Cave Voyages: exploring Nottingham’s sandstone caves

We are currently working with artist Jo Dacombe to develop a new project called Cave Voyages.

This collaborative arts project is focused on exploring Nottingham City centre’s sandstone caves (a hidden underground city of over 450 hand-carved chambers). The multi-disciplinary project would record – through poetry, art, film and photography – the imaginative responses of refugees and migrants, and local writers, to this unique British heritage.

Through guided overground journeys across the city, and ‘cave-voyages’ beneath it, we are hoping to take participants into hidden caves, not normally open to the public. Historic archives, and Nottingham Caves Survey’s digital resources would also be sourced as inspiration.

In a series of cross-art exploratory workshops, Mark and Jo would work with refugees and migrants based in Nottingham, to facilitate creative responses to immersive experiences of the unique environments of the caves. Similar ‘cave-voyage’ workshops would also take place with local writers (both novice and experienced).

Through both sets of workshops, the ‘voices’ and creative interpretations of the caves’ heritage would be ‘collected’ from participants: the multiple voices, scripts, languages, and experiences documented.

An aim of the project is to bring together through a shared response to unique local heritage, the creative ‘voices’ of ‘outsider’ migrants and local people. Outcomes of the project would act as vehicles to communicate these ‘voices’.

Outcomes planned for the project are:

  • A collaborative community film poem which celebrates the diverse responses of participants
  • An installation at a gallery in Nottingham, which would feature the creative work generated by people who participated in the project, and newly commissioned pieces by Mark and Jo
  • A poetry reading in a cave of the work produced on the project
  • A project website and blog to enable us to share our voyages and discoveries

Project background

Cave Voyages is a major project that develops and builds upon the successes of previous initiatives which began our creative explorations of the caves.

cave relic II

Cave Relic II by Jo Dacombe

In 2013-14, Jo and artist Laura-Jade Klee, ran a project, ‘A Walk through the Underworld’, which explored the mysterious and fantastical qualities of the unique environment of Nottingham’s caves. Through a series of curated walks, participants gained special access to caves that are usually closed to the public.

8 Castle Gate cave installation

8 Castle Gate cave installation by Jo Dacombe

These interactive art events encouraged participants to imagine the activities that may have occurred in these secret chambers through storytelling and through installation artworks posing as relics. Unlike other cave tours, ‘A Walk through the Underworld’ was an imaginative experience, weaving tales and dreaming of other worlds.


‘A Walk through the Underworld’ was hugely popular. Katja Condy, (Manager of Heritage Open Days) stated in a Guardian article that it was “One of my favourite events this year…”

You can also read a great article by a walk participant in Left Lion Magazine.


In 2015, expresseum poetics teamed up with Jo to devise a poetry workshop in Willoughby House cave, an intriguing space below one of Paul Smith’s Nottingham shops.

Novice and experienced writers joined us on this creative exploration. You can read more about the Cave Voice workshop on our web page here.

The creative writing that the day inspired has been collated together in the online poetry anthology, Chamber of Fools.


Looking forward…

We are pleased to say that Nottingham Writers Studio are our partners in this initiative, and Writing East Midlands are also keen to support the venture. Through a crowdfunding initiative, and a Grants for the Arts bid to ACE, we are hoping to raise the finance to fund the project.


Please do visit this page in the Autumn of 2016 for an update on the project, and for information on how you can get involved…