Lilian Bland: Re-Imagined

Bridging gaps between organizations in the creative industries, technology industries, education and academia, this project recreates the story of Lilian Bland who created aviation history in 1910 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland by becoming the first woman in the world to design, build and fly her own airplane. The performance, publication and cross-platform mobile phone app reclaims Lilian Bland’s place, lost in accepted history. It is also a fun learning experience intertwining key elements of gaming, storytelling, physics, maths, and history.

Lilian Bland: Re-Imagined

This project was inspired by Carol Moore’s one-woman play, ‘Flying’, about Lilian Bland’s aviation achievement in being the first woman to design, build, and fly her own airplane.

Carol and Gwen saw Lilian Bland as an inspirational character/role model, largely written out of history, who debunked gender and social norms. They created a photobook re-imagining her life. Gwen researched how immersive technology might help address restrictions to a theatre production of ‘Flying’ during the COVID lockdown period.

They were joined by Dr. Margaret Morgan, Associate Head of School & Athena SWAN Champion at School of Engineering, Ulster University, who saw the potential as a wider education development project for Northern Ireland. With support from Future Screens Northern Ireland, AR/VR company RETìníZE in collaboration with Carol, Gwen and Margaret Morgan, developed  a mobile-based AR app to fly an airplane with Lilian Bland, learn the forces of flying through gaming & build and customize your own airplane, and have it fly in augmented reality. The project team is currently working with STEM NI on identifying schools for a soft launch of the app. Hardcopies of the photobook ‘Lilian Bland: Re-Imagined’ are available on request.


“Gwen Stevenson first dazzled me online during Covid with her wonderful visual storytelling of my trials with 'HMRC and the covid support grant’ that I had been posting in 2020. Her graphics of my flamingo bird character trying in vain to speak to a human, was both hilarious, brilliantly drawn and informative. That’s how I met the very talented Gwen Stevenson. Artistic collaboration can often be a happenstance and that’s the joy of it. Two unlikely artists coming together. Gwen is increasingly working at the interface of technology and the arts and our early discussions were about a cross-sectional collaboration between performing arts and visual arts. I told Gwen I was writing a play about Lilian Bland, the first woman in the world to design, built and fly her biplane in Co Antrim, in 1910. We collaborated on a photo book of Lilian Bland, Gwen re-imagining the working life of Lilian Bland and myself writing about Lilian’s life in the first person. It is a beautifully produced and realised publication. During covid, I discussed with Gwen the possibility of using augmented reality/immersive technology in a potential production about Lilian Bland and Gwen researched what types of immersive technology might work for a theatre production around flying. At the same time Gwen, myself and Dr Margaret Morgan, University of Ulster became stakeholders in supporting the immersive technology company Retinize to research, develop and publish an app titled “Lilian Bland: Learning to Fly, for children aged between 11 - 13, to encourage them to learn the 4 forces of flying. Gwen’s work continues to be at the cutting edge of innovative, digital technology and I very much look forward to having the opportunity to work with her again.”


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