Monday, July 21, 2008

The Barrow AFC Football Orchestra pt.2

More BAFC-inspired scores and music from the children at Barrow Island Primary School. The crowd may have dwindled, but the percussion section are still going strong as proceedings draw to a close. Listen out for the final whistle (egg timer) and a slightly annoyed referee.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Project Summary (3 of 3)

To accompany this, there will be also be an edition of books that will be available to buy from sellers around the ground and from the club shop. Examining the role of printed matter in recording transient events, this will be inspired in terms of its aesthetic by those obsessively encyclopaedic club histories produced by fans. Current favourites include: The Holker St. Greats Pt.2., The Definitive Barrow AFC, and The Colin Cowperthwaite Testimonial Programme. This idea follows on from earlier editions of artist’s books produced as co-founder of Earwig Books, a book arts imprint and studio originally based in London. Publications such as Walks in Leicestershire (2004), The Negative Album (2005) and Census (2006) have all taken specific geographical situations as starting points for investigating themes of locality and memory and how these affect our perceptions of a particular landscape. These works have all been made directly available to the non gallery-going public, being catalogued in public libraries, secreted in park bandstands and sold cheaply in village halls in order to make direct contact with the environment they address. Similarly, the outcomes of the residency will be presented as a series of events and documents rather than as a traditional exhibition, and will require viewers to become an active participant in the work, whether it requires them to go for a walk around the pitch, play an instrument during a match or knit a scarf. The results of the Barrow AFC Digital Residency will be presented at Holker St. in late August / early September.

Contact John Hall at or Glenn Boulter at: for further information.
Project Summary (2 of 3)

The start of the residency coincided with me relocating from Leicester and has come as a welcome introduction to the area. Working from my studio space at the Canteen Arts Centre on Barrow Island and at the Bluebirds Study Centre, the project so far has seen me giving talks about my practice to members of the public and to students at Barrow sixth form College, being interviewed by the North West Evening Mail and running a workshop with children from Thorncliffe Secondary School, making postcard books in which to record the final matches of the season. Though trained as a printmaker, I currently work across a range of media and decided to approach the brief - to create a piece of digital (i.e. non-permanent) art - through a mixture of sound-based work and performance, using publications and print as a way of documenting and complementing this.
The sound pieces will explore the aural environment of the ground from the physical sounds of the game to the emotional response of the crowd as well as the acoustics of the site. These are being produced collaboratively with Midlands-based artist and musician Francis O’ Donnell Smith, with whom I started working during a residency at Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre. This saw us jointly develop a series of multi-media improvisations based around the city’s vanishing industrial architecture and has since led to us performing regular shows with a shifting cast of guest musicians and delivering a series of workshops for Creative Partnerships teaching methods of composition that rely on creating systems and parameters to generate music. Before starting the project, I was especially keen to get back to working with text and spoken word and have since been looking at early experimental radio dramas with a view to eventually having a piece broadcast on Radio Cumbria during or following their regular match coverage. The written texts will be read by a local actor and will be made up of collaged sponsors’ adverts, transcribed commentary, fixtures and lists of players. Ideas that may feed into this include a composed piece of music based around the team’s history. This involves a series of simple musical motifs derived from past and present league tables, resulting in a compressed musical timeline with each group of notes following league positions for every year of the team’s existence. Another idea will see us recruiting an amateur orchestra (i.e. anyone who owns an instrument – they don’t necessarily have to be able to play it). We will then line up two sets of musicians along opposite sides of the pitch and asking them to make sounds in response to the movements of their team. The emphasis would not be on melody, but on the back and forth motion of the music, with the instruments being selected and/or open-tuned to create a general sound and to avoid ‘virtuoso-ism’.
Project Summary (pt.1 of 3)

As someone whose work in the past has taken inspiration from my local Co-op supermarket, a group of ramblers and a singer in a working men’s club, being chosen for a residency at Barrow AFC Football club has provided a valuable opportunity for me to further develop my interest in localised culture and models of social interaction.

Barrow AFC is a semi-professional football club, based in Barrow In Furness, South Cumbria and playing in the Blue Square Conference North, best described as Division 6 in the football pyramid. For a club of its size in a town of approx 70,000, the club is very well supported. In a moderately successful season the Bluebirds can expect an average gate of over 1000, double the average for the level at which they play. The project’s theme is Football, Art and Community and is being led by artist and Barrow supporter John Hall with the support of the Arts Council England, Cumbria Arts In Education, Aim Higher, Barrow Borough Council and partner schools across the county. The residency involves researching and developing a piece of work for installation at the start of the 2008-9 season.

Despite not being a football supporter and having never attended a match as an adult, I was nonetheless interested in exploring objectively the idea of the game as a form of performance with its own attendant set of rituals. The Holker Street ground with its array of textured concrete surfaces, layers of royal blue paint and walls topped with broken glass, has a strong physical presence. Geographically situated at one of the town’s highest points, it looks out over the Duddon estuary, across to Black Combe fell and takes in housing estates, a cemetery and an Asda supermarket to its rear. Though relatively small compared to many football clubs, it is clearly an integral part of the community. This became clear from an early stage when myself and other short-listed candidates were invited to watch Barrow vs. Gainsborough Trinity (Barrow won 4-1) before being interviewed at the ground the following afternoon. Since beginning the residency at the end of January, I have regularly donned extra layers of clothing and journeyed to Holker Street on Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons to see Barrow play, with the players often battling against fierce coastal winds and driving rain. As the season has progressed and the weather improved, I’ve gradually watched the crowds swell from 500 to almost 3,000, culminating in an open top bus parade through the town centre that celebrated the team’s promotion into the Blue Square Premier League earlier this month.
Workshops at Barrow Island Primary School

During two sessions on the 15th and 16th of July, children from years 4 and 5 at Barrow Island Community Primary School were asked to compose and perform music based around a game of football. Using a variety of instruments and amplified objects, they were asked to respond to the movements of the ball and the players around the pitch. The majority of the children were non-musicians and were asked to play instruments including: open tuned guitars, a drum machine, an amplified computer keyboard, two large pebbles and a piano. Graphic notation was used to allocate sounds to different areas of the pitch in order to alter the tone of the music over a series of performances. Each group was given the task of devising their own score and organising the players accordingly.