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Uncover the lost voices of inspiring female writers in free augmented reality experience

Posted on 19 Aug 2022

The captivating stories of forgotten female writers have been brought to life in a new augmented reality installation, which is going on a tour of libraries across Devon.

Unlocking the Cage is an immersive AR experience that takes viewers on a journey through the lives and works of four women writers, whose books reside within the “Cage” beneath the floors of Exeter Library.

After a successful launch at Exeter Library earlier this year, Unlocking the Cage will be visiting libraries in Crediton, Ivybridge, Torrington, Tiverton, Sidmouth, Teignmouth and South Molton over the coming months.

Exeter Library’s special collections lie below the library floor in what is known as “the cage”. Out of 800 books in the collection, only eight are written by women. Unlocking the Cage is an immersive visual and audio journey through the lives and works of four of these women.

The installation features a uniquely designed book which viewers use to navigate their journey. With each turn of the page, a new chapter begins on the screen, breathing life into the intricate illustrations.

Unlocking the Cage has been researched, written and narrated by award-winning author Kim Sherwood. Kim, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2019, is known for her award-winning debut novel Testament, and her upcoming novel Double or Nothing. Due to be published next month, Double or Nothing is set within the 007 universe. Kim was selected as the first woman to write a James Bond novel for the franchise, with two more books on the horizon that will make up a brand new 007 trilogy.

Of Unlocking the Cage, Kim Sherwood 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.”

You can experience Unlocking the Cage for free at various libraries across Devon on the dates listed below and during regular opening hours:

LibraryUnlocking the Cage dates
CreditonSaturday 3rd – Saturday 17th September
IvybridgeThursday 22nd September – Thursday 6th October 2022
TorringtonFriday 14th – Friday 28th October 2022
TivertonSaturday 5th November – Saturday 3rd December 2022
SidmouthThursday 12th – Thursday 26th January 2023
TeignmouthWednesday 1st – Wednesday 15th February 2023
South MoltonThursday 23rd February – Thursday 9th March 2023

The exhibit can be enjoyed alone, or in groups of up to 4 people at a time and takes approximately 28 minutes to complete.

Rae Hoole, Creative Communities Producer at Libraries Evolve, said: “We are delighted to be taking Unlocking the Cage on a tour of libraries, and bringing this unique experience to library customers and local communities across the county.”

She added, “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.”

Kim Sherwood worked with composers John Matthias and Jay Auborn, illustrator Sarita McNeil, creative audio company dBs Pro, and the augmented reality developer Zubr Curio to bring the stories to life in this innovative installation.

The four writers featured in the augmented reality book 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

 Libraries Unlimited is the charity responsible for running Devon and Torbay Libraries. Unlocking the Cage is just one of the activities in the wide Libraries Unlimited cultural offering.  Evolve is delivered in partnership with artists and communities and funded by Arts Council England and Exeter City Council.

For further details about Evolve and future events, please visit

Libraries Unlimited believes…

…in the unlimited potential of library services to make a positive difference to people’s lives and communities through a shared love of reading and access to high quality information and facilities.