16 Aug 21

High Street Sound Walks: interview with Dan Fox

Dan Fox image - High Street Sound Walks artist for Barrow

We are working with Historic England and the National Trust to launch a series of self-guided, immersive sound walks to help people discover the magic of their local high streets in September 2021.

We caught up with Dan Fox, the sound artist creating the sound walk for Barrow-in-Furness, to find out more about the sound walk, the key themes, stories and sounds that are being explored, his relationship to the area, what he hopes audiences will experience from doing the sound walk, and much more.

Can you tell us more about your Sound Walk? What are the key themes, stories and sounds that you are exploring?

Barrovia tells the history of Barrow and the High Street Action Zones through the voices of life-long Barrow residents. It is a mixture of factual history, comments on architecture, recollections and stories from living memory. There are also some archive sound recordings mixed in of music and events that happened within the High Street Action Zones.

Sound artist Dan Fox speaks to Charlie MacKeith

What do you hope audiences will experience from doing the Sound Walk?

I hope audiences will learn about the history and present day experience of the town through short personal stories that give a uniquely Barrovian perspective.

How long have you been working as a sound artist? How did you begin your career as a sound artist?

I have worked with sound since I bought a cassette 4-track when I was 14, so almost 40 years! I grew up surrounded by artists and musicians in my parents theatre company Welfare State International and I was fortunate to be involved in shows as a musician, maker and sound artist from an early age.

Being a musician has always been a big part of my practice but since I started my company Sound Intervention in 2008, sound art has become more of a focus. I often work outdoors, increasingly off-grid and often with other media such as light, photography and projections.

Sound artist Dan Fox and Charlie MacKeith talking on Ramsden Square, Barrow-in-Furness.

What is your relationship to Barrow and how has this influenced your approach to this project?

My family moved to Ulverston, just down the road from Barrow when I was 10. After I left schooI, I worked and studied in many parts of England and Europe for several years before returning to make a base in Ulverston. I now work all over the UK but enjoy being based in south Cumbria.

As I was growing up Welfare State International pioneered many local community arts projects and through those projects I developed networks with musicians, artists and residents of Barrow and the Furness peninsula.

What is the most unusual sound or interesting discovery that audiences can expect to hear during the Sound Walk?

I really like the quiet humour and respect for the history of the town that is embodied in the voices of the people I interviewed. There is an image of Barrow as an isolated location “at the end of a 40 mile cul-de-sac” but this isn’t the story I have heard from the people I recorded.

What is the most unusual sound you have recorded in your career?

There are many unusual sounds I’ve recorded…inside a beehive, inside an ants nest, underwater creatures, the heartbeat of my unborn daughter, the quiet of the first lockdown...but probably the ones I most enjoy are the enchanting cadences of a large scale aeolian sculpture I created called Howling Wire.

Sound artist Dan Fox in Barrow.

Personally, what do you enjoy most about Sound Walks?

There are many forms a sound walk can take but I enjoy the intimacy of wearing headphones and listening to a recording whilst walking through the landscape. There are so many different ways to transport the listener and create a layered sensory experience.

How would you describe the experience to someone who has never done something like this before?

Our brain chooses what our eyes look at but our ears are always open. A sound walk directs our listening in a way chosen by the artist whilst we walk through landscape. It can help us experience a place in a new way with layers of sound, music, poetry, interviews, history, fantasy, facts, anecdotes, sound effects. Together these heighten our experience and hopefully create a lasting memory.

Barrovia is rooted in the voices of Barrovians. It is designed to be listened to walking slowly along a specific route, taking time to pause and focus on the place.

Sound artist Dan Fox speaks to  Charlie MacKeith on Duke Street, Barrow-in-Furness.

High Street Sound Walks are being launched as part of Heritage Open days and will be available from 10 September 2021. For more details on each of the Sound Walks, visit: www.HistoricEngland.org.uk/SoundWalks

High Street Sound Walks is a commission by Historic England, National Trust and Heritage Open Days with support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and produced by Sound UK. It is part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme, led by Historic England.

The High Street Sound Walk for Barrow-in-Furness is produced in association with Full of Noises.

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