Jun 16, 2016

Critically Conversing at Old Low Light


One of the key elements of Stolen Voices is the process and its relationship to listening. The Critical Conversation, held at Old Low Light (The Net), North Shields, provided some valuable time for reflection and for sharing how listening had informed and shaped the project. It also provided an opportunity to actively and collectively consider, what is a listening and what makes a listener?

There was also tea and cake.

listening as research


As we are discovering, the best kind of listening takes place by the sea. North Shields and the Old Low Light provided the ideal setting for our auditory musings, stretching our thoughts beyond the specificities of Seaham.


A bit of distance from the coast of County Durham and several sets of critical ears, belonging to those who make up a crucial part of the North Easts cultural landscape, further helped to set the scene and backdrop for sharing our use of listening as both methodology and material.

Several types of listening took place across the distinct phases of the work.

Here are a few specific examples of what we listened to in Seaham:

  • The pamphlets of poet and local historian Bill Griffiths
  • The epitaph on a grave in the grounds of an 8th century church
  • Bouncers in Wetherspoons ordering a salad on a walkie-talkie in close proximity
  • Existing community infrastructures
  • The birds on Blast beach at dawn
  • A local town Councillor reciting phone numbers from memory

As we all know, listening is a two-way thing and sharing our process enabled us to hear echoes of the work from the voices of others.

Here are some of the echoes from the room:

  • The gig audience were swapping notes and stories of their own eavesdropping endeavours
  • Folk listening is a different kind of listening and is inherently social
  • Ears might be trained to words or tunes and therefore, the tune can obscure the words and hand outs might be an option
  • A tune can provide welcome relief to a more challenging section
  • A smooching couple and the sun can add to the atmosphere