Terra Two: Writing for an Off-World Colony – workshop for York Festival of Ideas, ‘The Story of Things’ – 2017

20170626_101129.jpg story of ideas poster

On Saturday 17th of June editors of the Terra Two: An Ark for Off-World Survival Project at York St John University offered a Creative Writing workshop which invited attendees to think about the first off-world colony.  Writers were 1) introduced to the Terra Two project and its aims 2) invited to brainstorm what they would bring to the first off-world colony, and then to narrow that down 3) invited to think about the messages that they would offer to the first off-world colonists, with an eye on human history to date 4) invited to draw on the ideas generated in order to sketch out a plan for a short story,  poem, or creative artefact 5) invited, post-workshop, to develop the plan with reference to the instructions on this website  by the next submission deadline, which is the 31st of July 2017!


In the ‘what to bring’ section of the workshop, items included:

Earth cultural archive/library of everything
Human genetic material
Personal mementos
Seed bank/bees
Agreed system of law, government, administration
Dune buggies/planes/jet packs/hoverboards
Piano and sheet music

In the ‘what to leave behind’ section of the workshop, items included:



Donald Trump



In the ‘Messages’ section of the workshop, messages included:

Remember the reasons why we left

  • colonialism and its consequences
  • ecosystem fragility
  • dangers of totalitarianism

Remember the good stuff – moments of social collectivity!!

Think ‘future’, not ‘now’; think ‘wide’, not ‘narrow’

Remember the Holocaust, the moon landing, the Titanic, the welfare state

Remain conscious of scale – deep time

Don’t panic; keep trying; there is no single right answer

Remember trust and reconciliation

Remember storytelling

Remember relaxation through art

Don’t screw up; be the best that you can be; don’t look back; don’t use the nukes

Draw your own line in the sand, whatever colour it happens to be

Leave your problems in the airlock

No one can hear you scream, so just get on with it!

Creative plans for future stories and poems included the following:

A collaborative, illustrated story about a Viking ship that moves through a time portal:

20170617_155917.jpg Viking ship


  • Develop the ‘potted history of human civilisation and the lessons to learn from it’ to take on board
  • Write stories about how human culture will develop on the journey of Alpha Centuri (not just what happens when we get there). (This is to help us plan who to take on board and how to keep them sane!)
  • Develop a guide to systems thinking for would-be colonists
  • Think what things we will need to encourage creativity, innovation and problem solving capacity on a long journey (unless everyone will be frozen)


Photographs of group and individual brainstorming/mind-mapping – re objects to bring, and messages to send!



Thank you to all who attended our inaugural Terra Two workshop; we thoroughly enjoyed working with you!!! We look forward to seeing your submissions on the 31st of July, and we hope you will attend our launch event in September!

Liesl King, Rob Edgar, and Adam Smith @YSJTerra2 & @Terra.Two