Author: Amy Barnes

After the Show

Posted: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:12 by Amy Barnes

After the Show

By Colin Hyde

This sound clip was recorded in August 2014 after a performance of Annie at Curve Theatre. It follows people as they leave the theatre, walk to the nearby car park, get the parking tickets processed, climb the stairs, and then exit the stairs into the car park area. The sound changes noticeably as the crowd moves from one place to another on the route. The main edit in the piece is the transition from the crowds exiting the theatre to them walking to the car park.

These are the timings:

0 – 1.10 people leaving Curve
1.11 - 1.47 walking to the car park
1.48 – 2.25 getting the ticket processed
2.26 – 2.59 on the stairs
3.00 – 4.25 in the car park

For many theatre goers this is a common experience. Although it's only a short journey, how many people notice the number of changes in the quality of the sound as they walk out of Curve into the open space of Orton Square, walk along the side of the road having to watch out for traffic, enter the small enclosed concrete entrance to the car park, crowd onto the narrow concrete stairs, and exit into the large open, low ceilinged space of the car park?

Photo of Curve by Colin Hyde (2012).

Visit to Leicester Transport Heritage Trust (LTHT)

Posted: Mon, 01 Sep 2014 10:50 by Amy Barnes

Visit to Leicester Transport Heritage Trust (LTHT)

By Andrew Hill

Recently (2nd August 2014) I headed out of Leicester on the 153 bus towards Kirby Muxloe and Desford. I was on my way to meet Richard Worman and the volunteers of the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust and the fantastic buses which they restore and preserve.

One of the key buildings in the Cultural Quarter is the LCB Depot, a former bus depot and control centre of Leicester City Transport (LCT, later Leicester CityBus LCB). Opened on the 9th March 1969, the Rutland Street operating centre was the base of operations for management and logistics of the bus network in Leicester. The company pioneered the use of CCTV television cameras and VHF radios to monitor and communicate between the drivers and control centre, leading to an efficient and flexible service.

This was also the base of operations for all drivers who would sign in and out to begin and end shifts and count up the fares they had collected during the shift. The building had social areas and a cafeteria and was the hub of the bus community allowing drivers to meet and socialise.

Listen to the sound of a Metro Scania bus starting up here.

Out in Desford I was transported back in time by the fantastic and pristine restoration work of the excellent Leicester Transport Heritage Trust members. I swiftly set up my recording equipment and thanks to Richard and his colleagues began to explore the sounds of the buses. Each had its own distinctive voice with unique engine notes and individual hiss and air sounds as the doors swung open.

I had the chance to experience:

  • 1950 Leyland PD2 – a separate conductor and driver for this type of bus with passenger access via the step at the back.
  • 1972 Metro Scania single decker bus – LCT was one of the first companies to employ this type of bus within the UK
  • 1982 Dennis Dominator – specified and part designed by the director of LCT Geoffrey Hilditch, Leicester took a large number of these buses into service. So they would have been a frequent visitor to the Rutland Street depot. Listen to the sound of a Dennis Dominator bus parking here.

Having a chance to hear and record these buses really helped me to envisage the soundscape of the Rutland Street control centre, and the local area, and to understand how important these sounds were to the historical soundscape and how iconic they would have been for the people who worked there.

On entering the tunnel into the depot, drivers would beep their horn to signal their approach. Richard was kind enough to re-enact this for our soundscape. Listen to the sound of a bus entering the depot here.

The Leicester Transport Heritage Trust keep this key element of Leicester heritage alive. While I was there they kindly downed tools while we recorded but are usually undertaking sterling work to restore these iconic vehicles. While re-upholstering a bus seat they
discovered an old LCT bus ticket which they gave to me as a memento.

This recording visit gave me a really tangible sense of this oft forgotten part of Leicester heritage.

Listen to more sounds from the LTHT here.


Image courtesy of LTHT.
Sounds recorded by Andrew Hill
Special thanks to Richard Worman, Leicester Transport Heritage Trust and John Hess.

The St Georges area of the future, as envisioned in 1949

Posted: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:16 by Amy Barnes

The St Georges area of the future, as envisioned in 1949

By Colin Hyde

An interesting piece of trivia about the Cultural Quarter has been unearthed in the pages of a 1949 edition of a short-lived journal called The Leicestershire and Rutland Magazine. Post-war traffic plans for Leicester at that time envisaged a series of bus stations around the city, one of which was to have been on the site of what is now Curve Theatre.

On this map you can see the Odeon cinema (now Athena) top centre and the area occupied by Curve beneath. The current NCP car park was built on the site of Leicester's Wholesale Market, which was obviously going to be demolished in the 1949 plan along with most of the area (where is Yeoman Street or Halford Street?). We can only guess why the planners felt the need for another cinema (top left), although this was the pre-television era and the appetite for cinema was huge.

This development, had it gone ahead, would have completely erased the street plan of this part of the Cultural Quarter. However, by the time the various post-war plans made it into policy they had become the 1952 city development plan, which toned down the need for multiple bus stations in favour of three ring roads and multi-storey car parks. But that, as they say, is another story…

More Sounds of the Cultural Quarter

Posted: Tue, 05 Aug 2014 21:23 by Amy Barnes

More Sounds of the Cultural Quarter

By Colin Hyde

While I have been pounding the streets of the Cultural Quarter, asking people to record the sounds around them on mobile phones, I have also been doing some recording myself. The best collection of sounds I found today came from the various machines in Halford Shoes at 38 Halford Street. In 1969 this shop was Hartley's Corn Stores (for which we have no sound), but the current business cuts keys, mends shoes, and does engraving too. The machines that do this make a wonderful variety of cutting and grinding noises and this is your guide to the sounds I recorded.

Listen to the recording on SoundCloud.

First, the sound of the doorbell as you enter the shop. Then, the key cutter, the compressor (with the sound of the doorbell towards the end), and the slightly quieter sole and heel press. The much louder finishing machine starts at full pelt but slows down and, finally, the engraving machine rounds it off.

Many thanks to Halford Shoes for allowing me to record in their shop.

If you live, work, or play in the Cultural Quarter why not record a minute or two of the sound around you on your mobile phone and email it to me.

The Sound of Leicester's Cultural Quarter

Posted: Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:51 by Amy Barnes

The Sound of Leicester's Cultural Quarter

By Dr Andrew Hill

Sounds are all around us, but we very rarely stop and listen to what we can hear. Sounds can tell us the story of what's going on in an area:

  • How much is going on?
  • What type of activities are taking place?
  • How do these activities change over time (for example: how do the sounds change over the course of a day?).

Sounds leave us with a visceral impression of human activities, the 'goings on' in a certain place at a particular point in time.

What are we doing?

We're digging back through the archives to try and work out what the Cultural Quarter would have sounded like between 1950 – 1990. And, with your help, we're seeking to create a contemporary archive of the sounds of the Cultural Quarter today.

What sounds do you hear when you:

  • Come to work in the Cultural Quarter?
  • Come home?
  • Visit the theatre or cinema?
  • Pop out for some shopping?
  • Grab a drink at the bars?
  • Have dinner in one of the restaurants?
  • Take part in one of the street festivals / events?

We're looking for the sounds that most stick in your mind and those that are most important to you. What sounds are iconic to this area? Help us build an archive that people will be able to look back on in 50 years time and compare with their future soundscape.

Why are we so interested in sound?

Photographs and maps provide physical evidence of the past, but these can only tell us what things looked like at a specific snapshot in time, often from the outside. Sounds can give us a much richer understanding of an area, telling us what is happening out of sight (around corners or within buildings) and what happens over a period of time.

But sounds are also ephemeral. They exist only while the action causing them lasts and then they fade away. So many of the past sounds of the Cultural Quarter have been lost forever.

But with help from participants and members of the public coming forward to share their experiences of the Cultural Quarter, we have begun to build up a picture of what the Cultural Quarter would have once sounded like.

What will be the end result?

We've been visiting museums and factories to collect the sounds of machinery, of buses, of sirens and we are bringing all of these sounds together into an interactive mapping application.

We're going to reconstruct the sounds of the Cultural Quarter as it would have been prior to regeneration, shedding new light on the activities that took place there. And creating an interactive experience that will allow users to explore the sounds of the Cultural Quarter (past and present) to discover something new about this diverse and ever evolving sector of the town.

Get Involved

If you work, rest or play in the Cultural Quarter today, why not use your phone (or other gadget) to send us an audio recording of any sounds that you find interesting?

If you have experience of the area in the past (when it was known as St Georges) then please get in touch with us and let us know of any interesting sounds / experiences that you remember in the area.

Contact: Colin Hyde, University of Leicester, tel: 0116 2525065, website:

More information – for more information on soundscapes you might find this TED talk interesting. Bernie Krause talks about the sounds of nature Biophony (though of course in this project we're interested in the sounds of humans – Anthrophony).

For information about recording (equipment and ideas) check out this great page from the organisation Sound and Music:

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