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Sounds of the Cultural Quarter: some thank yous

Posted: Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:20 by Amy Barnes

Sounds of the Cultural Quarter: some thank yous

By Colin Hyde

One of the features of the Sounds of the Cultural Quarter app is that we have attempted to recreate sounds of the past as well as capturing sounds of the present. Where we haven't been able to do this ourselves we have had to seek help and this blog post is a 'thank you' to all those who have assisted us in the creation of the app. First, thank you to all the individuals who recorded sound on their mobile phones and sent them to us. Second, while other blog posts have thanked Leicester Transport Heritage Trust and Halford Shoes, these are the other organisations and companies who have been so helpful:

Big John's Auto Service for permission to record in the workshop.

Cobra Emergency Videos for permission to use the sound from their video 'Ex-West Mercia Police - Old Ford Transit Van Ride Along - with Two Tones!'. The Cobra Emergency Videos You Tube channel is a gold mine of emergency vehicles.

Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at the University of Northampton for allowing Andrew Hill to record the sounds of their tannery.

Mosaic, for sending us the words and music to the 'Song of the Guild of the Crippled'. Thanks also to Claire Hudson for singing the song.

Music Junkie, Lee Street, for permission to record in the shop.

Pantherella Socks. When we went to record their machinery the BBC came with us.

Queens Street Apartments for distributing our email that resulted in recordings of both Athena and the swimming pool at the Apartments.

St George's Church for permission to record part of a service and Angela Zarac for ringing the bell so enthusiastically.

Steve Inglesant at Leicester's Wholesale Market at Freeman's Common, for permission to record the sound of the market.

Studio 79 for permission to record in their dance studio.

The Leicester Mercury newspaper for recording the sound of their newsroom.

The Shed, for permission to record at the venue.

The Shirdi Sai Baba Temple for allowing us to use music recorded in the Temple.

Torsten Nilsson and his recordings of industrial machines. A remarkable collection that you can experience via You Tube or the Work With Sounds website.

Love the life you live ... live the life you love

Posted: Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:13 by Amy Barnes

Love the life you live ... live the life you love

By Carol Leeming FRSA

[You can read Carol's response to the Affective Digital Histories' Creative Commissions call - on the Centre for New Writing's website here]

I have now completed my successful Affective Digital Histories Writing commission, a choreopoem titled Love the life you live ... live the life you love and submitted it to the Centre for New Writing, University of Leicester, part of the Affective Histories Team. For the project, creative digital designers have been working with my text alongside the text of other writers commissioned by the project to develop a mobile phone app. The result of all this creative work will be launched, along with the accompanying phone app, on 27th November 2014 in the Cultural Quarter, at the Light Bulb Studio, LCB Depot, 31 Rutland Street, Leicester. I will be reading a short excerpt of my choreopoem at this illustrious launch event, in the area that inspired it -I simply can't wait!

On reflection it has been a fascinating journey, of new experiences and learning, meeting and linking with new people: a range of professionals, academics, designers and, of course, other wonderful writers. I appreciated the bursary, the research materials and information that were made available for us writers, i.e. information about the area, its local social and industrial history. This enabled me to be inspired and write confidently, as I could access, as part of my research phase for the piece, all the information I needed. Then, later on, the opportunity of working with creative digital designers for the very first time - specifically for a phone app.

I enjoyed the marvellous experience, (if somewhat challenging) of sharing my choreopoem, with a live local audience, who sat riveted for about an hour at Embrace Arts, followed by a lively Q&A and very positive feedback, judging by the questionnaires they completed! Creating further interest, in my writing and future professional productions, and also in the Cultural Quarter area among those unfamiliar with it. An added bonus were the two members of the audience whose family ancestors had worked and lived around the area in the past. All of these new opportunities and experiences, contributed greatly to my knowledge and further professional, creative development as a writer.

It therefore provided a great chance for me to contribute ambient literature – to enrich visitors' experience of the Cultural QuarterI am sure that all the different components of the project, e.g. the writing and use of the phone app etc., will add immeasurably to changing perceptions of and how people will experience the area – it has already done so for me! I am very excited by all of this and other events and activities, e.g. a Writers Sharing Day, planned for the future by the Affective Digital Histories Team, for further public engagement with this very innovative project. Lastly, I believe the project celebrates and acknowledges, by combining together not only the industrial and social past of the area, but importantly, peoples' shared memories, recollections and speculations, all of which, in some way, have left an imprint of themselves. Creating an important legacy for the people of Leicester, to be added to for the future.

Read Carol's blog here.

Photo: Marshall's Music Depot, now Helsinki. Courtesy of Ambrose Musiywa.

Scribbling in the Margins: Writing Marginalia

Posted: Wed, 12 Nov 2014 16:20 by Amy Barnes

Scribbling in the Margins: Writing Marginalia

By Kevan Manwaring

[You can read Marginalia: Graffiti, Urban Coding and the Semiotics of the Street - Kevan's response to the Affective Digital Histories' Creative Commissions call - on the Centre for New Writing's website here]

When I first read the brief I must admit my eyes glazed over. Recreating De-Industrialsed Places? What could be further from my field of interest? But then the stubborn streak which makes me a highly-motivated writer kicked inTwo principles of mine rang out: I am a writer and I can write about anything. And, wherever you live is interesting. Then I re-read the brief and I realized (sound of penny dropping) that it did intersect with my own interest in psychogeography and narratives of place. I had just completed two collections of folk tales, recording obscure stories of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, and that illustrated to me that there are treasures everywhere waiting to be unearthed. They are not just in picturesque villages. I was all too aware of that, having grown up in a depressingly de-industrial Northampton (where I was to write my first novel, inspired by my research into the history of the town). I had taught myself the history of where I grew up because I wanted to know why it was like the way it was. Its architecture, its town-planning, its genius loci, had a very real impact on me, growing up, as it still does on all who live there. Phenomenologically, it influences quality of life on a daily basis. It's the Affect, stupid.

There was something about Leicester's red-brick factories that reminded me of my 'dirty old town' – so that, in itself, was a way in.

I can't recall when or how I first alighted upon the idea of exploring the graffiti-culture of the Cultural Quarter, aka St George's. It probably happened, like a lot of my ideas, in the white heat of a black coffee-high, in the snow-storm of my daily online work. I probably read the brief while scanning emails in a coffee-break. I must have let it digest while I munched on a chocolate digestive and then, ping, like a microwave ready-meal, there it was. I would write about marginalized voices – graffiti artists – those who 'write in the margins' of our urban landscapes, below the radar of the commerce-mainstream, out of sight of the CCTV cameras.I quickly wrote the proposal, while the fire in the head was with me, and fired it off.

It got commissioned. So all I had to do was write the thing. Gulp. But, trusting in the powers of research, all things are possible (or writable), I set to work.

Initial field-research went thus: I simply walked around St George's with my eyes and ears open, oblivious to its history, avoiding any apps or maps, or guidebooks. Next, I went round it again listening to the excellent St George's app. This revealed to me many things I hadn't noticed – and re-framed the ones I had. Then I walked around some more until the walls began to speak. I pressed my head to the brick and ink oozed out…

I followed this up with a visit to the Leicester Mercury archives. Housed in the University's Raiders of the Lost Ark-like special storage warehouse, they would prove invaluable. I was helped enormously by Simon Dixon, Digital Humanities and Special Collections Manager, who quickly located the relevant files amid the acres of musty shelving. I scanned the clippings about the city's graffiti subculture, noting how its reporting turned from depicting it as a 'problem' to a source of local 'pride.' To bring it up to date, I visited Izzie, the proprietor of HQ – the fab Graffiti 'centre' on Charles Street. She told me of 'official sites' and sent me links of some recent photographs.

Armed with a whole wadge of notes, photographs and photocopies I retreated to my bat-cave to turn the chaos into some kind of sense. I came up with a framing narrative that pushed the boundaries of the creative and critical modes of writing. This was 'historical narrative non-fiction' after all, so I felt behoven to tell a story. And that is what I set out to do – placing myself in the picture, as the wide-eyed researcher exploring the zone with the help of a 'Trickster' guide figure, in the form of Elephant Head, a Ganesha-esque skateboarding graffiti-artist … and that's when the fun really began.

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.

References:

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…

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