The Warwick Bar Soundwalk is a downloadable, site-specific headphone piece that explores an area of Birmingham’s Eastside, for its industry, community and as a habitat for wildlife, by means of sound. The walk came directly from our role as lead artists on the Warwick Bar masterplan.
While the title of this work has come to be associated with the pre-recorded headphone piece presented at ArtsFest 2006, during our time as lead artists on the Warwick Bar masterplan, we used soundwalking as an research methodology in three distinct phases. Firstly, walking provided the means by which we gained our personal understanding of the sonic character of the site. Secondly, we devised structured listening walks for masterplanning architects Kinetic AIU, as a means by which to introduce them to the sounds of the site. Lastly, we created the pre-recorded audio walk, principally for the general public, as a means to communicate the work we had been doing on the project.
In this third use of walking, we made recordings with boat users, artists, historians, the author of an ecological survey of the site and local business owners, walking the perimeter of the site with each of them, often asking them the same questions as a means of uncovering their differing perspectives on the themes under discussion. In addition to the spoken commentary, sonic recreations of some of the sounds already lost infiltrated the sounds of the environment; cattle walking across a now deserted bridge on their way to the Bull-Ring, icebreaker barges on the canal, the ambiance of the Banana Warehouse and Toll House and winding stop-locks. The editing of this material owed a great deal to Glenn Gould's Solitude Trilogy of radio programmes, and his pioneering use of contrapuntal narratives in which meanings are drawn not only from the observations of the interviewees, but also from the juxtapositions forged between them.
At the ArtsFest, members of the public could collect an iPod and walk around the perimeter of the site listening to a pre-recorded sound track designed to mix with the sound of the site. Both the audio for the walk, and the accompanying map are available for download in the ‘sound’ and ‘documents’ tabs above.
The Warwick Bar Soundwalk was commission by MADE (Midlands Architecture and the Designed Environment) and was first presented at ArtsFest, Birmingham on 8th and 9th September 2006. An edited version of the piece was broadcast on Resonance FM on the 24 October 2006.
Angela Kingston’s 'Warwick Bar Soundwalk Case Study' was published on Public Art Online.