Northern Big Board – What I did part 2

So, continuing from last week’s post, here I am again, summarising 2 more of the 7 things I made for Northern Big Board. This week, it’s the Story Portraits, and Sheer Therapy.

These were the simplest idea of the lot, definitely the easiest to edit, too. But interestingly the most labour intensive and frustrating to fit up. Turn out I JUST CAN’T CUT CARD STRAIGHT (thanks to Fran Graham for helping me out with that while I was running around finishing everything else). These were the last things to go up, but also the most accessible walk-up piece. What were they? Well, after spending over 100 hours chatting to passersby, staff, and pool users I ended up with an awful lot of brilliant interviews with fascinating people that I could use snippets of, or as jumping off points, but it felt really sad to let the actual voices; cadence and content; of the people of Shipley Pool go unheard. So I came up with the Story Portraits. Simply what they say – they were small audio extracts built of out of conversations had with pool users – cutting out my questions and selecting sections to make it feel like a small complete snipped. This audio was accompanied by a photograph of the speaker. In the pool these were installed as ‘light boxes’ (budgetary constraints meant that this was actually card framed transparentish photo-paper with battery powered lights gaffa’d behind them). Each was fitted to a specific locker, you opened the locker to a pair of headphones and mp3 player, and the large lit-up portrait. See below for a youtube playlist of the audio and images that you listened to.

This piece was also quite a simple thing to put together – a straightforward edit of my narrator/storytelling vocals talking about our relationship to our bodies when we exercise, the pool as a place of escape, a place of vanishing; all of which were themes that emerged from several conversations. Particularly older and disabled people. Eric, who is 82, is the person who gave the piece it’s title. ‘Sheer therapy’ he said, ‘it should be on the National Health’ he said, a social occasion, hard work, but it eases his breathing, it makes him feel like Tarzan. Original recordings from interviews went together with a simple whispered lead vocal to form a simple sound collage (with backing sound from the brilliant Heather Fenoughty) that spoke about escape, that invited you to lay back in a very comfortable warm space, to watch water glint, projected onto the ceiling, as people talk about what they think about when they swim, the places they go to, and that feeling afterwards. The ‘comfortable’ space was one of the smaller group changing rooms, blacked out, with a large inflatable mattress covered in cushions, you laid back, the NBB helper guiding you in would help you put the headphones in, and then activate the audio and video. The helpers were told to allow people to sleep for a bit if they drifted off. Which was sort of the point. Image below:

And there you go. Next week, the final two (Trust Me, and Cuppa), and a little on the bonus piece.

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