Estuary Sound Ark is a new Creative Estuary co-commission being developed by The Radiophonic Institute – which has sought to explore the sounds of the Thames Estuary area in 2022. Following a major call out to the public – thousands of sounds across the area have been collected and used to create a series of new compositions and poems. These artworks – will be heard once at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre on the 27th November – before being sealed within a specially designed vessel (an Ark) for 100 years.
With the support of Re:Generation 2031, in spring 2022, 9 young artists (all aged under 25) were invited to undertake their own exploration into their sounds of the Thames Estuary – and create their own compositions. They were supported through a programme of training and mentorship in conjunction with the University of Kent.
We invited Oliver Starling and Naomi Rosser to share their experiences of being part of the project.
How and why did you get involved in Estuary Sound Ark?
Oliver: I got involved in Estuary Sound Ark through an advertisement I saw that piqued my interest so I figured I’d go for it and see if I was up for the challenge.
Naomi: Ever since COVID-19, I have been interested in how people interact with theatre through digital forms, and after creating an audio-theatre based, interactive map as part of my final project at University, I have been interested in how audio can tell stories and take audiences on personal journeys with what they are listening to. When I heard about Estuary Sound Ark, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to explore this idea and I just had to sign up!
What was your creative contribution to Estuary Sound Ark – describe the work and the process/journey you went through.
Oliver: My creative contribution is a sound piece called the Crab and Winkle that, through a combination of sounds, creates a journey taken, on foot, from Canterbury to Whitstable. To do this, I had to take multiple walks to and for both destinations to gather a collection of interesting sounds that I felt best summarised the qualities of the locations on the walk.
Naomi: There was a group of about 10 of us, and we were given a brief that was about recording 100 sounds, and using those sounds to go on a journey, ending at the Estuary. To me, rivers and sea are a source of calm, and this was the idea that stuck. I wanted to explore different journeys to reach a place of calm /tranquillity. I asked friends to share what they thought of when they heard the word calm and used these ideas to come up with 4 different audio journeys.
What stood out as a highlight for you working on Estuary Sound Ark?
Oliver: A highlight for me was personally the newfound appreciation I had for sound. I had realised how much I take my hearing for granted, ignoring a wide range of fascinating sounds that make up the soundscape we all collectively share, whether it be a collection of voices from people going by or the sounds of nature obscured by a city environment.
Naomi: Learning how to use the sound equipment and Logic!
What was your favourite sound from the Project?
Oliver: It’s tough to give a favourite sound but I’d have to say the initial sound of birds I hear when I leave my flat to start the journey, it’s great to go from an environment almost devoid of sound to outside, where everything is happening.
Naomi: Too many to pick – but I did enjoy using the hydrophone underwater.
What does it mean to leave something creative for future generations?
Oliver: I treated my own contribution almost like a historical piece of audio, a creative collection of curated sounds that tell a story of our time now. I hope in the same sense, it inspires them to be curious about their own time and place, getting them to think about things like what has changed since the recording, have things gotten better/worse, what sound is that etc. etc.
Naomi: There is always so much to learn from people, and I think leaving something creative might give some inspiration and encourage future creatives to make their own work!
Oliver Starling is originally from London. Having moved to Whitstable around 10 years ago, he’s currently based in Canterbury studying Graphic Design – one of his main interests alongside other forms of art, like cinema and horticulture. Oliver’s work for Estuary Sound Ark is entitled The Crab and Winkle – and includes the following 10 sounds:
Bus Station / Canterbury Highstreet / Cathedral Wedding Bells / Outside Cafe Ambience / Field Ambience / Walking On Fallen Leaves / Traffic Passing By / Whitstable Walkway / Ambience/ Whitstable Locals Talking
Naomi Rosser is from a village near Maidstone in Kent. She works in Theatre – is specifically interested in audience-participatory theatre practice, and how digital theatre can enhance an audience’s experience. Naomi’s work for Estuary Sound Ark is entitled Journey To Tranquillity and includes the following 10 sounds.
White Noise / Paddle / Uw Noise / Alarm / Waves / Remain Calm / Boom / Best Thunder Sound / Kettle Boiling / The Next Station is Marden
Estuary Sound Ark is presented at The Gulbenkian Theatre on the 27th November from 3pm. The Ark itself will be showcased in a public space in the Thames Estuary Area for the next 100 years. An accompanying publication will be available in all participating libraries in the area.