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Spanish Flu Now

What would Spanish Flu look like if it was playing out on Instagram?

We’ve teamed up with creative agency Flying Object to imagine the social and cultural impact of Spanish Flu in the 21st century. 

Head over to to check out the first live stories.

In 1918 a Spanish Flu pandemic infected one third of the world’s population and killed over 50 million people, disproportionately hitting young people. If the Spanish Flu was to reappear in 2018, it would be a millennials’ disease; its impact would be seen in the social and cultural landscape of this generation – the web.

Spanish Flu Now will tell the stories of six characters caught in this new pandemic. Each story has foundations in historical truths but is reimagined and retold in the light of web culture – tapping into how Instagrammers present themselves and engage in subcultures, how they tell narratives through selfies, memes, trends, hashtags and emojis.

Nikki from Berwick nikkitrains_sfn, read her story 6 – 14 Sept.

Kirsty from Winchester kirsty_sfn, story begins 7 Sept. Read her backstory now.

Santh from Ipswich santh_sfn, story begins 14 Sept. Read her backstory now.

Nathan from Sunderland nathan_bikelyfe_sfn, story begins 24 Sept. Read his backstory now.

Omar from Manchester omardesign_sfn, story begins 28 Sept. Read his backstory now.

Rosa from London rosa_sfn, story begins 12 Oct. Read her backstory now.

The stories will play out in real time on the characters’ Instagram feeds. They might be suffering, helping others, trying to escape, or simply attempting to understand this world-changing event. They might be charting their experience, asking for help or profiteering. Would the way we communicate now contribute to the spread of a pandemic, help contain it or both?

The project is influenced by speculative designers and storytellers like Dunne & Raby and Nelly Ben Hayoun, as well as post-internet artists like Amalia Ulman and Ed Fornieles, whose work engages with digital culture and the effects of social networking. Jeremy Deller’s 2016 work we’re here because we’re here, also a 14-18 Now commission, was similarly influential, removing 100 years between WW1 and the present day by putting soldiers and the general public in the same space. This Instagram project will similarly track the spread of the flu exactly 100 years on.

Spanish Flu Now runs alongside Contagion, a new dance installation from acclaimed choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh which premieres at the Gymnasium Gallery in Berwick-upon-Tweed on 15 & 16 September then tours the country before coming to London for Late at the Library at the British Library on 2 & 3 November. Each Spanish Flu Now character will be matched to a tour location.

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