Episode – You Either Get Hit by a Bike or You Don’t

with co-hosts Barrington Chambers and Chris Turner

Summary

In this episode you’ll meet Chris and his work colleague Linda, Barrington and new acquaintance Marcus and Anela with her travelling companion Katy, as they all take their journeys into the city. Expect bouncy cobbles and crumbling walls, echo-locating in alleyways, shopping addiction and tales of strange encounters. Featured theme; University and student days.

People featured

Featuring the journeys of Chris and his travelling companion Linda Whittingam, Barrington and his travelling companion Marcus Brown and Anela Wood and her travelling companion Katy Noakes.

Tara Chattaway, Guest Contributor; Student Support Manager at Thomas Pocklington Trust. For more info on the Thomas Pocklington Trust click here

Organisations featured

Royal National College for the Blind Hereford; for more info click here

RNIB; for info on one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities where Chris works click here

Bristol Reggae Orchestra; For a short film about the Bristol Reggae Orchestra that Barrington co-founded and plays in click here

And to hear a track with Barrington in it check out this link here

Themes and issues raised

Glaucoma: To find our more about this eye condition Click Here

University: support for visually impaired students; To find our more about the student support service at Thomas Pocklington run by Tara Chattaway click here

Disabled Students Allowance [DSA]; to find out more about DSA on the UCAS wesbite click here

Places and spaces visited

Kings Street: for more info click here

P.M.T. [Professional Music Technology] Music shop; for more info on this paradise for musos click here 

Bristol Shopping Quarter; for more info on Quakers Friar shopping area where the fountains in Anela’s journey can be found click here

Castle Park incredible edible allotments: to find out a bit more about the allotments at Castle Park click here

Castle Park: and to find out more about the park itself click here

The Crown St Nicks Market; for more info on this favourite watering hole of Chris’s click here

Tesco Union St; For Barrington’s favoured city centre supermarket click here

The Sportsman; for a bit more info on the pub with a history of welcoming the V.I. community click here

Transcript

Podcast Starts

 Narrator: In October 2019 a team of visually impaired and sighted artists and collaborators took journeys together into the city of Bristol with the aim of uncovering the usually unheard stories of visually impaired citizens and returning these stories to the heart of the city narrative.

 The journeys were recorded and revealed such a treasure trove of insights and shared experiences that the City of Threads podcast was born.

 Each episode is hosted by core members of that team, and features the journeys they took.

 So, join us on an immersive audio journey into the ‘City of Threads’.

 Welcome to ‘You Either Get Hit by a Bike or You Don’t’.

Sound design: Logo and theme music weaves through the following audio fragments:

Barrington: I’ll just say, it’s a political life. 

Marcus: A couple of people panicked. 

Barrington: Born with sight but lacking in vision. 

Chris: Retinitis pigmentosa. I don’t know why I said that, anyway. 

Anela: ‘No one told me this was a part of the deal’ [Laughter].

Anela: In the eyes of the general public, I appear not to have a culture or a colour, my dominant feature that stands out and what I would tend to be described as, is ‘the blind lady’.

Sound design: Segues as music simplifies. 

Pre-Intro – Anela, Chris and Barrington 

Anela: You know, so they don’t really understand what the stick is, plus I probably don’t help myself because my stick is pink, not white, but I do get a lot of that – ‘watch where you’re going’ and all that kind of stuff. 

Chris: Yeah a guy once said ‘why you walking round with that staff?’ [Laughter] I was waiting to go into the loo and I was sort of just leaning on it, but it’s still a white cane, he was like ‘who do you think you are? Lord of the manor going round with that staff’ [Lots of laughter].

 Anela: Like Gandalf from lord of the rings. [More laughter].

Co-hosts Intro

Barrington: That’s Anela Wood, Chris Turner and me Barrington Chambers. 

Chris: Barrington and I are your co-hosts for this episode where we’ll be following the three journeys each of us took into Bristol! 

Barrington: We’ll be meeting Anela again later in the episode but let’s start with Chris’s journey. Are you ready Chris? 

Chris: Let’s do it!

Sound design: Theme music begins with a sense of journey.

Part 1

Chris and Linda – Arnolfini

Narrator: Chris took his city journey with his friend and colleague Linda.

Co-host Chris: Who I think might have slightly freaked out as I do like to steam ahead.

Linda: Yep Chris is guiding himself at the moment and [Beep, beep, beep] I’m a bit nervous, probably because there’s a bucket ahead so [Laughs] there’s a massive A-board and crates along here, so I’m not sure if you navigate through here Chris, take care, there’s an A-board and crates, so!

Sound design:  City sounds segue into Arnolfini soundscape.

Narrator: That’s them later on in their journey, but for now we are going to where all the journeys began, to the light studio at Arnolfini, where Chris and Linda are sitting, with other people taking a journey that day. 

Chris: OK, So I am Chris Turner, I have an eye condition called RP, or retinitis pigmentosa, I don’t know but I always want to say it in a Scottish accent. 

Linda: Please do.

Chris: [Scottish accent] Retinitis Pigmentosa. Anyway, vision wise I can see light and dark, mainly in my right eye. I do find light, strong light, reflected light, kind of irritating, but like an idiot, I’ve left my sunglasses at home, but I think we’ll be alright today. I use a long cane to get around, but I’m going to be a bit lazy and get a guide for a lot of the journey today, but Linda I will let you know when, you know, I’ve run off, sort of thing. 

Linda: OK [Laughs]. 

Chris: And yeah, if there’s anything like major, unusual, like lorries backing into things or roadworks, that kind of thingy, I’m sure you’ll let me know, yeah? 

Linda: Yes, and I’ll look out for any manhole covers in case I disappear into them. 

Sound design: Sound of Linda disappearing into a manhole. 

Chris: Yes if you disappear I’ll panic and er, yeah! [Laughter].

Narrator: And fully prepared for any scenario they head out. As we begin, just a heads up that in this episode you’ll be hearing quite a bit of this sound:

Sound design: Sound of cane.

Narrator: Which is the sound of the long cane, as all three travellers in this episode use them.

Outside Arnolfini 

Sound design: Sounds of the outside in a city.

Linda: Take a moment to stand together, notice your breath, the ground beneath your feet, the movement of the air and sounds of the city [Fades out].

Narrator: Outside Arnolfini, before they set off, Linda reads the first of the four wild cards, designed to tune our traveller’s senses into the city. 

Linda: [Fading in] and the aromas, flavours and textures that you encounter along the way.

Chris: Yeah [Sniffs] I can’t smell much because I’ve got a bit of a cold [Laughter]. I tell you what I heard earlier, when I was walking in earlier, it was quite interesting, it sounded like the water was breathing, and it was just where it was lapping against the wall down there, it was making a quite a weird noise, when I walked in this morning.

Sound design: The water breathing, transforming into a creature. Journey music starts and as they walk soundscape of this part of city emerges.

City Journey Begins

Narrator: And they set off along the cobbled harbourside, where houseboats and yachts are moored, and pedestrians stroll by. They pass a bridge, and turn down a side street between two tall buildings, on their way to Chris’s first stopping point.

Chris’ Backstory

Co-host Barrington: While they’re doing that, a bit more about Chris, who I have known for over twenty years.

Chris: So, I was born in Wandsworth in South London in the late 70s. I was born partially sighted and initially went to a mainstream school. At that time, whilst they knew I had some sight problems it wasn’t clear exactly how bad it was and I had to have tests at Moorfield. This all came to light because I would be running across the room to get something but not see the coffee table in the way and trip over that, and was forever walking into things – banging my head at school and things like that. I think they thought I was stupid for a little while [laughs]. 

Narrator: He then moved to a second primary school.

Chris: Which was mainstream but had the very politically incorrect 80s name of the visually handicapped unit, so you spent time in there and the rest of the time in a mainstream class, and then went to a secondary that was dedicated to partially sighted children, which was good obviously, you know, much more focused on education in terms of it could help people with sight problems, but it was a very small school, there was only about seventy kids from age of three to sixteen. 

Narrator: At sixteen Chris then attended the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford, where he learnt braille, got his A-Levels and was offered a place on the Fine Art degree at University West of England, in Bristol.

City Journey – King Street

Sound design: Arrival in King street. Sound of a bus.

Chris: Is it recording? So [Bus revs up] wait for the bus to go past. This is stop number one, just coming on to Kings Street, I’m just walking by, well Linda’s with me, I’m not getting a guide now, and Kings Street, why is this my first stop? 

Narrator: Back in the city journey, we’ve arrived at Chris’ first stopping point. Named after Charles the 2nd, King Street is a cobbled street with an array of pubs and restaurants that dates back to the 17th Century.

Chris was one of the few journey leads who recorded his audio whilst travelling, many chose not to, as the act of navigating alone requires a significant amount of focus and concentration.

Chris: I think mainly, well, I’ve walked up and down it thousands of times since living in Bristol, I used to live round the corner when I was student. And it’s got very, it’s a very iconic street, it’s got very old buildings on it. It’s also got distinctive sounds, it’s cobbled, so there’s a, quite sort of noisy I guess, not in an unpleasant way, and normally, though not today, but you normally hear seagulls reeling around in the sky, so if you are sat outside having a drink it does feel like you’re in quite an old port city, which you are.

Sound design: Captures the old port city in an immersive soundscape with seagulls.

King Street Journey with Sensory Elements

Narrator: As Chris travels down his favourite street, let’s step into his shoes and hear how he experiences the sounds, textures and aromas of this old part of the city.

Sound design: Supports an immersive experience of all that he talks about.

Chris: I’m on the pavement at the moment. I can hear there’s a car up ahead but as we get to the corner by the King William I’m going to actually walk in the road, because the pavement’s quite crowded. Yeah, so I just sort of walk down the, kind of the middle of the road, it’s quite nice walking along cobbles as well, I’ve got nice thick soles on so you can just kind of bounce along. Oh the smell as well, you get the smell of wood burners, now it’s a bit chilly, yeah. Just gonna go back on the pavement on the left by the Old Vic. Yeah, there’s a wooden cellar hatch thing, just outside the Old Vic isn’t it? Or Renatos? It’s quite nice ‘cos it bounces as you walk over it, so it’s sort of quite springy.

The Kings Street Wild Card and Rathay

Narrator: Chris and Linda stop at the end of King Street to read the second wild card.

Linda: So, on the next part of your journey, notice the landmarks and strategies that you use to navigate the city. These might be tactile or visual landmarks, or particular sounds or smells that you use to get your bearings or recognise where you are. If you can, you can tell me about them so that I can recognise them as well.

Chris: OK well, that was one, definitely, on that side, the wooden hatch thing.

Narrator: As they continue down the more modern Queen Charlotte Street, Chris points out the landmarks he uses to navigate; a parking meter, a tree, a steep curb, then.

Chris: On the left is where I used to live in a student hall. 

Linda: Oh here? 

Chris: Yes, the The Rathay. 

Linda: What did you call it? 

Chris: That’s what it’s called, the Rathay. I used to call it the Rat Cave.

The Rathay – Student Halls

Narrator: Chris told sound designer Dan and PECo theatre’s director Rachel, a bit more about the delights of the ‘Ratcave’ and his time at University.

Sound design: Music: Metal morphs to trip hop.

Chris: I came to Bristol in ‘96 to go to UWE, in Bower Ashton, first year was great, I was living in halls. I didn’t quite get it together though organisation-wise to get into a shared house for the second year. So for the second year, I had to move into halls. So I arrived on the train with a hold-all full of stuff, and it was pretty poorly organised really, as I staying in a hall of residence on Queen Charlottes Street, but there was no-one there with the keys, which I didn’t know till I got there, so I then had to get a cab from there up to Frenchay, which at the time had the nickname Bosnia, think it was in a bit of a state of disrepair around there, and collect a key from there and then get a cab back, so you know, just after having travelled from London, with as much stuff as you could fit into a hold all and then twenty quid down and you haven’t even set foot in your new abode.

The residence itself is actually just a converted office block with all the charm and sophistication that implies. Yeah, pretty much the toilet did look like it was a stock room, or a stock cupboard [Laughter].

Dan: I’m trying not to laugh. 

Rachel: It’s really hard not to laugh. 

Dan: It’s really well delivered. 

Chris: It kind of was, there was a big pillar in the living room which was just like, yeah, [Laughter].

Chris and Anela Compare University Experience

Narrator: Anela Wood, who you heard at the start of this episode, also went to University West of England, in Bristol, although it was ten years after Chris. Here they are on a zoom call comparing their experiences.

Chris: I did have some interaction with the disabled student advisor, but looking back only in the first couple of weeks, just in terms of getting help finding my way round the building and that sort of thing, but I had to rely on other students to read actual print and notices and things like that. Because it was Fine Art it was very practical and hands on, and, well, you were left to your own devices a lot anyway. I mean, I could see a bit better then, not enough to sort of read but I could sort of paint after a fashion but as my sight got worse over those years, by the end I was doing sculpture. I didn’t have to read that many books it was all mainly practical, I got told off by the technicians occasionally for using a drill, and they said ‘oh you shouldn’t be using that’ and I was like ‘it’s alright’, don’t put your hand right in front of it then you’re fine! 

Anela: Yeah and then you’ll be fine yeah.

Narrator: They did very different courses.

Anela: I went to UWE and I studied English and I went from 2001 to 2004 so it was a bachelor’s degree. It was good, I enjoyed, it but it was a very different experience by the sounds of it to yours. So, I had quite a lot of contact with the disability support team. They provided me with a support worker who was also a note taker, so she came to my lectures and seminars because basically, being English, there was lots of hands outs, lots of quotes, lots of paperwork, lots of stuff going up on the boards or the screens and at the same time in the seminars there was quite a lot of discussion about the books and poems and the novels that we were studying. So I worked quite intensely with this person, which was brilliant in terms of how access goes but I think sometimes isolated me a bit from other students.

Chris: One thing that’s quite funny is the social life, people would pass me and say hello and I was never quite sure, I had to sort of train people to say, if you say hello, just say your name. 

Anela: Say who you are.

Chris: Yeah. 

Anela: I found exactly the same, just to try to tell people. I wasn’t, I know it’s quite hard to believe, but I wasn’t actually that confident when I started university so I didn’t say to people ‘who are you?’ or ‘tell me who you are?’, so I spent a lot of the time just pretending I knew who they were and just going along with the conversation.

Chris: Yeah.  

Narrator: Both Chris and Anela had to advocate for themselves to get what they needed, all the way through university and right up to the graduation ceremony itself.

Anela: Even like at the graduation ceremony I had to have conversations about, I want to go on stage to receive my certificate in a dignified way. I said, I don’t want someone holding onto me and dragging me onto the stage and dragging me off. 

Chris: Yeah, I was absolutely terrified I was going to trip up the stairs. 

Anela: Yeah, me too. 

Chris: I was alright in the end but that was [Laughs] and then it makes it worse because you’re thinking about it. 

Anela: Yeah, and you just think because now that I’ve thought about it and worried about it it’s definitely going to happen. And I just remember saying to them I don’t want everyone looking at it afterwards, or watching me, and sort of thinking ‘aaah look at the blind girl, bless them, having to help her and stuff’, you know, I didn’t want that pity kind of thing. 

Chris: Yeah. 

Anela: So I actually made them do, we did a walk through, we planned it to within an inch of its being you know.

Chris: That was the other thing like walking past and thinking you might end up at the back because it was in the cathedral [Laughs]. 

Anela: Yeah, I know, or sitting on someone or something else cringy [Laughter]. I did alright in the end but I did feel like I was at a disadvantage, like, all other students go to university, they study, they do their thing and they have their social life and some of them might have a side job or something but I felt, certainly for me, that there was a whole other load of things to have to balance at the same time, that meant…

Chris: Yeah. 

Anela: [cont.] That meant, the load was heavier perhaps than for my peers. 

Chris: It’s quite interesting talking about the support and stuff. Obviously the technology of the time, it was all on cassettes and that kind of thing. I guess now, the challenges will still be there but with technology having moved on so far, I guess some of this stuff, seems like it should be easily solvable.

City Journey – Chris

Sound design: Segues back into Chris’s journey: a noisy city, traffic sounds and Chris and Linda’s voices.

Narrator: In their city journey, Chris and Linda are leaving Queen Charlotte Street and memories of university days and heading off towards Chris’s second stopping point. 

Tara Chattaway – University Now

Narrator: But, before we follow them, let’s hear from someone whose job is to support visually impaired students now. 

Sound design: Sound of city and music fades away.

Tara: OK, so, I’m Tara Chattaway and I manage the student support service at Thomas Pocklington Trust.

Narrator: The Thomas Pocklington Trust supports blind and visually impaired people to live the life they choose, and its student support service provides help and advice to blind and visually impaired students – sixteen-plus, to undertake the further education that they choose.

Tara: The University has responsibility under the equality act to provide support for students with visual impairment. So that’s to meet some of their basic support needs and in addition to that there is a government grant called Disabled Students Allowance, and that’s a free grant that’s available for all disabled students to help them to meet the additional costs that they may face in attending universities.

Narrator: Disabled Students Allowance, or DSA, provides support for equipment like laptops or braillers and can also provide support for something called ‘non medical help’.

Tara: So non-medical help is the support that you may require from a person, so that could be note taking, it could be guiding, it could be some more kind of complex transcribing of materials but the university is responsible for basic transcription of raw materials.

Narrator: To get DSA, students first have to have an assessment and prove that their disability will impact their ability to learn. The assessment is then sent to the Student Loan Company, who either approve or question it. Once successful, students are allocated support, but it is their responsibility to organise that support, as well as approach their university’s disability service, which involves another assessment of their needs around things like transcription and guiding support.

Tara: Every university has a disability service and so you contact the disability service at the earliest opportunity as possible and find out what support that they offer. Not all disability advisors will have an understanding of the needs of students with a visual impairment because they may not have many students coming through, and as you know each student’s need is very different to another student’s, so again there is a lot of responsibility on the student to make sure that the support that they need is in place and that they are having those conversations. 

I wouldn’t say that that should be a reason not to apply for Disabled Students Allowance or not to go to university, because disabled students allowance really, really does make a massive difference to students. It’s just that sometimes, not for all students but for some, it can be a bit of a journey to get that support in place, which is why our service is here.

We will have a conversation with you and then we will help you to find a solution, so we really want people to keep applying for university and apply for DSA, we just want to be able to help, to help them to navigate that journey.

Sound design: Music underpins the last section and gives a sense of hope.

City Journey to Music Shop

Sound design: Journey music starts again.

Narrator: From navigating one kind of journey, to navigating another, we’re rejoining Chris and Linda in one of the busier parts of the city. 

Sound design: Segues us back into Chris’s journey, noisy city, traffic sounds.

Linda: We’ve just gone across the cycle path, Chris ,and there’s not really any delineation between those. How are they? 

Chris: Well, you either get hit by a bike or you don’t.

Sound design: Emergency sirens underline the statement. 

Narrator: They cross another busy road.

Sound design: City sounds.   

Narrator: Come across a deliciously textured wall.

Chris: You know those biscuits you get in tins? 

Linda: Oh yeah? 

Chris: The um, I kind of remember. 

Linda: Oh, not the Viennese ones? 

Chris: That kind of thing, they’re all swirly. 

Linda: [Laughs] So you get all, yeah, this is just from some squares that are on the side of a building, on the side of a very old building.

Narrator: Then get a bit lost. 

Linda: This is the bit where we are on the side of the pub where the Christmas steps are. 

Chris: Yes, so if we turn left then the music shop is there, isn’t it? 

Linda: Um. 

Sound design: Sounds of a busy city road.

Narrator: Then find themselves again, outside Chris’ second stopping point.

Music Shop – Outside 

Chris: So we’re stood outside PMT, strange name, but PMT music on Rupert Street and this is stop number two. The reason I’ve stopped here is that this music shop, I’ve been coming here since as long as I’ve been in Bristol I think. One incident when I was working nearby, I came out at lunchtime and made a bit of a foolish judgement to sort of half run across the road because I could hear the pelican beeping, but unfortunately I ran into a post and knocked a tooth out, which wasn’t fully out, but hanging out and someone stopped and helped me and I sat in the music shop here and someone called an ambulance and they took me in and put my tooth back in so, so I don’t run anymore. But we’re going to go into the shop now, hopefully some people playing stuff.

Music Shop – Inside

Sound design: Door opening into sounds of the busy shop, sound of drums crashing. Linda and Chris chat.

Linda: It’s just a complete paradise for anyone who’s into music, what do you think? Towards the left there’s just guitars, guitars, guitars, guitars, all hanging up across the wall, on stands, and then there’s speakers, and then there’s more guitars and more speakers or amps, massive amps, and a guy actually playing just by one of the [inaudible] in the middle, and he looks quite cool, and he’s just playing and he looks like he’s having a great time, and then further down the shop there’s loads of keyboards, there’s organs on the right hand side, and then further round from there there’s a huge amount of drums. You might lose me, if I disappear I’m by the drums.

Chris and Barrington Chat Music

Sound design: Segues from shop into Chris and Barrington talking music, a guitar plays.  

Chris: I’ve been playing guitar mainly which I’ve done since age eighteen, which is quite a number of years now.

Narrator: Barrington and Chris share a common thread of music.

Chris: Mostly sort of heavy metal kinda music but recent years broadened out into electronics and synthesisers and that kind of thing and becoming interested in the whole kind of sound design. I mainly record just at home but I like to have jams when I can and I’ve had a few jams with Barrington, which have been great fun, we’ve played at the Trinity Centre. 

Barrington: Yes, I remember the first time I think Chris was very nervous to come over there, I said ‘Chris come on mate, you can play guitar don’t worry yourself’ [Laughs].

Chris: And Barrington and I have been working on a couple of pieces, he’s been over to mine, recorded some lyrics and slowly trying to arrange that and give that back to him. 

Barrington: Yes it’s like designing something for your own self, you know? ‘Cos what I didn’t want to do is over complicate it, so I told Chris what to do over it and the style of guitar sound I would like to hear on it. 

Chris: It’s been a good learning experience, trying to produce the sort of music I haven’t really produced before, I’ve listened to a bit of reggae but it’s different to the kind of thing I’d normally try and record and lay down but yeah, it’s good. Lots of reverb.

Barrington: Yes, a lot of reverb yeah. 

Barrington: The first bass note always hits with the kick drum and a lot of people, even professional musicians even, didn’t realise that, the first bass note with the kick drum ‘boom’, so then you cannot miss your timing. Just the bass and the drums starts together, then the keyboard comes on top with the guitar chipping in.

Sound design: Illustrates the reggae formula as Barrington describes it. And the music and sound design segues us out of section. 

City Journey – Finding the Alleyway 

Sound design: Segues from previous section back into sounds of leaving the shop and heading back out into the city journey.

Narrator: Back with our travellers, who have left the music shop and headed for the last stop on their journey. Chris is demonstrating to Linda a particular trick he has for finding the way.

Chris: The way I usually find this alley is I have to do it by sound. 

Linda: OK.

Chris: I’m trying to hear this, that [Clack clack clack of Chris hitting the cane on the alleyway] kind of noise. 

Linda: Ah! So what is it?

Chris: So the echo [Clack clack clack] if I can get to the wall there.

Linda: Yes. 

Chris: The stalls are in the way but you can hear it’s echoey [Clack clack clack]. 

Linda: Aah OK.

Sound design: Cane sounds reverberate.

Sound Marks

Narrator: Sounds are a key component of the strategies and landmarks Chris and other City of Threads travellers use to get around.

Co-host Barrington: I always say that we use sound marks and not landmarks to navigate the city.

Sound design: Soundscape of sounds mentioned.

Chris: You know certain roads by the sounds, so obviously very distinct places like King’s Street with the cars driving over the cobbles and even on the bus, there’s a bit in the centre, I was actually listening to a Joy Division track on the headphones.

Chris: [cont.] and it mingled with a vague echo of the bus around the buildings and it was really good, really atmospheric.

Narrator: Anela again.        

Anela: I find that sound changes in the different spaces that I go to, whether it’s a closed space or an open space, or a covered area, or just an open-topped area. And then like you just pointed out about the echoes, they make a difference as well. A lot of the time I’ve got shoes that make a sound and so that sound changes as well depending on where I’m walking. The sound of the stick on the floor also changes in different places, that sort of helps me to to know, you kind of get to recognise the sounds that you visit regularly and you just sort of get to know them a bit. Sometimes in places like in the city, in the centre, can be quite difficult, because the majority of sounds is traffic, and that distorts the sounds I want to hear, which are a bit more helpful, whether it’s the sounds of water or certain shops playing music a bit louder than others or the sound coming from a cafe or something.

Sound design: Sounds of a waterfall with music.

Anela’s Journey 

Sound design: Sounds of the waterfall in Quakers Friars.

Narrator: Let’s spend a few moments with Anela on her journey.

Anela: We’re sat right opposite the water fountain. It’s not spraying us, so that’s good.

Narrator: Anela took her journey into the city with Katy, one of the core City of Threads team. They are sat in Quakers Friars, a popular shopping area of Bristol, discussing how Anela uses sound to navigate.

Anela: But I like that here, because the water fountain helps navigate you around this space, ‘cos it’s also an open space but there’s also a very prominent sound to help you know where you are and then sometimes you do get the food smells, for a clue as well. 

Katy: Is the fountain always on? 

Anela: Yes, I’ve never known it not to be on. 

Katy: OK. 

Anela: It’s at different levels but I can’t think of a time it’s not on. And then the sound of the road helps you know where you are. It’s an interesting space. 

Narrator: Anela and Katy’s journey was characterised by a series of sensory discoveries.

Anela: We have arrived at Castle Park and we’re looking at the bit, well I didn’t know about, Katy was just telling me about the bit at the allotments, where people are growing different vegetables and things, and apparently people can come and pick things and take them. I can smell things, it smells very green and fresh here and it’s lovely with the sun shining and the breeze isn’t too rough here, it’s fairly calm and quiet and, yeah, there’s definitely a smell in the air, a herby earthy, even like cut grass maybe? 

Katy: Do you know I can’t notice it. Oh yes I can, kind of like a damp grass smell. 

Anela: Yeah. 

Katy: OK.  

Anela: And with all that rain so we’ve just been feeling some of the leaves. 

Katy: Giant, marrow leaves?  

Anela: We think it’s either a marrow or a courgette don’t we? Which is interesting because they feel quite wrinkly and quite dry. Maybe a tiny bit rubbery, kind of?  

Katy: And a bit hairy. 

Anela: Yeah, yeah, I wonder if they have a smell? Oh yes, my fingers smell quite green now, that earthy sort of leafy smell.  

Anela: What else do we have?  

Katy: I’m going to take you down to a giant marrow flower. 

Anela: Oh wow, oh wow! 

Katy: It’s like a lovely gold, almost like an egg yolk, beautiful orangey-yellow flower. 

Anela: It almost feels like a tulip doesn’t it? But like a wide open one. 

Katy: Yeah [Laughter]. 

Anela: And very wet. 

Anela: So where in Castle Park is this bit then? So the plant bed is directly down from the old church, so between the church and the river.

Anela: So we’re just looking at the church and we walked up castle park to come toward the Church.

Anela: But we just touched the wall. It’s quite surprising, it was more crumbly than I thought it was going to be and very rough isn’t it? 

Katy: Yes, it’s rough, it’s uneven. 

Anela: Yeah.  

Katy: To look at it’s all different colours as well, all the stones are everything from red to white to grey to beige to damp black. 

Anela: I suppose it would make quite a good landmark for those with a bit of sight and if I got here and if I touched the wall it would tell me where it is because it’s not your ordinary average wall. 

Katy: But you know the church roof hasn’t got a roof on it. 

Anela: Has it not? 

Katy: So it’s all just like really exposed walls.

Narrator: Many of the journeys resulted in shared discoveries for both travellers. Here, textures, sights, smells and sounds combine to create a new sensory map of Castle Park for both Katy and Anela. But let’s head back now to the end of the sound marks discussion with Chris and Barrington.

Chris: And being reliant on sound you can get really messed up with the weather, so if it’s heavily raining I find I can’t wear a hood ‘cos I just can’t, it feels unsafe. 

Barrington: No exactly you wouldn’t put a hoodie on, you’d get an umbrella and a hat, yeah. 

Chris: Yeah you can’t hear roads or traffic properly. 

Barrington: Yes, that’s true. 

Chris: And wind as well can be a bit of a nightmare, trying to cross the road.

Chris: Being interested in music and sound design generally, I think it does mean I concentrate more, am more attentive to the different sounds of the environment indoors or outdoors. It’s almost like a sound texture that some places in the city have, just the way traffic noise reverberates off buildings, even in places that are quite urban but you can hear loads of birds, or obviously being a port city there’s a lot of water, so there’s all these different sonic aspects.

Sound design: Captures these sounds, woven in with music, and then takes us back into the sound of Chris using his cane to echo locate the alleyway.

Alleyway

Narrator: Back to Chris and Linda at the alleyway, where things aren’t going quite to plan.

Linda: It’s blocked now by a tent. 

Chris: Oh, is it? 

Narrator: As the alleyway is blocked by a tent and a table. So they take the long way around and arrive, finally, at Chris’s last stopping point.

City Journey – The Crown Part 1

Sound design: Soundscape of a crowd outdoors.

Chris: Ah not bad, yeah, yeah you alright? 

Narrator: We’re outside The Crown, one of Chris’s favourite pubs, right in the middle of bustling St Nicks Market, and where Chris has bumped into a regular.

Regular: Yeah just getting a juice rather than having a beer, I’m just going to have juice. 

Chris: Fair play. 

Regular: Yeah, I was on it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, thought I got to leave it alone now and then. 

Chris: Yeah. 

Regular: Yeah, nice to see you anyway. 

Chris: Yeah sure.  

Chris: I always find the door by trying to find the metal thing [Door squeaks] well I can hear the door actually, let’s go in [Really loud door squeak]. 

Sound design: Changes from outside to inside the pub – voices, doors opening and closing.

Narrator: Inside the Crown, they do what people do in pubs.

Chris: Cool, um, do youse wanna drink?

Chris – Why The Crown?

Chris: I chose The Crown pub as one of my stops because it’s one of those places I’ve gone to pretty much on and off for the last twenty-odd years. I first went there when I was a student, a friend who was a student at the time worked in there and then a good mate of mine as well worked in there for a few years, and it’s one of these, more so in the past, it’s sort of an alternative, rock, gothy, punk type place. It had a good jukebox, lots of classic metal, if you like that sort of thing. Over the years I’ve watched quite a few World Cup games in there. I usually listen to it on a cheap AM radio, but you have the problem [that] it’s always several seconds ahead of the TV footage, so there’s that problem of reacting to a goal before anyone else. There’s a mate I know from there, a sighted guy but he did the same thing, and it earnt him the nickname, which has kind of stuck for years, the nickname ‘Future Dave’ because of this, being several seconds into the future on the football games. But yeah, it’s one of those places I tend to drop into more or less every time I pass it. I think the thing is, once you know your way round inside a place, where the toilets are and the bar, you know, the important stuff, and the staff are good in there so you can kind of just, it can get busy, you can feel quite comfortable in there and it’s good.

Sound design: Pub ambience, sounds of things described, a welcoming warm sound.

City Journey – The Crown Part 2

Narrator: Back in the Crown, drinks have arrived.

Linda: Well cheers Chris. 

Chris: Cheers Linda [Glasses clink].

Linda: Thanks for inviting me on your trip. 

Chris: That’s alright thanks for coming, yeah.

Sound design: Gives a sense of leaving them there, moving from inside to outside.

Narrator: Once back from their journey, Linda reflected on how nervous Chris’s ‘you either get hit by a bike or you don’t’ approach had made her feel and being surprised by the fact that she’d felt that way, as she knows that Chris regularly navigates the city on his own. Whilst Chris admitted it was a welcome break to have Linda as his guide, pointing out and describing the cityscape as they travelled through it together. 

Co-hosts 

Barrington: And we’re taking a break here too. 

Chris: Yes, that’s enough of me, when we come back, it’s time for a change of scene. 

End of Part 1

BREAK

Part 2

Co-hosts

Chris: Welcome back to City of Threads: ‘You Either Get hit by a Bike or you Don’t’. 

Barrington: I’m Barrington Chambers.

Chris: I’m Chris Turner.

Barrington: And we are your co-hosts.

Chris: Let’s go straight back in. 

Montego Bay Part 1 – Barrington’s Childhood

Sound design: Theme music gives forward momentum and weaves in with sounds setting the scene for Montego Bay.

Narrator: We’re travelling somewhere completely different now, far from Britain’s grey shores to St James in Montego Bay, Jamaica. 

Music: ‘A Better Man’ – Bristol Reggae Orchestra with Becky Scott and Barrington Chambers.

Co-host Chris: Where my mate Barrington Chambers grew up.

Barrington: As a baby I grew up here and my mum playing the harmonica in the house. I didn’t know my grandad, my mum’s dad, he died before I was born, but he died leaving a saxophone and a harmonica, so my mum had it and I decided I want to learn to play. The environment I was in I would say, the communities, the school communities, the inner city and all those areas, everybody would learn to play something, because it’s like that in Jamaica. We would sit every Thursday afternoon, with the principal of the school and he would play the big grand piano and then we would have to choose an instrument and then we would have to follow the melody of what he was playing. There’s a place called the Boys Club, even though girls go there, you learn to play every instrument you can put your hands on, you are taught to play it. What I used to do as a little child I used to stand on my Aunty’s fence and listen to, there’s marching band at the Boys Club, and they used to march round and round the block every evening, they don’t just sit in the room and practise they decided to march, so you have saxophone, alto sax, baro sax, flute, violin, everything, they used to just march and play. I used to listen to tapes of my grandad at first, he died before I was born so I didn’t know him, my mum used to play but as I say not professionally, mess around, then my Uncle Neville, which is my dad’s uncle, so he’s my grand uncle, he was a professional banjo player, guitarist; lead and rhythm guitar, so he used to play in a lot of calypso, mento, rumba – those types of music and then Jimmy Cliff, I grew up hearing that ‘oh Jimmy’s your cousin’ and I thought, oh, that’s alright [Laughs].

Narrator: Barrington’s own journey started a long way from Bristol but we’re joining him now for the start of his city journey at Arnolfini.

Intro to Barrington and Marcus – Arnolfini

Barrington: Is it on? 

Marcus: It’s on now. 

Barrington: My name is, oooh, Barrington and I’m going to be walking with Marcus today across the city centre towards Union Street, then back to my little pub, which we have a little waterhole there. 

Marcus: I’m Marcus and I am the travelling companion, I have just met Barrington today but I am realising that he is a very smooth talker [Laughter] so yes, it’s going to be interesting.

Narrator: Marcus runs a think tank working to improve diversity in the creative industries. He has lots of questions.

Marcus: So how do you find it, when you walk into different spaces where the light changes? Does that affect you or does it…? 

Barrington: Yes, it does affect me, ‘cos for example if I’m coming from outside which is natural light, coming into the building, I have to stop for a few seconds to acclimatise.

Outside Arnolfini

Sound design: Sounds of the harbourside outside the Arnolfini capturing the space as. 

Narrator: Once outside, they stop not far away, on the harbourside, beneath some trees whose roots are pushing up through the cobbled floor, Marcus reads the first wild card. 

Marcus: Take a moment to stand together, notice your breath, notice the ground beneath the feet and the movement in the air and the sounds of the city. As you set out on this first part of your journey together take this awareness with you, notice the city soundscape, the change in the surfaces underfoot, the movement of the air, and the  aromas, the flavours and the textures you encounter on the way.

Sound design: Faint music plays within the sounds of the harbourside. 

Barrington: So, I can hear music in the distant and because I am a musician, I always like to follow the music sound. 

Marcus: Right.

Barrington: And it’s really cobbled here, so we’re not going to go too fast on it, OK?

Marcus: Yes. So, I can smell food, 

Barrington: Ooh! 

Marcus: I’m not sure what kind of food it is but it smells good, and I can feel the breeze, it’s coming from the direction that we are walking towards and it’s interesting that this part of the city is quite quiet. 

Barrington: Yes I was going to say if you listen overhead. 

Marcus: Yes.

Barrington: It’s really quiet overhead. 

Marcus: Uh huh.  

Barrington: And I can hear like water fountains, some water.

Marcus: Yes.  

Marcus: Alright so we’re gonna proceed. 

Barrington: Yes, let’s proceed. 

Narrator: As they set off towards Barrington’s first stopping point we are heading back to Jamaica.

Montego Bay Part 2 – Barrington’s Backstory 

Sound design: Segue from Bristol docks to Montego bay.

Barrington: When I was little and trying to be a musician, my cousins or uncles they used to say to me ‘go and get a proper education there’s no money in music’, so after school in the 80s I gave up playing instruments and then I did engineering, mechanical engineering.

Co-host Chris: Barrington graduated, winning his year’s top student award, and moved into engineering jobs in the hotels and cruise ships around Montego Bay. 

Sound design: Soundscape of Montego Bay and reggae plays under the narrator.

Narrator: Montego bay is the birthplace of the world famous Reggae Sunsplash festival and a magnet for many of the world’s best known reggae musicians. Pop stars, celebrities and recording artists of all genres set up homes in the mansions and penthouses overlooking the beach.

Co-host Chris: And sometimes that music world and Barrington’s engineering work crossed paths.

Johnny Cash and the Fountain Aviary 

Barrington: So, one day my boss says to me oh we’ve got a job over Johnny’s house, so you know, anybody could be Johnny. So in the morning we turn up at one of the hotels where we are generally based, that’s the Half Moon Hotel, and then we got into the jeep and we drove up to this house and reached a gate and these armed guards open these massive high steel gates. The garden is higher, raised a bit higher than the house, so it’s like on a slope, and they have a blueprint and say they want to make an aviary, for birds, and they’re putting in these fountains right around, there’s fountains right through and then in the middle there’s one big massive fountain, and we start setting up and put things together and make this nice aviary and you can be there working and hear someone walking past and singing with his guitar over his shoulder, it was Johnny going for a walk, which is Johnny Cash, in his full black, black shorts, black t-shirt, walking up through the golf course, he just walking on his own through the bush, singing, writing songs in his head and, yes.

Sound design: Sounds of aviary and water fountains fades into journey music. 

City Journey – Tesco

Narrator: Back in Bristol, in the city journey, Barrington and Marcus have skirted the shared space in the centre, gone past the PMT music shop from Chris’s journey and into the busy Broadmead shopping area. Arriving at Barrington’s first stopping point. 

Sound design: Sounds of a supermarket, trollies moving and the bleeps of the checkout.

Marcus: So we’re at the corner of, just inside Tesco’s, on the corner of Union Street. 

Barrington: This is where I generally come and do my shopping on a Friday, Thursday or a Friday, so there are a lot of the people in here who would know me. So generally when I walk in there’s always a lady security here and they would generally get a basket, take me to customer service and then someone would walk me around to do my necessities.

Chris and Barrington – Tesco Chat

Narrator:  Barrington and Chris both use this shop 

Chris: Yeah, that Tesco in Union Street, I know that one as well, it’s very handy because A) it’s very easy to find, it’s on the corner but it’s also got, you can always hear it, the tills beeping.

Barrington: Yes, and there’s a massive door at the front, it’s like a shutter type door. 

Chris: Do you notice Tesco has a certain smell as well

Barrington: [Laughs] Yes! 

Chris: It’s like plastic and fruit. 

Barrington: Yes, because, when you get in there, I don’t know how much you concentrate when you go in there but the fruit and veg is right at the front and then over to the left immediately are the baked cakes, so they’re all so fresh and nice and smell, ooh, you just want to go through the door [Laughs].  

Chris: ‘Cos what I like about that even though it’s a city centre store and it’s busy, the staff are always pretty quick to get you help. 

Barrington: Yes. They get a basket first.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. 

Barrington: Even if you want one item, they pick up a basket first and then they say oh, which side do you want me to guide you on, which is good! 

Narrator: It may not sound very glamorous but shops, pubs or anywhere else that provides good V.I. customer service are an absolute necessity and become trusted stopping points in the city.

For the Love of Shopping – Anela

Anela: I do have a serious love of shopping, some have named it an addiction! [Laughter].

Narrator: Anela again. 

Anela: And I think that my main points really are that getting to the actual shops isn’t always easy, because there’s no landmark to tell you where you are and where the shops are, so as a completely blind person, as I am, I know that some of them have big colourful signs and all the rest of it and people with some sight can normally find the ones that they’ve got to know, whereas I don’t really have that. I do have to rely on sound to walk close to the doorways, which is hazardous in itself because there’s people trying to come in and out. So when you have done the bit about finding the shop, you then have to try and listen to, usually where the tills are, because that’s where I sort of expect there to be members of staff, so I try to follow the sounds, but obviously you know as well as I do that there’s clothes rails, there’s shelves, there’s clutter all over the place, and people, so it’s just trying to get to where you need to be to get the assistance, and I don’t think sighted people realise how easy they’ve got it, to be able to walk into a place and just look around with their eyes to see where they need to go and just go there. 

For the Love of Shopping – Chris and Barrington

Sound design: Sound of shop announcement and clothes rails sets the scene.

Narrator: Despite these challenges Anela still loves going shopping, but not everyone feels that way. 

Anela: Chris, are you into shopping? 

Chris: Shopping, not so much, I mean if I go to a clothes shop, it’s sometimes with a mate or a family member, but I don’t like to spend too long in there, I either like to get something and get out, but if I go in and don’t get anything, it feels… 

Anela: Like a waste of… [Laughter].

Chris: Completely wasted. 

Anela: A waste of time? 

Chris: Yes.  

Narrator: However, Anela does find an ally.

Anela: Barrington, do you like shopping, for clothes?  

Barrington: I love clothes shopping and I’m well-coordinated, like when I go shopping, you know our colour coordinator that we uses? 

Anela: Yes.

Barrington: I like to take my colour coordinator with me. And when I take it out in stores and put it on things people say, ‘what are you doing, trying to tag the clothes?’ [Laughter] and I say ‘no, no I’m checking the colour’. ‘OK’.

Sound design: Colour coordinator saying ‘light blue’ then ‘dark green’.

Narrator: A colour coordinator or ‘talking colour detector’ is a handy piece of technology that tells you the colour that you point it at. 

Sound design: Colour detector says ‘pale yellow’ etc. then fades out under Anela saying:

Anela: Fabric is really important isn’t it?

Barrington: Yes. 

Anela: How it feels. 

Barrington: The texture yes. 

Anela: I mean it’s not just about the colour, I mean that matters as well but also how it feels. 

Barrington: Yeah, I remember my brother came here from America some years ago and he brought me two trousers, and I said ‘wow what’s this’, ‘cos I’ve never seen stretch material before like, and ever since if it’s not them, I don’t buy any denim material anymore, and I remember being in stores with my PA I used to have and, sometimes I said to her, I picked a shirt and I said what do you think about this shirt and she said ‘oh yes that looks nice on you’ and I thought ‘naah, I don’t like it’, I want the shirt to cover my bum [Laughter] or the sleeves must be a bit longer. ‘Oh you’re too fussy.’ So in the end, the way she was behaving, I thought ‘no, no, no, you’re not good for me there’. 

Anela: No, I can’t be having a PA that doesn’t get fashion! 

Barrington: Exactly [Laughter].

Sound design: Starts moving us on as the journey begins again.

City Journey – Back to Barrington

Narrator: Let’s get back to Marcus and Barrington and their city journey, by now they have left Tesco and are making their way across the city to the last stop on the route.

Barrington: What I used to do then, is, don’t come straight up on this road, I used to walk up across on the other side where the eye hospital is, go along the eye hospital and keep left round the corner there, and go round behind the BRI there, straight round, continue left, right around and then down the slope then I find my way to the Sportsman. 

Narrator: Barrington used to do deliveries in the city and still has a photographic memory map of the streets in his head, often advising taxi drivers on the best routes to take. 

Marcus: You mentioned before that you used to do a lot of this journey at night. 

Barrington: Yes, because as I said l when I first started to lose my sight it was easier for me to see in the night. As the doctors said, my pupils dilate in the night so with the artificial street light I could see a bit more. For example the double yellow lines on the road, I cannot identify them in the day but I can identify them at night, so I would use my cane and travel along the double yellow line at night.  

Barrington’s Backstory – Bristol and Sight Loss

Sound design: Sound of plane flying over. 

Narrator: Barrington moved to Bristol in 1999, to be near family members who were running successful businesses in the city. It was around then that he first noticed issues with his sight. 

Barrington: I remember I was in England and it was winter time and it’s completely different for me than the Caribbean, which is bright, and I noticed sometimes that I could see like little dots in my left eye but I didn’t take it for anything, you know. But I remember when I was back in Jamaica again now and it was bright when I’m driving and it was like there was a fly on the windscreen and you wipe it off but it’s still there, and then that dot gets a bit wider so it’s covering my left eye, so to see my left wing mirror, I’d have to turn my head to the left instead of glancing and that’s when I realised something was going on. 

Narrator: Barrington was diagnosed with glaucoma, a common cause of sight loss that affects the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. He had a major operation but his sight deteriorated.

Barrington: The insurance company decided not to cover me again, ‘cause in engineering you had to be covered by insurance you know if you get injured on the job or anything like that and that’s when I thought, ‘oh, I might have to find something else to do’. I was lost, I didn’t know what to do. 

Narrator: This was a difficult and challenging time in Barrington’s life. Although initially able to get part time employment through the Remploy scheme, that provided employment support to disabled people, Government subsidies were withdrawn in the early 2000s, leaving Barrington without work. He went back to college to learn more IT skills.

Co-host Chris: And it was around then that Barrington and I met, at a job club run by RNIB in Bedminster, where I now work.

Barrington: And then in the midst of all that I decided to pick up music again.

Co-host Chris: [cont.] Just as he was shifting his work back towards his roots as a musician. 

Music Again

Narrator: Barrington had been active in setting up and performing at open mic sessions at the Plantation, his cousin’s Caribbean restaurant in Bristol, when he was contacted by a fellow musician from the legendary reggae band Black Roots. 

Barrington: I remember the lead singer from Back Roots band, Charlie, saw me up the road one day and we were chatting and he said to me ‘I really want to start a music group for the youth in the area’ and I said ‘yeah that’s good’.

Sound design: Bristol Reggae Orchestra with Barrington announcing the orchestra.

Barrington [From live music concert]: ‘we are the Bristol Reggae Orchestra and we are here to make you dance tonight’.

Narrator: This group soon became the Bristol Reggae Orchestra. 

Barrington: I was one of the founding members, so five of us got together I write songs for them, rhythms, play percussion if needed, do MC, I can sing. We play in London, Bristol, Cardiff, we play at summer festivals which is the Harbourside, St Pauls Carnival, you name it, all over.

Co-host Chris: And you’ve been taking music into the schools? 

Barrington: People volunteer from out of the Bristol Reggae Orchestra and we do go to different schools, like once a month, twice a month, every other month. Then what we do is get the kids up on stage and teach them how to play the instruments, so we teach them to play trombone, saxophone, clarinet, flute, viola, drums, bass, guitar, harmonica [Laughs] just get them up, and you know what kids are like, when they are going for it mate, you can’t stop them.

Narrator: And performing on stage now, Barrington re-finds that joy for music that he had in his youth, growing up in Jamaica. 

Sound design: Echoes the music of Barrington’s childhood.

Barrington: And also this last tour that we are on, which hasn’t finished yet, because we were supposed to finish in Manchester this October coming, Aswad decided to join them.

Narrator: Aswad are another legendary reggae band.

Barrington: So we joined them on the Bristol leg in St Georges, Brandon Hill. And then the guy emailed me and said ‘Barrington can you do a little DJ piece in the middle of the song?’. So, I went around and listened to the song again on YouTube and then wrote something and it goes like:

Barrington [Sings]: ‘people makes the world go round, round I say around and round, you might be solid like a rock or like a rolling stone, big like a king who sit upon his throne, oh say, people make the world go round, round and round, me say round and round’.

Barrington: [cont.] and we had a sold-out concert there, it was fantastic.

Sound design: Sweeps us into the moment with a brass section and applause, then segues us back into the journey and city sounds.

Cultural Encounters – Outside the Sportsman

Narrator: Back in our city journey, Barrington and Marcus have arrived outside Barrington’s last stop, The Sportsman pub. Marcus still has lots of questions. 

Marcus: One question though, how do you find people’s expectations of what it is that you can and cannot do, versus what you know you can and cannot do? 

Barrington: Alright this is a very, very good question. Think about it, I am from the ethnic minority group, people from my group, especially Jamaicans, the elders, they see me walking down the street, like in town here, with my stick, they would always nearly want to tell me off. ‘Oh you shouldn’t be doing this you shouldn’t be in town on your own’. I say ‘I cannot sit at home and vegetate, if I wanna go places I’m off’. 

Marcus: And do you find that sometimes other people’s concerns for your well-being is limiting to you? 

Barrington: Yes, it puts me off sometimes, yep, ‘cos I’m thinking, there’s danger out there that they can see that I can’t see.

Anela – Background and Asian Cultural Attitudes.

Sound design: Takes us to a zoom call. Voices discussing sound settings.

Narrator: And Anela has something to say about her own culture’s attitudes to disability.

Anela: So for the help of the podcast, I am Asian and my parents are from Pakistan, and so, the Asian community in general and not just from Pakistan, but the Asian community from India and from, most Asian places, disability is still all very much a taboo, and so it’s not something that people talk openly about, it’s not something that, you know it hasn’t been very open and non-taboo in the West for very long either, but it is now, so here, so, obviously I am British born and bred, so I have done a lot of stuff with RNIB and other organisations doing talks, so there’s an organisation called the Pakistan Association, I don’t know that much about them but I, through the RNIB, I got linked up with them to go and do a talk to the Pakistani community about me being blind and my life and stuff, to raise awareness and, to kind of in a way, bring it out in the open and to show them that in a way all is not lost just because I am blind, and to encourage them to ask questions, but they didn’t, nobody asked questions, and I even said I am going to be around afterwards, and my Mum and Dad were there as well and I said we’re all happy to talk to people about any concerns or curiosities, to break down the barriers but people didn’t ask questions.

Narrator: Anela comes from a big family, three of her siblings share the same genetic sight condition she was born with. She talks about what it is like being at the intersection of different types of community. 

Anela: There’s been a sort of massive fusion in my sort of household, my parents are from Pakistan so they have a lot more of their Pakistani culture in them than me and my brothers and sisters do, but me and my brothers and sisters are not completely Westernised and so we’re somewhere, something in the middle and we’re constantly trying to balance and sometimes even to justify ourselves to both sides to parents and to friends. In the eyes of the general public, I appear not to have a culture or a colour, my dominant feature that stands out and what I would tend to be described as, is ‘the blind lady’. And that becomes the focal point, a lot of the time, whether it’s, I don’t know, taxi drivers or you go in a shop or you meet new people, it’s the thing people want to talk about and people want to know about, and most of the time that’s fine but sometimes you think actually there’s a lot more to me than just being blind.

Sound design: Takes us back to the sounds of city.

In the Sportsman – Strange Encounters

Sound design: Soundscape of the Sportsman pub sounds of lunchtime drinking, quiet conversation.

Marcus: What I noticed on this journey is things I don’t take notice of like, cycle tracks in the middle of the street and I’ve walked these streets before and I’ve never taken any notice that before. 

Barrington: And people walking towards of you. 

Marcus: Yes, people walking towards me, because I usually just, I make an unconscious decision to adjust to their movement, but it was interesting walking with you and watching people’s reactions and a couple of people panicked. 

Narrator: Barrington and Marcus are now settled in one of Barrington’s favourite watering holes, The Sportsman’s pub, which has a long history of serving the V.I. community.

Barrington: People do, I don’t know, it’s just hard to understand how people would treat a visually impaired person. 

Marcus: So, it’s a very weird social politics? 

Barrington: Yes, I just say, it’s a political life. 

Co-host Chris: They got talking about the strange attitudes and questions we get all asked.

Barrington: Even inside here, but not in here much, but when we go other places people do ask us some weird questions, people would say ‘are you married? Are you thinking of getting married? How are you going to find a wife?’ [laughs] and Alan wears a hearing aid so when it’s very noisy I would walk in front and the dog follows me, but I don’t use my cane, I just have it folded up in my hand, because I know the layout and people know me so when they see me coming they give way, so this guy turns toward me and he said ‘oh, you’re helping your mate’ and I said ‘no, I am visually impaired just like him’ and he said ‘but you’ve got your eyes open?’ That is what he said to me and I thought ‘oh, here we go now’, so I turned and said to him, ‘have you ever heard these words: ‘you’re born with sight but you’re lacking in vision’ [Laughter] and he looked at me and he said ‘oop I have never heard of that’, and I said, ‘think about it!’. 

Strange Encounters – Anela, Barrington and Chris 

Co-host Chris: Which got the three of us started! 

Anela: Do you have similar experiences, people treating you in a similar kind of way when you are out and about? 

Chris: Occasionally, sometimes in a pub people, obviously not people who have known me a while, seem almost taken aback that I have gone to a pub on my own, or gone anywhere on my own, like you are supposed to stay in and wait for someone to take you out, that kind of thing. 

Anela: Yeah! 

Chris: And even, this was just one rude individual, who basically said to me when I was out shopping, where is your carer?! 

Anela: [Laughs] Yeah, I get that one. 

Chris: You might have had this as well, where if someone has offered, which is good, offered to guide you somewhere or help you across the road, but if you ask them a question to engage them in conversation, I’ve had it where they kind of ignore you, where they are so concentrating on trying to help or they, are not actually listening to anything you are saying. 

Anela: We all get that don’t we? It’s something that goes across all cultures, because I think all three of us are from a different culture group but that experience is the same for all of us, we always get people trying to be a bit… I’ve always called it a bit over protective and bit controlling. 

All three: Yeah! 

Chris: And then, this happens a lot in the street, people might be talking in the middle of the road or the middle of the street, and then as you approach they stop talking and I think. 

Anela and Chris [in unison]: Just carry on and then I’d know where you are! Exactly! 

Chris: And then you don’t know if they’ve moved or if they’re standing there gawping or…

Anela: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah [More laughter] I don’t know if you guys get this but I get a lot of, ‘well you don’t look blind, you don’t look or act blind’, so they don’t really understand what the stick is, plus I probably don’t help myself because my cane is pink, not white, but they, but I do get a lot of that, so I get all of it, ‘watch where you’re going’ and all that kind of stuff.  

Chris: A guy once said why are you walking around with that staff [Laughter] I was waiting to go into a loo, and I was sort of just leaning on it, but it’s still a white cane, and he said ‘who do you think you are? Lord of the manor going around with that stick?’ [Lots of laughter].

Anela: Like Gandalf from ‘Lord of the Rings’. 

Barrington: Yes, yeah! 

Sound design: Takes us away, sense of laughter at the ridiculousness of people’s attitudes segues into journey music taking us into reflection act.

Narrator: And with the image of the Lord of the Manor and Gandalf striding out into the city with their white staffs, Barrington and Marcus have reached the end of Barrington’s journey and head back to where they started, to download their audio from the walk and have a well-earned cup of tea.

Reflections

Co-hosts

Barrington: That’s it Chris, the end of our episode.

Chris: And what did we discover? 

Barrington: The best conversations happen over a pint? 

Chris: Well ours do anyway! 

Narrator: As you prepare to move back into your day, or night, wherever you are, whoever you are, perhaps next time you’re out and about, listen out for the sound marks of the places you visit regularly and think about the stories that lie behind each of us, the lives lived, the rich and textured tapestry that makes up who we are. 

Co-hosts

Chris: We’ll be handing the baton over to our fellow City of Threads team mates for the next episode.

Barrington: But first we’d recommend you tune in to the sister episode of ‘You Either Get Hit by a Bike or You Don’t’.

Chris: Where through the magic of immersive sound, we’ll take you deeper into the heart of some of the places and moments of our journeys. 

Barrington: So you get to experience the city, in our shoes. 

Chris: Best listened to on headphones! 

Narrator: To find out more about these podcasts and the people featured in this episode, you can find additional information at: www.partexchangeco.org.uk

Sound design: Theme music swells, takes over and plays out.