An augmented reality installation telling the stories of forgotten female writers will be at Sidmouth Library this month. 

Unlocking the Cage introduces viewers to the writers’ lives and works through the pages of a book linked to a computer display. As readers turn each page a new chapter begins on the screen. 

It will be at Sidmouth Library from Thursday, January 12 until Thursday 26 and is free, with no need to book. 

The name Unlocking the Cage refers to the area under the floor of Exeter Library where its special collections are kept. Of the 800 books in the Cage, only eight are by women, and four of these writers are featured in the installation. They are: 

Elizabeth Montagu (1718–1800), critic and host to literary salons 

Elizabeth Carter (1717–1806), poet and translator 

Lady Rosalind Northcote (1873 – 1950), nature and place writer 

Ethel Lega-Weekes (1864 – 1949), historian 

The installation has been researched, written and narrated by Kim Sherwood, who was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2019 for her debut novel Testament. She was also selected as the first woman to write a James Bond novel, and has so far produced Double or Nothing, the first in a new 007 trilogy. 

Of Unlocking the Cage, Kim said: "Though there are only eight books written by women in the Cage, these few names represent a long revolution, from the rise of Bluestocking salons to the campaign for female suffrage.  

“Immersing myself in the lives of these pioneering women connected me to a line of writers stretching back to the eighteenth century. I'm thrilled to bring their inspiring stories into the now with this exciting collaboration." 

The installation has already been displayed at Exeter Library, where viewers described the experience as ‘eye opening’, ‘beautifully curated’ and ‘a really different way to look at history’.  

It is part of Libraries Evolve, a programme of art and special events in Devon's libraries. Rae Hoole from the programme said: “The installation was three years in the making, led by Kim’s research and masterful storytelling, and in collaboration with talented composers and AR technologists, to bring to life this fascinating and important story of the marginalised voices of female writers. It is not to be missed.”