when and not if’ they are in power.

Multiverse Arcade may not only look like a time machine but can actually function like one. The trajectory of all of our futures can be changed using the same mindset that MVA has demonstrated, through art or social campaigning, speaking up, saying something, doing something – we all in the palm of our hands hold that same power, that same potential to change the future.

In 2019 we’re taking Multiverse Arcade on tour. We hope to give a voice to communities that may have previously not had a chance to speak up about what they would change about the world and have it be heard by a large audience. I’m particularly interested in hearing which topics are most spoken about from each location and why, comparing the most ‘trending’ issues by place could lend to interesting results in regards to the collective thoughts of the area, narrowing down the scope from our installation at the Mining Institute open to the general public, to specific communities with their own social environments.

Garry Lydon, Associate Artist, Unfolding Theatre

On 7th March 2019 City of Dreams will be giving a unique platform to the voices, and stories, of children and young people in NewcastleGateshead – at the Our City Our Story event.

The event is hosted by Live Theatre, and will showcase anything and everything made by under25s in our city. You may even get to see more of Multiverse Arcade.

Want to be part of the event? Then read more here



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