'˜Sonic art' project uses letters sent home from local soldiers

HAUNTING words from Preston soldiers in the trenches will bring the horrors of the First World War within earshot a century on.

A new piece of sonic art featuring letters from local lads serving King and country in France will be presented at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery from May 21.

The work, called simply “Homing,” will take listeners back to the harrowing years of the conflict which claimed the lives of so many young men from the town and left others badly wounded.

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Artists Jen Southern and Sam Thulin have spent months completing the audio project which will take its audience from the Roll of Honour inside the Harris and out on to the Flag Market where thousands of troops paraded before cheerfully leaving for war.

Preston's Harris Museum, Art Gallery and LibraryPreston's Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library
Preston's Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library

It will also lead to the town’s war memorial where generations have marked the soldiers’ sacrifice on Remembrance Sunday ever since.

With the help of the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire, the two artists used sounds from the battlefields together with readings from the letters sent home from the frontline “to make connections at a distance, between presence and absence, people and places, displacement and home.”

The work is based on the writings which kept families back home in Preston in touch with the soldiers - some of whom would never return from the conflict.

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The letters have been taken from the archives of the Lancashire Infantry Museum and are a testament to the attempts of the troops and their loved ones to keep in touch despite the distance and atrocities of war.

The experience, which will be accessed by headphones, will start on the staircase inside the Harris where the names of the town’s fallen are commemorated. A sound composition from the cemeteries of the Somme, recorded by the artists themselves, can be heard, with all the sensory qualities pf the local conditions, including wind, rain and whistling.

As the listeners are transported out on to the Flag Market and the war memorial the sounds give way to fragments of stories from men at the front, read by UCLan students.

“We hope the listeners will see the cenotaph and roll of honour in new way through a rich landscape of sound, overlayed into the Harris Gallery and Flag market,” said Jen. “Through hearing the letters read by local young people we hope the listeners will find new connections between their own lives and those of Preston soldiers who fought in WW1.”