Underworld: a Virtual Experience of the London Sewers

  • Francesca Panetta
  • England
  • 2016
  • 6 min
  • Immersive
  • World Premiere
  • IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling, DocLab: Elastic Reality, DocLab Program

Beneath London lies a vast network of Victorian sewers – hundreds of miles of ornate brick tunnels. They are still in use today, but few people ever get to experience them. Underworld reveals this subterranean world in an interactive documentary that combines virtual reality, journalism, gaming and audio podcasts. As the VR headset plunges you into darkness, your Daydream controller is your lifeline, your flashlight and your navigator. Guided by the voice of urban explorer Bradley Garrett, you make your way down the old river Fleet, one of London’s lost waterways, walking through the blood sewer under Smithfield Market to reach the floodgates of the river Thames. Along the way you learn of the perils of urban exploring – if it rains the sewer system could quickly fill to the ceiling, and if your flashlight goes, you’ll never make your way out. Historian Richard Barnett joins to explain the impetus for the building of the sewer system – the Great Stink – and Will Self tells of the mythological allure of the underworld as a place for the dead.

This project can be viewed via Google Cardboard or Daydream, through the Guardian VR app. Or as interactive website.


  • 6 min
  • Spoken languages: English
Francesca Panetta
Nicole Jackson, Adam Grint
Jarrad Vladdich for The Mill, Neil Evely for The Mill, Anetta Jones for The Guardian
Executive producer
Francesca Panetta for The Guardian, Ollie Allgrove for The Mill
Kevin Young for The Mill, Ed Thomas for The Mill

IDFA history

World Premiere
IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling
DocLab: Elastic Reality
DocLab Program

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IDFA history

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