Who came up with idea for the Secret Story Network?

Krishna Stott of Bellyfeel. Stott is the creator of the award winning interactive films Crimeface (2008) and Bolton Storyworld: Codename Winterhill (2015).

Where did the idea for SSN come from?

Stott was midnight chatting with another member of his Bellyfeel team discussing story concepts over WhatsApp when they found themselves weaving stories out of ideas, images, and music live on chat. Apart from worrying about work-life balance, Stott became very excited wondering what would happen if you could do this for real. You can hear more about how SSN was born from Stott on Conducttr's Transmedia Storytelling Podcast (Episode 81- 2017) on Apple Podcasts.

Who are the writers of SSN stories?

SSN commissions stories from all kinds of writers from the worlds of books, TV and film, comedy, and gaming. You may recognise some names if you are close to any of these worlds. We work with both established writers who want to try something new, and exciting new writers who are just starting out in their respective industries. We also make sure we champion all sorts of voices from women writers and writers of colour in order to find more and more diverse stories for participants to experience.

Are SSN stories all original?

Mostly! We encourage our writers to tell the stories they want to tell and they feel SSN participants would love to experience. However, that’s not all. We have done some very wild transmedia events. In August and September 2020 we teamed up with the tabletop rolepaying game Titan Effect for ‘Chimera Protocol’ and the Australian soap opera Neighbours (promoted as Top Secret SSN Story)! We hope to do more transmedia events in the near (and far) future!

What’s this I hear about SSN collaborating with traditional theatre?

You hear right. Back during the dire and dark days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 we teamed up with the Lawrence Batley Theatre. They had to close their doors as lockdown kicked-in, and so launched their innovative LBTV Online programme – and SSN was there from the very beginning, running stories each week for the Batley Theatre regulars! They loved it.

And haven’t I seen SSN discussed at academic conferences?

You hang out in heady circles! Yes indeed! Long time Bellyfeel collaborator Dr Anna Zaluczkowska from Leeds Beckett University has talked about SSN now and again. You can see a great early presentation on YouTube called ‘Writing with audiences: negotiating the narrative’ (from the Writing for Screens Symposium at the University of Portsmouth in 2019). Not only that, Zaluczkowska and co-writer Dr Bradford Gyori from Bournemouth University have a research paper titled ‘How We Role: The collaborative role playing poetics of the Secret Story Network’ being published in the Journal of Screenwriting in July 2022.

Who are the SSN investors and funders?

SSN began with funding from the Bellyfeel coffers! But to kick-start our first full season in 2018 we received Arts Council England (ACE) National Lottery funding through our collaboration with Leeds Beckett University. Once everyone saw SSN had legs, XR Stories jumped in and took us to the next level – funding the beta development of a web app and collaborations for our two transmedia events in 2020. Since 2021 we have had a couple of funding rounds from the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN) to complete the app, commission more stories, and explore collaborations in the public sector.

What is all this about a web-app?

We are developing a web-app for the next stage of the SSN takeover of the world! Bwahahaha. We trailed a beta version of the app in 2020, and with fair wind and following seas we’ll be launching the sparkly public version late 2022. So far you’ve experienced SSN led story events… with the web-app we’ll get participant led story events. In other words, you’ll be able to create and conduct your own stories and events with all your friends.

Will some of the SSN led Story Events stories be available for use in Participant led Story Events?

They sure will. Not all. Just some. Which? Wait and see!

Will SSN led Story Events continue after the launch of Participant led Story Events?

Absolutely! We’ll still run seasons of old faves and new commissions. We also want to work with the public sector, for example in educational and mental health arenas. We believe collaborative storytelling helps young people learn and can help improve mental health.