For the last four years, Chris Birse has been creating real world locations reimagined in classic fantasy styles brought to life by the magic of the community’s collective imagination.
Chris initially wanted to have a map at the start of a fantasy novel he was writing and decided that he would give it a go himself. “It turned out pretty well” Chris recalls, “so for a bit of fun I did one of my home region of Teesside and posted it online. It got a really good response, so from there for the last four years I’ve been doing all the counties and recently got onto Lincolnshire!”
So far, Chris has created around 40 maps and each one takes him a month to design. “I’ve not long become a father so things take even longer now, but I will eventually make every county in the UK. I always have requests from people for different areas, so although it takes me a while to get them done, people are patient with me and it is nice to know people want me to carry on”.
Rather than just take inspiration from readily available maps, Chris spends time getting in touch via social media directly to the communities of each area, city and village to ask the residents themselves if they have any suggestions of what should be on the map to represent their area. “I don’t know what it was with Lincolnshire, maybe because it is such a big area, but across social media I got about 2000 comments, so the feedback was overwhelming to say the least!” chuckles Chris.
Across Lincolnshire there are various tales and folk stories that have been passed down through the generations, so contacting people directly meant Chris could reflect this within the map. “Googling an area would give the bare bones, but by asking the local community you get a feel not only for what is in the area, but also for what is important to people.”
“A very popular suggestion for this area was the Millennium Stone in Sudbrooke, although I didn’t have room to label it, I have still drawn it on. The Old Man’s Head spring in Welton was another popular one, for the weird name I think! I also put in the site of the now demolished Sudbrooke Holme, which was probably one of the largest and most impressive country houses near Lincoln.” Chris has also included dashed lines running through the area to represent Roman roads.
Chris acknowledges the collaborative effort of the maps and the importance of getting the communities themselves involved; “thank you to anyone who has contributed, I can’t do this to the level I do without your contributions, so thank you!” Chris has just started working on his next county, Tyne and Wear, and has plans in the distant future to move onto American states once he has completed all counties.
The maps are available to buy as posters and canvases via fantasyworldmaps.etsy.com and you can follow Chris and his progress via Fantasy World Maps on Facebook.