Last year, with my colleague Derek Frood, we made an audio trail within a hidden Jewish cemetery in Plymouth and we thought a handful of curious people would turn up. But…around 120 people arrived each day and those who didn’t have smart phones or their own headphones waited patiently for one of the 15 MP3s to become available.
Knowing there was the potential for further trails and realising there was a thirst for hidden stories in hidden places we decided to research and develop more stories across the south west, partnering with Kehillat Kernow, (the Jewish Council of Cornwall) and the Friends of Ponsharden Cemetery, for the Jewish & Dissenters cemetery in Falmouth.
In a couple of weeks we will go into a studio with sound technicians, the wonderful people at Stage Technical Services in Exeter and investigate different ways of recording our stories to make the finished trails.
Currently our Plymouth audio trail is uploaded onto an MP3 and each story is a different track meaning you can be in charge of your own wanderings and move to whatever part of the graveyard you want to go to. Alternatively you can listen on a smartphone via Soundcloud; operating the trail on your own phone makes it easier to navigate for a lot of people.
The idea that people can wander around listening to a soundtrack means that the peace and stillness of the site remains, which is something we feel is important. In Plymouth as people waited they could take in the site and watch people making the tour but at the same time remain oblivious to the audio they were watching them listen to. This had a particular powerful affect on one audience member last year…
“The music and voices really made the people ‘come alive’ the particular reference about the physicality of the Stonehouse police suddenly jolted me into the realisation that I was standing on the remains of that particular body and I found that a very powerful moment. The other thing that impacted on me was noticing the other listeners. They were randomly dotted around the cemetery, solemn statues, heads bent down like they were watching over the dead; every so often they would slowly move to a new grave and take up their positions again. It’s difficult to put into words, but it felt like a strange transposition, the dead being brought to life by the stories while the living had become immobile listening to them”.
“… difficult to put into words”, I reckon they managed to do so very eloquently.
Over the next few months we will be updating our findings on our website here.
Hidden Stories: Hidden Places, Falmouth is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and through Feast Cornwall, a programme that makes great art happen across Cornwall.
If you want to be kept informed of the project, dates we will be sharing work and audios, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the ‘contact’ page on the website and we will add you to our newsletter.