Today I took over from Kathy Hinde to deliver my first Echo-location ‘walkshop’. As a studio artist at Bedford Creative Arts I learnt about Kathy’s project early on and have been helping out along the way. Before I met Kathy my exposure to the wide world of sound art had been limited. I came to the project inexperienced but curious – like many of those who have consequently participated on the project. Being a little green helps as you can ask what I feared might be ‘stupid’ questions. Thankfully Kathy was great at opening up the science, theory, and technology in a way that I found easy to understand.
I immediately found the whole idea of mapping the sounds of Bedford engaging and tantalising. I have lived in and around Bedford most of my life and as it normally goes I often find myself saying Bedford is weirder, more diverse, more charming, more underrated, than town A, B or C. But as an artist I often find it hard to separate the subjective from the objective. All of this often results in my occupation as the the AWOL Tourist Guide of Bedford when I stumble into other towns and countries. I reel of facts and conjectures avidly in an attempt to paint the town as the toughest, knarliest diamond in the rough that there ever was. Peppering normal conversations with exaggerated anecdotes of Wilko’s Sicilian checkout mafia, ‘unbelievable’ Midland Road visions, or our resident and untiring mobile street preacher.
As a result if anyone innocently compares Bedford to some-other-town or seem underwhelmed by its charms I can’t help feeling dashed and slightly embarrassed. Like many others I have adopted Bedford as ‘my town’. Like anything close, Bedford is ingrained, it irritates and I’m extremely fond of it. So a chance to map Bedford is like traversing into my own psycho-geography and history to pull out some pearls and ‘show-off’. This project gives you a platfrom (and a mic) allowing you to map your personal and often intangible experience of a place. What results is a fluid symphony of the noise, mess and everyday magic flowing from the flood of people, things, processes and preoccupations of Bedford. I think it sounds brilliant. But then I guess I would…
I had a great time on this workshop and meeting the students of PLACE. We roamed Bedford in an attempt to capture the fleeting moments of the weird and wonderful it often offers up. We managed to serve up; The Horror Gate, just off Horne Lane, the Feeding Frenzy of the winged visitors along the Ouse, the automated tones of the pop-up marketing campaign (for the Hands Free Bin temporarily resident in the Harpur Centre), Thomas and his ‘commercially marooned’ Tank Engine, as well as a scattering of Squawks, Rattles, Clicks and Drops.