The Portland Office for Imaginary History 2016


Performance, objects and interventions at b-side Festival 2016, Isle of Portland, Dorset

The Portland Office for Imaginary History was a commission for b-side Festival 2016, a satirical tourist information bureau providing entirely false visitor information, ecology, paleontology, maps, (non) fact sheets, stories, walks and souvenirs from an imaginary Isle of Portland. I was in the office every day telling stories, providing directions and maps, and selling postcards or souvenirs.

The festival ran 10-18 September 2016 and you can check out the full programme and documentation here. See my previous commission for b-side 2014 here.


Postcard by Alistair Gentry (signs for imaginary sites of interest).


Flora of Portland print by Alistair Gentry.

Photo by Peter James Millson 2016.

Alternative facts for visitors at The Office for Imaginary History. Photo by Peter James Millson 2016.



Portland Office for Imaginary History Map, showing sites of Loci (sites of one-off historical events), Phenomena (here defined as recurring or temporally distributed events) and Orgone (life energy) accumulators. Imaginary history sites shown here include the Portland Mithraeum (temple to Mithras), haunts of the Lizard Man, telepathy experiment sites, transgender pirate ship The Molly Dear, the heritage listed kidnap area, and Keith Finch’s house.


Photo by Paul Box.

Free opportunity to imagine your own fabric, colour and design with every purchase of a souvenir t-shirt. Photo by Paul Box 2016.


Gift shop souvenir items by Alistair Gentry: functional candles in the shape of Portland’s forbidden animal; imaginary dinosaurs not based on paleontological evidence from Portland’s fossil beds; fabric insignia patches (not for official use, entertainment purposes only, impersonating an Imaginary History Officer may lead to persecution); artificial craft eco pebbles, which unlike real pebbles are legal to remove from the Isle of Portland.

Photo by Peter James Millson 2016.

R***** candles in the Portland Office for Imaginary History gift shop. Photo by Peter James Millson 2016.

Photo by Peter James Millson 2016.

(Sold out!) walking tour of Portland’s wilder areas with members of the public and a local herbalist in search of real, folkloric and totally imaginary plants and historic sites. Photo by Peter James Millson 2016.

(Below) Some of the Office for Imaginary History’s “fact” files: the surveillance budgies of Project Prettyboy, the Prince Albert Analytical Engine, Mrs. Feathers’ Portland-set novel The Adversities of Fannie (1812), horned lagomorphs, Dorset’s wife sales, the Portland Lizard Man, and the history of the Office for Imaginary History itself.

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