Curiosity Castle, December 2020

As I write this, Lockdown 2.0 feels a distant memory, and potential alterations to Tier 3 restrictions in Derbyshire are being discussed in the news. It has been a year of uncertainty for us all, a time of three-word slogans and a time when our project delivery plan had to be turned on its head. I’m not the only artist to have had to re-think how to make sense of this new landscape in which ‘digital’ delivery has many meanings and connotations.This is where This Girl Codes and Atomic Poems came into its own…

Following on from the Curiosity Boxes sent to local schools during the first Lockdown, I now wanted to work on a way to transfer our original ideas of pop-up STEAM labs in heritage settings into an online experience where we could still reach new audiences and provide innovative experiences rooted within the local historical female voice. Working with Creative Technologist Claire Garside, we decided to frame our activities around Margaret Cavendish (with links to Bolsover Castle) and her Atomic Poems from the 1650s, to be delivered on Ada Lovelace Day – an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEAM. We drew a connection between Cavendish and Lovelace, both prolific writers whose work intersects poetry with maths and science.

Using unplugged activities blended with online creative coding as expressive art forms, ‘Atomic Poems’ developed to be delivered remotely with local and national reach. Participants were supported to create ‘fibonacci poetry’ in the loosest sense, inspired by the poetry of Margaret Cavendish. A curated installation of delicate interventions at Bolsover Castle was to follow her steps through the Castle.

Our online workshops were delivered on Tuesday 13th October, and I enjoyed seeing how each element - art, tech, poetry, history - came together through each of our voices within the session to go on to enable the participants to produce some truly innovative pieces of new Fibonacci writing. From these sessions, 24 Fibonacci poems were created using the generator and we had submissions from people who had not been present during the workshop. This gave me plenty of material to go on to produce new artworks for installation at Bolsover Castle, as part of our end of year showcase.

Bolsover Castle Art Installation

On the 13th November 2020, I had the privilege of being given unfettered access to the Little Castle to ‘play’ (responsibly) with the site and the newly created artworks inspired by the poems from the Atomic Poems workshops. I also produced both 3D prints of the poems, as well as 3D animations, for projection onto the many interesting surfaces within the Little Castle.

It was an intense day of carefully moving through the spaces, exploring connections and discovering unplanned ‘collisions’ of the art making processes within the heritage setting. Having time to explore the rooms and staircases by myself created moments of intimate understandings that would not have been achievable if the Castle was busy with visitors. What I found interesting was how some places around the Castle just wouldn’t ‘accept’ the artworks or projections, whereas others welcomed them.

As an artist working in such a setting, I had multiple ways of approaching the siting of the works and each time I did, new meanings would emerge. A layering of process, artefact, light, and space converged on the day. I found that I was creating new works: where I had thought the 3D artworks were complete, they took on new directions within the spaces in which they were located. I couldn’t resist continuing making new works through this exploration and turned to scanning some of the spaces, in particular the Lantern Room, using a basic LiDar camera, which meant I could continue to experiment with the Atomic Poems in a digital space after returning home. This turned out to be significant for me as a new way to create work that developed naturally from my visit. It enabled me to produce works that I could not have created using physically printed materials, and is now offering me new ways of presenting work in digital-only spaces – something we shall explore further in 2021 within the next phase of This Girl Codes activities.

The results from my visit are to be found on the This Girl Codes website, and they reflect elements of my art making processes through a blended approach of digital and analogue interactions. The progression from strong historical female voice and poetry writing to Fibonacci algorithms, 3D printing and installation encapsulates the STEAM approach of This Girl Codes completely. The showcase is not a ‘full stop’ for the project, but a comma, a deep intake of breath after what has been a very challenging year for us all.

Junction Arts digital installation of Fibonacci Poetry at Bolsover Castle, 20 20
Junction Arts digital installation of Fibonacci Poetry at Bolsover Castle, 20 20

Cora Glasser is an artist, who co-founded the arts collective Glassball in 2001. Her work is context and site specific, moving between mediums, and is driven by interdisciplinary collaboration, being participatory in its nature. To find out more, please go to or follow her on twitter and instagram @acoraperson.