UWE Bristol students and staff give sound inspiration to BBC Radio 4 Festival

Issue date: 28 February 2012

As part of UWE Bristol's collaborative civic ethos, staff and students from across the University are making significant contributions to the BBC Radio 4 'More Than Words' festival, celebrating the art of sound, storytelling and the art of listening. Radio 4 hosts this exciting free festival in Bristol from 16–18 March to mark the BBC's strong and enduring partnership with the city.

Staff and students at UWE Bristol's Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education, Faculty of Environment and Technology and Faculty of Business and Law have been involved from the outset, contributing and developing original ideas and helping to shape a rich variety of projects.

Dr Tom Abba of UWE Bristol's Digital Cultures Research Centre and Fine Arts student Harriet Bowman feature in Sound Adventurers, Saturday 17 March at the Merchant Venturers Building (12.00 More Than Words Room One).

Field Song – an amazing sonic installation by artist Harriet Bowman, musician Ben Socrates and technologist Charles Gershom – makes its debut at the festival after Harriet won an Ideas Fund Innovators award to create her masterpiece.

UWE MA Media graduate and sound artist Geraint Ffrancon worked with photographer Nicky Brown to produce Channel Weather Symmetry commissioned by Local Journeys and the National Trust: an extraordinary Interactive Sound Installation uses two locations on either side of the British Channel (Rhosili Beach in Wales and Brean Down in Somerset) to inspire a soundtrack and pictures. Inspired by the weather as it rolls up the Bristol Channel, this compelling experience triggers a musical or sonic response to the environment as the user moves through the landscape.

Rachel Robinson, head of BA(Hons) Animation, worked with a team of second-year Animation students to create nine bespoke animations for the festival in response to improvised soundbites around “The Art of Listening”. These pieces will feature on the BBC Radio 4 More Than Words website, and screen in the St George's audience waiting areas, as well as BBC's Big Screen in Bristol Millennium Square. BBC Radio 4 aims to use the animations at other national festivals, such as Edinburgh and Cheltenham.

Dr Shawn Sobers, Photography senior lecturer, and his Photography students are involved in many aspects of the festival. Through The Faces of Listening project, a group of students are taking a pop-up photo studio around Bristol taking images of people 'listening' with colour-coded headphones – the colours connote sentiment and reaction. The photos will be on exhibit in St George's Crypt Gallery throughout the festival, and online via social media.

Final-year student Leilani Winslade took the photographs for one of the festival leaflets, Sights around Bristol.

Photography students are also involved in a portrait project inspired by Homecoming - A Soldier's Odyssey, an epic poem by Welsh author, poet and playwright Owen Sheers, commissioned by BBC Radio 4 in Bristol. This specially commissioned poetry sequence tells the story of a British soldier who is injured in Afghanistan; within 12 hours, he is back in Britain but, in all sorts of ways, he cannot get home. This work explores the timeless agonies of war and its aftermath, taking the story to the streets and people of Bristol. The best of the students' photography will be shown at the performance (17 March, Homecoming - A Soldier's Odyssey, 20:30, QEH, Bristol).

Martyn Harries and Martin Robinson, senior lecturers from the Faculty of Environment and Technology have put together a collection of Bristol Soundscapes and 5 minute Radio Plays for the crypt (Doric Room) of St George's Brandon Hill, Bristol. UWE Bristol BSc (Hons) Music Technology students from the second and third year will showcase some of their assignment work.

Dr Fiona Jordan, Faculty of Business and Law, is working with final year Tourism Management students to carry out an evaluation of the weekend and festival's success as part of their Events Management module project work. Students will be designing surveys and undertaking research over the weekend in consultation with the festival's organisers. They will be seeking the views of festival-goers about their experiences. This will provide a baseline evaluation of the festival which can be built upon in future years, as the festival becomes an annual feature of Bristol's calendar.

UWE Bristol Volunteering is also helping recruit volunteers for the weekend events. Volunteers will be working alongside the BBC Live Events team and BBC programme production teams ensuring that the festival runs smoothly. Working backstage, assisting with meeting and greeting contributors and interacting with live audiences the volunteers will be gaining practical experience and making valuable industry contacts.

Clare McGinn, Head of BBC Radio 4 in Bristol, says, “More Than Words brings together well known Radio 4 faces and programmes (many of them made in Bristol already) with a host of gifted musicians, storytellers, community choirs, poets and sound artists from this region. We've worked closely with schools, youth groups, universities, arts, media and cultural communities to offer something unique around the theme of listening.

"I'm delighted that staff and students at UWE Bristol are playing an important role in More Than Words. We were looking for new ways we could work with bright, young talent around the themes of listening, sound and storytelling. As festival-goers will see, and hear, over the weekend they have more than risen to the challenges we set. It's also been inspiring for us in radio to work with UWE Bristol students just starting their careers in digital and visual arts. We're pleased to be showcasing their talents on a wider platform.”

Dr Tom Abba says, “Working with the BBC Radio 4 team has been a valuable experience for students from across the University. The opportunity to present work and ideas on a national platform provides an ideal way to mark our involvement with the BBC and Bristol in general.”

The More Than Words runs over three days [16-18 March] with shows, masterclasses and workshops in a range of venues including: St George's Bristol, The M Shed, Bristol University, QEH Theatre and Bristol Folk House. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/more-than-words/

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