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artist commission : Geoff Sample

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Sounding Out Bedlington was a community arts project running from january to june in 2005.

The commission was to engage the local community in setting up an audio trail with 15 listening posts and associated sound pieces along the course of the river Blyth in Bedlington Dene, part of the former coalfields of south-east Northumberland.

Commissioned by popular request among parents at the SureStart centre, the project needed to work across generations, both in the process and in the composed works. Each piece was conceived to be heard in that spot and to enhance the sense of place and connection in mood, chat and stories.

Through a mix of field recordings, voice and musical ephemera it explores the history, culture and ecology of the area: with contributions from the children of Bedlington first school, students at Northumberland College, participants in a series of workshops, various local residents, and chance meetings on the walk.

Overall, the pieces that make up the trail reflect on the dynamic of constant change, as in the flow of the river. We struggle through our lives to find some stability in a changing world. But change is in the nature of things. Knowledge, memories, artifacts and hidden signs link us with the past and we carry all into the future.

"You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you."

Heraclitus (aka ‘The Riddler’) Greece, c.500BC

page from CD booklet

The trail followed the main path along the north side of the river, through the remnants of the free wood. As opposed to the ha’penny woods over the river. Start and end was by Furnace Bridge, where until the 1950s there had been a small village. And the village itself was the survivor of an era when this was an industrial complex working iron and building trains. Now green space.

Bedlington Dene 2 : men of iron

15 : past & future

page from CD booklet

The top end of the trail was Atlee Park, the open area by Bedlington Bridge and the site of the Miners’ Picnics, attended by several Prime Ministers over the years.

In between was a glorious tangle of woodland, scrub, clearings, brambles and marshy pockets following the banks of the river Blyth. Steeper wooded slopes, with occasional sandstone outcrops, undulating into small open haughs made for a typical Northumbrian lowland dene. The place is still valued in the hearts of people living there, softening the urban edge with its layers of wild nature and cultural history.