Our literary and artistic visions of the world to come have shifted constantly over time, from the art-deco nightmares of Fritz Laing’s ‘Metropolis’ to the grimly inventive slang of Alex and his droogs in Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. With hindsight, these attempts to read the look of the coming ages have much to tell us about the time they were created and the preoccupations of their era.

Going back to the future are three artists whose work has considered the state of things to come. Graphic designer and comic book artist Rian Hughes’ work for titles including ‘2000 AD’ and ‘Dan Dare’ from the early 1990s onwards, imagined the future in a stylised manner that has since been widely imitated; a retrospective of his artwork was titled, appropriately, ‘Yesterday’s Tomorrows’. Meanwhile, choreographer Jonathan Watkins recently produced a new stage interpretation of Orwell’s ‘1984’ for Northern Ballet, putting a twenty-first century spin on the classic vision of a totalitarian future, while Andy Croft’s novel ‘1948’ took the supposed original title for Orwell’s novel and used Pushkin sonnets to tell a noir-ish whodunnit tale, hidden inside which was Orwell’s own book, rewritten to depict our current reality as dystopian horrorshow.

Join our trio of time-travellers (and moderator Michael Stewart) as they look at the ways we have visualised the future in the past, drawing on their own work as they go and mining the characters and texts that have inspired them along the way. Pack a sonic screwdriver.

About The Authors

Andy Croft

Andy Croft has written and edited over 80 books, including poetry, biography, teenage non-fiction and novels for children. Among his books of poetry are ‘Nowhere Special’, ‘Just as Blue’, ‘Great North’, ‘Comrade Laughter’, ‘Ghost Writer’, ‘Sticky’, ‘Three Men on the Metro’ (with W.N. Herbert and Paul Summers) and ‘1948’ (with Martin Rowson). He writes a regular poetry column for the ‘Morning Star’, curates the T-junction international poetry festival and runs Smokestack Books.

Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart’s debut novel, King Crow, was the winner of the Guardian’s Not-the-Booker Award. Other books: Couples; Café Assassin; Mr Jolly and Ill Will: The Untold Story of Heathcliff. Walking the Invisible, a hybrid memoir about the Brontës’ lives and landscapes, will be published by HarperCollins in June 2021. He is also the creator of the Brontë Stones project.

About The Artist

Rian Hughes

Rian Hughes (devicefonts.co.uk) is a graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist, author, and typographer. His books include ‘Cult-ure: Ideas can be Dangerous’; ‘Batman: Black and White’; ‘Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s’; and most recently the all-ages ‘Get Lettering’ and ‘Get Mapmaking’. His comic strips are collected in ‘Yesterday’s Tomorrows’.



Jonathan Watkins

Born in South Yorkshire, choreographer Jonathan Watkins previously danced with The Royal Ballet. His work includes working as movement director with Sir Nicholas Hytner on ‘People’ (National Theatre, UK) and as choreographer on Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse). Most recently he created ‘Kes’ (Sheffield Crucible Theatre, UK), a full-length dance theatre adaptation of Barry Hines’ novel ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’; and the first ballet adaptation of Orwell’s ‘1984’.