Sound Posts (2006-2011)
The Sound Posts project was an Arts Council England and Hampshire County Council supported activity designed to encourage blind, visually impaired and sighted schoolchildren to engage with creative sound design. The work was comprised of a series of interactive sound sculptures that were easily accessible, allowing the children to work with sound by overcoming the restrictions imposed by visual impairment. The interactive sound sculptures were designed for schools that have visual impairment resources. The activity was divided into two phases, ‘Sound Posts: Phase One’ and ‘Sound Posts: Phase Two’.
Paul Best, Landscape Architecture Group Leader at Hampshire County Council wrote of the Sound Posts project:
‘Mark’s creative energy and tenacity to succeed carried this ambitious project with a range of stakeholders over a three year period to an enormously beneficial outcome.
Key Benefits can be seen as:
– Sound posts engage and enrich the learning experience for visually impaired children providing them with inspiring access to learning opportunities and cultural experiences.
– The workshops run by Mark with support from theatre professionals were an integral part of the project and have given children a powerful voice who previously lacked confidence and a sense of contribution to the life of their school
– The project illustrates what can be achieved through cross departmental collaboration and enlightened vision to provide equal access to culture and learning for all children .
– The skills employed in the development of the sound posts project have developed the creative and technical abilities of the pupils. There is evidence that this may have affected their career development aspirations, which is especially important for children with visual impairment.’
Paul Best BA Dip LA DipUD FLI
Landscape Architecture Group Leader
Design & Implementation
Hampshire County Council
Sound Posts: Phase One – The Toynbee School, Eastleigh, Hampshire:
In 2006, Mark Ware was commissioned by Hampshire County Council, (supported by Arts Council England) to create an interactive sound sculpture to be located at The Toynbee School, Eastleigh, Hampshire. The Toynbee School sound sculpture became known as ‘Sound Posts: Phase One’.
Mark held a series of workshops with blind, visually impaired and sighted children at the school, exploring design ideas and discussing how the sculpture might look and function.
The proposed site for the sculpture was an area used daily for students to congregate. Hampshire County Council had plans to transform this outdoor area into a sensory garden that would benefit both sighted and visually impaired children. The sound sculpture was to be part of this newly landscaped area. Through the workshops, Mark discovered that the students wanted something that would embrace the way they used the communal space on a daily basis. With this in mind, he decided to develop a sculpture that was able to change and evolve over time and that would offer many applications.
Following the workshops, Mark settled on a design that was simple and fun, inspired by the shape of the walking stick he uses due to having had a stroke.
The Sound Posts at The Toynbee School were made of steel tubing for strength and durability.
Each Sound Post contained a waterproof speaker attached to its open end. The ‘walking stick’ design allowed for the speakers to face downwards, protecting them from the elements and enabling the sound to be focused in a narrow area below. The steel tubing acted in a similar way to a loudspeaker cabinet, amplifying the sounds produced by the speakers.
In total there are eight Sound Posts at The Toynbee School, with their speakers all linked to an eight-channel sound mixer within the school, via underground audio cables. Children are able to create and send sounds to the eight Sound Posts via the underground audio cables, using Show Cue System sound cueing software. These can be simple recordings, for example music tracks or revision notes, or compositions of different sounds, edited and mixed to create more complicated soundscapes. Sounds can be played back in any order and in any combination offering a wide range of creative sound possibilities.
The Toynbee Sound Posts were installed in January 2008.
Sound Posts: Phase Two – Great Binfields Primary School and Kings Copse Primary School:
The next phase of the project adapted the Sound Posts concept for two Hampshire primary schools, Kings Copse and Great Binfields. As with The Toynbee School, Mark held creative workshops for children at the schools.
These workshops acted as an introduction to the project and gave the children the opportunity to be involved in the development of their own school’s Sound Posts by contributing ideas for design elements and exploring sound in their school environment.
Vocal workshops helped the children to gain confidence in reading aloud in front of an audience. The sessions also showed the children how to read for audio recordings, encouraging confidence through the effective use of their voices. The workshop sessions allowed Mark to demonstrate the creative potential of the sound posts and their supporting software and sound system, leaving the children with a good understanding of the Sound Posts system and how it might be used.
New versions of the Sound Post sculptures were developed for both primary schools, taking into consideration the individual needs and environments of each school.
At Kings Copse Primary School (above), the Sound Posts were adapted from Royal Navy Pelorus stands. They are sited in a grassed area outside the school buildings where a curve of trees forms a natural enclosure. The speakers are controlled from a computer in an adjacent classroom via underground audio cables.
Great Binfields Primary School has a circular, open area in woodland which is often used as an outdoor teaching space that is now used as part of the Sound Posts project.
Great Binfields’ Sound Posts have an added dimension of portability. Adapted from old Indian railway lanterns (c. 1930s), these Sound Lanterns can be carried by the children and used in various locations, or fixed to custom-made posts in the woodland space. They are controlled via a laptop with a wireless connection, or from a fixed system in a similar way to the other schools.
The three schools now use the Sound Posts in many different ways. Feedback has been very exciting, summed up by a teacher at Kings Copse Primary School who reported that the Sound Posts have ‘given the children a voice’.
Sensory landscape illustration: copyright Hampshire County Council
For more information about Sound Posts published by Hampshire County Council: PSCaseStudy-SoundpostsSensoryGardens-Landscape-web