Mapping Towns and Stories

This resource is great for:
Understanding maps and writing about your town.

Theatre maker Ishbel McFarlane leads you through a series of mapping activities to get you thinking about your town in a new way before encouraging you to write creatively about the place where you live.


As part of the Book Festival’s ReimagiNation work in Cumbernauld, theatre maker Ishbel McFarlane has been taking her interactive show Plan into schools and community centres in Cumbernauld. This show gets local people to plan their own New Town,
70 years after the New Towns Act was passed.

You can read more about the show here:

Activity – Mapping Stories

Ishbel has created a series of activities to encourage you to get thinking creatively about the planning of the place where you live. She uses the example of Cumbernauld throughout but you can adapt it to whichever village, town or city you live in.

Part One

Draw a map of Cumbernauld from memory. It doesn’t matter whether it is right or wrong. Where do you think the roads, motorways and train tracks are? Where are individual shops and shopping centres? Where are the schools, and doctors, and post offices? Where’s the station? Where do you live? Where do people you know live?

You can use as many colours or materials as you like. You can make it detailed and elaborate or you can just sketch an outline.

Part Two

Draw the town again, but this time you choose what things are and where they go. Maybe you have the same shape of town, but you move things around. Maybe you scrap the whole thing and start again with a new shape, and a new town. Create a new Cumbernauld on your paper.

You have two places now:

  • My Cumbernauld
  • My New Cumbernauld

If you were to move from one to the other, what would you miss? What does your real Cumbernauld have that no new place could ever have? What is worth losing and what is worth keeping?

Part Three

Once you have drawn your two towns, look at an official map of Cumbernauld. You might have a paper map, or maybe have a look online at Google Maps or similar. Where are the differences between how you see Cumbernauld as a place where you live, and how it looks on the map? Did you miss anything out? Why do you think that is? If you’re able to look at satellite images, for example on Google Earth, does the town look different in colour to how you imagined?

Cartographers are the people who draw and make maps. They work with the visible, physical sides of places, but they don’t know the stories of a place. What could you tell a cartographer about this place they have made a map of?

Now you have got three places:

  • My Cumbernauld
  • My New Cumbernauld
  • Cartographers’ Cumbernauld

Part Four

Imagine the world of each of these places. Who lives there? What is life like? What is the spirit of each place? Which would you rather live in?

What would happen if these three places existed together, only a few miles apart?

Write a short story imagining life in one of the towns. Who would your characters be? What would happen in the story? How do they feel about the other towns? What conflicts or problems might exist?

Further information:

Ishbel McFarlane is a performer, writer and theatre maker who currently lives in Glasgow. You can find out more about her work on her website:

You can read more about the Book Festival’s ReimagiNation: Cumbernauld work on our Booked! blog.