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An ear to the coast for World Listening Day

Conservationist groups from around the UK joined together with broadcasters on Wednesday, 18th July 2018, to present the sound of the coast in a special event to mark World Listening Day. The Sounding Coastal Change research team did a 24-hour broadcast from Blakeney in North Norfolk, which included prerecorded documentary and music, live discussion and microphones open to the coastal landscape.

The team, which includes The Open University with partners from the National Trust, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the British Library Sound Archive, produced the day to highlight the environmental changes in the North Norfolk coast through the medium of sound. The finished results included a new Radio Ballad about the Norfolk Course featuring birdsong and local residents.

George Revill, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, led the project and said: “We work with sound because it engages humans in important ways; it’s associated with intensely personal experiences, especially atmospheres and memories. Many different parts of the environment, animals, birds, waves, the wind, the shingle make sounds, whilst other things, such as scientific data about the environment, can be represented in sound. This allows the listener to hear the changes and trends, densities and textures of environmental systems.”

He added:

Sound provides senses of fading, distance and intimate closeness, which help orientate us and bring landscapes to life. In all these ways sound and music can help us bring together many voices and forces both human and environmental to think about how particular landscapes and environments change over time.

How the coast is changing

Sounding Coastal Change is an exciting Open University and University of Dundee based research project about environmental and social change on the North Norfolk coast. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, ‘Listening to Climate Change’, PI Revill), the project team work with sound, music and different kinds of listening, to explore the ways in which the coast is changing and how people’s lives are changing with it. The team includes geographers, musician/composers, sound artists, a radio producer and a documentary-art filmmaker. They collaborate with residents, school children and young people, local interest and community groups, institutional stakeholders, and visitors.

The project team runs sonic-based workshops, gives live performances of new music and film, creates sound installations, delivers online radio broadcasts and exhibitions, and will produce two free interactive e-books based on this body of work.

The project also draws on recent thinking about environmental (and also social) change that proposes that change should not necessarily be thought of in negative terms. Such thinking argues that doomsday scenarios readily found in conventional political and media representations of environmental change often close down the possibilities for thinking constructively about the future. There is a pressing need for the creation of what we think of as ‘spaces of hope’, where the terms of debate are directed towards thinking how potentially inevitable changes can be made to build the kind of world in which we would prefer to live.


The project partners and collaborators include the National Trust, The Pilgrim Federation of Church of England Primary Schools, Blakeney Parish Council, St. Nicholas’ Church, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Holkham NNR, Future Radio, the British Library Sound Archive, Albanwise Farming Ltd., Seasearch (East), the Norfolk Rivers Trust, and the Norfolk Coast Partnership.

Tune into the day

To listen to the live broadcast, learn more about the AHRC project ‘Listening to Climate Change: experiments with sonic democracy’ and hear/see some of the creative collaborations and events visit their website.

Listen: from 4am onwards.

Listen: 1pm – 5pm at The Blakeney Harbour Room, 139 -141 High St, Blakeney, Holt NR25 7NU
Be part of the broadcast: come to Blakeney Quay, Blakeney, NR25 7NF on 18 July

Follow the project live on Twitter and Facebook.

Listen here for Sound Files on Soundcloud. and see here for images of the project, Blakeney and Cley Marshes on Flikr.

About Author

Liz works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 15 years' marketing experience working across a range of sectors, from diamonds to shampoo. She has a BSc (Hons) in Management from UMIST. In her spare time, Liz is usually found on roller skates or off travelling, having adventures.

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