How the town of Nelson wants its everyday sounds and noises to go global

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From birdsong to local hustle and bustle, the noises of Nelson will be heard worldwide.

The Lancashire town of Nelson is trying to get its noises heard around the world with their new interactive sound map project.

Nelson Overheard is a project led by two artists, who are working with local people to record the everyday sounds in the places where they live, work and play.

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Commissioned artists Rob St John and Tommy Perman have designed the project to encourage people to stop and listen to their everyday surroundings.

Tommy said: “These days everyone is very used to taking photos and videos with their phones and our visual culture is now extremely well documented. 

“But collecting sounds isn’t nearly as common. It’s lovely to be involved in a project which encourages people to gather noises that are unique to Nelson and then make them available as a sound map for anyone to explore.”

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People from anywhere in the world can listen to the sounds and noises of Nelson, as recordings direct from the town are becoming part of an online open database of sound.

The sounds are being archived in an online sound map for the town, as well as being included in the global sound database Freesound and anyone can submit a recording taken on their phone.

Speaking about how the sound map is part of ongoing workshops and conversations with local people, Lancashire artist Rob said: “Nelson Overheard aims to celebrate the diversity of daily life in Nelson, particularly in places that are otherwise overlooked or hidden. 

“Sound can tell us a lot about what a place is like, and Nelson occupies a unique space between the town and the hills, where birdsong and the river blur with the voices and songs of different communities. 

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“We’re working with local groups in the town in workshops to learn more about sound recording and the value of listening.”

Rob St John, one of the artists behind the Nelson Overheard project.Rob St John, one of the artists behind the Nelson Overheard project.
Rob St John, one of the artists behind the Nelson Overheard project. | This is Nelson

The Nelson Overheard artists hope that many people get involved in researching and recording soundscapes. 

It’s particularly important to them that the lesser known parts of Nelson are explored, capturing birdsong, voices, music, weather, buildings, games, laughter and anything that celebrates everyday life in Nelson.

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The project is part of This is Nelson, the arts and culture strand of the Nelson Town Deal, which is bringing artists together to help re-imagine Nelson, open up underused spaces, think sustainably and support ground-up community activism in the next three years.

The Nelson sound map is available to explore here:

Sound files can be sent to [email protected] or via text/whatsapp 07508 902 008.

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