Meet Lou and her daughter Emily, and Holly and one of her oldest friends Ant as they all head off on the first of our city journeys. You’ll come across the perils’ of A boards, ‘maverick sight’, singing fountains and a very melodramatic Cathedral organ. Featured theme; Neuroscience and the Sensory City.
featuring the journeys of Lou Lifely and her travelling companion, daughter Emily Lifely and Holly Thomas and her travelling companion Ant Barrett.
Dr Ute Leonards, guest contributor; Ute is Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol.
For more info on Ute click here
For more info on her Urban Vision Science Project click here
Saburo Teshigawara; to read about the Japanese choreographer that Holly worked with click here
Kaite O’Reilly; for more info on V.I. writer Kaite O’Reilly who coined the term ‘maverick sight’ click here
Rory McCleod; to hear the song Holly talks about in the Folk house on her journey click here
Riff Raff Choir; for more info on the choir Lou talks about in her journey click here
Touchdown Dance – for more info on the dance company Holly talks about in her journey click here
Themes and Issues Raised:
Diabetes related eye conditions – for more info click here
RNIB Counselling service – for more info on the telephone and online counselling service provided by RNIB click here
Places and Spaces Visited:
St Nicks Market – for more info click here
Bristol Eye hospital – for more info click here
Bristol Beacon – for more info click here
Millennium Square – for more info click here
Bristol Cathedral – for more info click here
Queens Square – for more info click here
The Folk House – for more info click here
Co-hosts: Lou Lifely and Fanny Eaton Hall.
Featuring the journeys of Lou Lifely and her travelling companion: daughter Emily Lifely; and Holly Thomas and her travelling companion Ant Barratt.
Guest Contributor: Ute Leonards.
These podcasts use multiple recordings of people from interviews and locations at different times over a period of nearly two years, woven together with immersive sound design and music.
Headings used within this transcript are not spoken within the episode but are there to indicate different sections within the episode to the reader.
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 ‘We’re going in’.
Sound design: Logo and theme music weaves through the following audio fragments:
Lou: Well, oh well, well [Laughter] I was just going to say, when you first, when you first walked into the room! [Laughter].
Ant: I don’t like citrus fruit that much.
Holly: Don’t you?
Holly: Oh there’s something else I’ve discovered about you.
Ant: Yes [Laughter].
Lou: It’s a vibrant, it’s a real mixture of smells as you approach it.
Holly: And do you ever find yourself doing those sort of?
Lou: Step steps.
Holly: Fake steps.
Lou: Oh absolutely [Laughter]. Ministry of Funny Walks here we come!
Lou: [Laughter] We’re going in, yep, we’re going in!
Ant: I am just wondering if it sounds more beautiful than it looks? [Laughter]
Fanny: Yes, I certainly picked up on, the sounds, the wind in the trees, the birds, the scents, the smells of food, the surfaces of pavement. I just see the city in a whole new light now.
Lou: It’s like a reawakening isn’t it, a place that you’ve always taken for granted.
Holly: Yes yeah! Experiencing it in a new way. Isn’t it?
Sound design: Segue from intro music and voices into a quieter soundscape.
Intro to Holly, Lou and Fanny
Holly: So I think there is something really interesting about taking the journey and really listening to the person you are travelling with and having this shared experience that meant that it was possible to find out or discover something new about my relationship with someone that I have known for a very long time. It is that sort of universal thing of if in any way you experience the world differently or it’s not quite designed, you know, with you in in mind if you like, then yeah, there’s things that we need to understand I guess about each other’s experiences that help us all to, yeah, just sort of appreciate.
Lou: And how people adapt.
Lou: How very adaptive people are, actually.
Lou: And that’s another thing, people, she said you know, if you don’t talk about it then nobody’s going to know and nobody’s going to respond to it. You don’t have to bleat on about it or make it a big deal but if you talk to people about it then that makes it less of deal.
Holly: Yeah, and it can kind of become more of a, just a natural part of a conversation, it’s sort of one part of who you are, isn’t it, it’s one kind of strand that makes up who we all are and I guess that’s true of anyone isn’t it really. It’s something about just having a more whole understanding of each other and not feeling like it’s something that is the only thing you want to talk about but equally also not something to be shied away from either I guess.
Lou: No, as you say it’s part of you.
Fanny: And the variousness of people is wonderful.
Holly and Lou together: Absolutely.
Fanny: The world would be boring if we were all the same.
Holly: Wouldn’t it just.
Fanny: Embrace the variousness I say.
Sound design: Music returns
Fanny: That’s Lou Lifely, Holly Thomas and me: Fanny Eaton Hall.
Lou: And Fanny and I are your co-hosts for this episode called ‘We’re Going In’.
Fanny: Lou and Holly were talking about what it was like for them both taking their journeys into the city with someone they knew very well. In Holly’s case a friend of twenty years and in Lou’s, her daughter Emily.
Lou: Our episode will be exploring some of the new discoveries that those two journeys into the city revealed, for both parties.
Fanny: We’ll be hearing more from Holly later but for now, we’re starting with your journey Lou. Are you ready?
Lou: Yes, let’s go.
Fanny and Lou together: We’re going in! [Laughter].
Sound design: Takes us to the start of the journey.
Arnolfini Lou and Emily
Sound design: Sounds of café, voices in background.
Narrator: Here’s Lou with her daughter Emily, in Arnolfini’s light studio. Arnolfini is a contemporary art centre and gallery, situated on the Harbourside, in the heart of Bristol. They are supporters of the City of Threads project and their light studio is the start and end point for all our journey takers.
Emily: How do you take your coffee? [Laughter].
Lou: I’d like it white please, no sugar.
Narrator: Each journey has been designed by the V.I. journey lead and is undertaken with a sighted travelling companion of their own choosing. Emily is in her early twenties. Although Lou and Emily have taken lots of trips into the city together, they’ve never done anything quite like this.
Lou: And there are some biscuits there, would you like a biscuit?
Emily: Um, I am quite hungry but no I’m OK thank you.
Lou: Are you sure? You’re going to wait?
Emily: I’m going to wait.
Narrator: They’ve been learning how to operate the hand-held audio recorder that all travellers will use to capture their journey experiences, and Lou has explained to Emily about her sight and what guiding support she might need, something all journey takers will do before travelling – but not something Lou has done with Emily before.
Sound design: Singing gradually starts to come in.
Narrator: As they leave the light studio.
Lou: I can hear singing.
Emily: Yes, me too.
Lou: Can you hear singing?
Emily: Yeah I can [Laughter].
Emily: I’m not sure where it’s.
Lou: Where’s it coming from?
Emily: I’m not sure, [Sound of singing in background] we’ll have to follow the sound.
Narrator: They follow the sound to discover the singing belongs to an installation at Arnolfini.
Sound design: Sound of singing segues into seagulls outside Arnolfini.
Outside Arnolfini – Journey Begins
Narrator: Once outside the building they find a place to stop by the harbour where, accompanied by a choir of seagulls, they read the first of four wild cards, that all travellers are given to read and reflect upon, on their journey.
Emily: Take a moment to stand together, notice your breath, the ground beneath your feet, the movement of 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 landscape, the changing surfaces underfoot, the movement of the air and the aromas, flavours and textures that encounter you along the way.
Sound design: Journey music starts up.
Narrator: And, senses attuned, they set off. When designing their journeys, all the V.I. leads were asked to choose stopping points in the city, places that held memories or experiences that were significant to them, and to incorporate a place that was a sensory delight and a place that was a no go zone.
Lou and Emily are headed for Lou’s first stopping point.
Co-Host Fanny: And as they do that, we’re going to find out more about my friend Lou.
Lou: Right, well I moved to Bristol when I was eighteen months old. My parents moved down from Leicester and I spent a very happy childhood with two older brothers, we were very close in age, only three years between the three of us, so, you can imagine, we had fun!
I was at secondary school at Colston’s Girls School. I was diagnosed just before my 0-Levels, when I was fifteen, with diabetes. So, it was a bit of shock. My parents were both doctors so they took it kind of in their stride to be honest, there wasn’t a great deal of fuss made about it but I was straight onto insulin as a type one diabetic.
I mean, I was a teenager and it can be really tricky for teenagers and I have to say I did rail against it slightly after a couple of years of living with it, so I was a bit neglectful which is probably why it came back to bite me.
But I was really happy. I travelled, I went to, after my A-Levels, I went to Italy for a year, that was lovely, really enjoyed that, working in a fashion shop and looking after a little boy – great, great fun – and then came back and did my nurse training at the Royal Berkshire and Reading. Moved back to Bristol after being in Reading for four years and started doing agency nursing because I was planning on going to Australia for a year, so I was agency nursing until I had saved up enough money to go and then during that year I did meet my boyfriend who then became my husband but I still went to Australia! [Laughs].
City Journey – St Nicks
Sound design: City soundscape segues into sounds of St Nicks.
Narrator: Lou and her daughter Emily, have travelled along the harbourside, skirted the edge of the shared space in the city centre and carried on, into the old city, to a busy covered market in a Georgian arcade. With an eclectic mix of independent stalls, tiny shops and delicious food stands, this is St Nicholas Market, Lou’s first stop and the place she has chosen as a sensory delight.
Sound design: Soft music and sounds supports the whole immersive sensory delight of this section.
Lou: It’s a vibrant, it’s a real mixture of smells as you approach it. There’s yes, the smells of joss sticks and incense and food.
Lou: Just getting to the door you could smell incense, joss sticks and incense and that lovely sort of warm woody smell, a really comforting sort of smell and when you go through the doors it’s a sort of onslaught of colours and shapes and sort of like a real sort of assault of vibrancy, So, it’s a real mixture of vibrant pink with red, and some gold and blue, always think the blue is a very sort of peacock blue, and all the different, because there are different stands and different stalls there is different lighting so, there are darker areas and brighter areas and a lot of different contrasting elements, little bit confusing to look at initially, when you are looking at it initially you don’t know where the paths are.
But it looks like it’s great to explore, we’re going to go in, [Laughter] we’re going in, yep, we’re going in!
Narrator: Lou and Emily enter the bustling market and make their way towards the back.
Lou: When you go in you start hearing the noises that are going around, there’s some music from some part, there’s, you can hear people talking, then there’s the smell as you go back through towards the back, to the coffee shops, so you can smell fresh coffee.
Narrator: Where they settle in a cafe, drinking in the atmosphere.
Lou: We’re sitting having a coffee and listening to everything that’s going on around. There’s music, there’s chat, there’s cooking noise, there’s cooking smells.
Lou: And you can hear coffee machines, there’s steam being sort of put through milk and you can smell the sort of slight sweetness and there’s also what I would say the flavour of toasted cheese [Laughs] in the air. Obviously there are toasted sandwiches or something being made and you can really, you can hear the clattering of a kitchen and then you can smell that toasted cheese. Yeah, very lovely [Laughter]. It is such, such an Aladdin’s cave and it is a beautiful place to just be.
Sound design: The sensory delights captured, sizzling.
City Journey – Back on the Move
Sound design: Travelling music.
Narrator: Lou and Emily leave the market, walk past Castle Park, down past the Broadmead shopping area and over a busy traffic intersection towards Lou’s second stop.
Lou’s Backstory Continued
Co-host Fanny: While we pick up the thread of Lou’s story again.
Lou: So went to Australia after working for a year spent ten months in Australia, came back because that same said boyfriend came over and proposed marriage to me, so I cut my travels a little bit short, came home, got married, six months after that and when I came back I got a job with the agency as a manager for a short time because they needed somebody, just for a maternity cover, so I did that. Then I went to, I got myself a job at the BRI in the cardiac surgery unit, on the intensive care side of it and unfortunately then, after I had been there for not that long, my eyesight decided to play up.
Co-host Fanny: Lou says this was the most perfect time of her life, she’d been travelling, got married, had a new home and the job she mentions, was the one she’d been longing for, she was being fast tracked for a promotion, everything was wonderful.
Lou’s Sight Loss Story
Lou: And then I noticed, I was…
Co-Host Fanny: Here’s Lou, talking about what happened next.
Lou: I noticed at work somebody said ‘oh there’s something going on’ and I looked over and I thought I’ve got wiggly lines and I can’t see that clearly, and I wore glasses for distance anyway but not strong and they weren’t making any difference. So I came home, watched television: same thing was happening so I thought ‘right, I’ve got to go to the optician’, went to the optician, he threw his hands up in horror and said, I want you to go down to the eye hospital immediately.
City Journey – Bristol Eye Hospital – Sight Loss Story Continued
Narrator: Back in their city journey Lou and Emily have arrived at Lower Maudlin Street and are admiring the sculpted brick panel by Walter Ritchie attached to the outside wall of the Bristol Eye Hospital, Lou’s second stop.
Lou: Just arrived at the eye hospital, just feeling the textured wall outside, which is quite something to feel, but this is where my eye, my sight loss journey started when I was twenty-eight. Rushed here from my optician as an urgent case, where they in fact discovered that I had proliferative diabetic retinopathy, which is the end stage of diabetic retinopathy. Obviously devasted at that time and I went through a lot of different procedures and intensive treatment.
Narrator: Proliferative retinopathy, the last and most serious stage of diabetic retinopathy, is the stage that causes the sight loss.
Lou: So they started doing little bits of laser and then they said this is no good at all, we’re going to have to knock you out and do both at the same time. So I had five-thousand blasts in my left eye and two and half thousand, which was the maximum they could do, in the right eye.
Narrator: The initial laser treatment saved Lou’s sight partially, but within a year further complications had left Lou fully blind in the left eye, and with only a narrow field of vision in her right.
Lou: Although I lost the sight in one eye and have got, I’ve still got partial sight in the other and I am very grateful for that and if they hadn’t worked as hard as they did I may well have no sight at all. So, you know, mixed feelings.
Diabetes: Fanny and Lou’s Connection
Narrator: Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of preventable sight loss in the UK. Living with diabetes was just one of the threads that Lou and Fanny discovered connected them, when they first met as part of the City of Threads project.
Lou: Well, oh well, well [Laughter]. I was just going to say, I think, when you first, when you first walked into the room! [Laughter]. There was definitely something, there was an energy about you, and your dress sense, I thought: there’s a woman who’s very together and elegant.
Fanny: Now I know why I like you so much.
Lou: Yes, all this flannel I give you, yeah [Laughter].
Fanny: No, it was interesting, it was interesting, because I noticed you when you came in, you have a presence. But it was also that very first exercise we had to do which was talking about a difficult period in our life, because we were trying to address emotions, and unfortunately I really touched a nerve with you and we found out that we were both diabetics, both insulin dependent, both had daughters and that was it, we were sisters! [Laughter].
Lou: Yes, I remember the look on your face, you were slightly surprised at my reaction and then it transpired that in fact I had responded so drastically, very emotionally, to the question because my blood sugar was very low.
Fanny: Yeah! I mean we had gone to something quite deep and maybe that’s because your blood sugar was low because you know our brains go funny [Laughter].
Lou: Oh they do, don’t they, well, I mean that’s my excuse, I don’t know about you Fanny.
Fanny: No, I… [Laughter]
Lou: Oh, it’s my blood sugar, it’s my blood sugar!
The Disruption of Trees, A Dark Tunnel & A-boards
Sound design: City sounds and journey music comes subtly into the background.
Narrator: Lou and Emily have left the eye hospital. Emily has never heard her mother tell the story of her sight loss before and as they head off to Lou’s third stop, she continues to gain new understandings about her mum and the city, including the hazards and obstacles that Lou faces every day.
Sound design: City sounds return.
Lou: The unevenness of pavements are a real problem.
Emily: They’re quite smooth until here which seems to be where the tree roots are and they really lift up and cause trips.
Lou: Yep the trip hazards, as Emily says, and the tree roots and the…
Emily: The older pavements.
Lou: The older pavements.
Narrator: They encounter more trees.
Lou: We were just commenting that the number of trees in Bristol is wonderful and beautiful trees but they do disrupt the pavements, quite badly.
Sound design: Tree roots pushing up through pavements, onward sense of travel.
Narrator: Go through an underpass.
Sound design: Captures the feel of the dark and threatening tunnel.
Lou: It’s suddenly become very dark and there are a succession of A-Signs in the middle of the pavement not the easiest to negotiate.
Sound design: Feeling of pitch black tunnel, coming out of the darkness, near misses.
Co-host Lou: Sudden changes in light are very difficult for me to adapt to, so going through the underpass was like being plunged into a pitch-black tunnel.
Narrator: Tunnel safely negotiated, they carry on, along the pavement, until finally.
City Journey – Colston Hall
Sound design: As the journey arrives at Bristol Beacon sounds of building works can be heard.
Lou: We’ve just arrived outside the Colston Hall.
Narrator: Now renamed Bristol Beacon.
Lou: There’s a lot of work going on because it’s being refurbished at the moment – well the auditorium is being rebuilt. A little bit hazardous because there are bollards and workmen and signs, so in fact we’re staying on the far side of the road from it to avoid the hazards.
For the Love of Choirs
Sound design: Building works slowly segues into sound of choir.
Co-host Fanny: But Lou hasn’t come here to talk about the hazards.
Lou: Very important place to me, the Colston Hall. It’s been a place where I have seen numerous concerts and I’ve performed here too, and I love it, you know all my life it’s been a place I have been frequently and I have real special love it.
Co-host Fanny: Lou told me about the choir she sings in and the performance that they did in the hall.
Sound design: Choir finishes on a crescendo and an audience applauses enthusiastically.
Lou: It’s the riff raff choir, of which actually there are five riff raff choirs in Bristol and we all joined together to perform at the Colston hall, I think it was five years ago now, which was really quite amazing, because that meant there were at least three hundred and fifty of us.
Lou: Or thereabouts, three hundred possibly, which was just amazing. We do various concerts in various places but this was ‘the biggie’!
Fanny: Of course!
Lou: And it was, bless them it took an awful lot of arranging and organisation and it was sort of like a military exercise getting us all on and off the stage, which was a little bit hairy, I have to say, at times, with the eyesight, with the steps down at the back of the Colston Hall. I’ve been in choirs always, for as long as I can remember I’ve always been in a choir but I joined this one because it just sounded like so much fun and it is, it’s a, no audition, no need to audition for it, it’s a community-based choir and everything is done by ear. Being in the group is just the best.
Fanny: Oh yes.
Lou: Because you all feed off each other and you can hear everybody, when you’re doing it on your own you don’t get that sort of combination and atmosphere and the energy from other people.
Narrator: And Lou’s favourite song?
Lou: Last term we did [Pause] we did, um, oh, my mind’s gone blank now, but it was my favourite [Laughter]. I can’t think of it now, it wasn’t ‘Happy’ but it was one of those, er. Oh, ‘Up Town Funk’! That was brilliant to do, we did up town funk and that was great because, because I loved saying ‘Hot damned’ [Laughter].
Fanny: So has it had to stop during Covid?
Lou: Oh yes it all went online, I had a little dabble at that but I don’t, I think, I’ll just keep singing in the kitchen at the moment.
Sound design: Lou singing ‘What a Wonderful World’ as she washes her hands in the kitchen, before segue back to city journey sounds.
Narrator: Back in the city journey, Lou and Emily leave Bristol Beacon and the building works and head off to Lou’s final stop.
Lou Counselling and Aromatherapy
Co-host Fanny: And as they do that, let’s hear Lou telling Holly, our other journey taker this episode, about how she rebuilt her life after the sight loss.
Lou: When I was diagnosed with the retinopathy I had to stop my job as an intensive care nurse for obvious reasons, little bit of a liability! Obviously, I wanted to do something that was maybe akin to a caring role, I didn’t do it immediately, it took me a little while to recover from all the various bits and pieces but fairly soon I decided I’d maybe do counselling to see if I could help other people in my position.
Narrator: Sudden and significant sight loss takes some adapting to. Lou took a counselling course at University of Bristol. Part of the course was to receive counselling herself, which was critical for Lou, as there had been very little support available to her.
Lou: It took me a little while to do that course because I had two children in the middle of it [Laughs], just as you do and I decided I would do aromatherapy as another element of complementary therapy, as well as counselling. So I did the diploma in aromatherapy and massage therapy which I loved, absolutely loved.
Narrator: Lou then started a business, combining aromatherapy and counselling. Fuelled by both her personal and professional experiences, Lou also volunteered her time at the eye hospital and on a befriending service, that was part of an RNIB counselling service. A service that Holly had used herself.
Holly: So, I remember accessing the Bristol based RNIB counselling service and I thought it was brilliant, really brilliant. I don’t know if you remember Lou, but there was a point at which the service sort of expanded.
Holly: And they started to run like art for well-being sessions and sensory photography, and that was absolutely brilliant, yes and I really thought it was just such an amazing resource and really sad when it all kind of came to an end quite abruptly really, so.
Narrator: The counselling service, which provided a space for people to talk through the many feelings and challenges that can arise following sight loss, moved from a face to face to a telephone-based service as part of RNIB’s national restructuring measures in 2017.
Lou: I don’t think there was one person who wasn’t sad about it really.
Narrator: Lou knows first-hand the importance of this kind of support being available at the right time.
Lou: I think it is vital, absolutely vital, it’s the first thing that people need in order to give them that, to give them that support, to give them the confidence to then move on, to accept what’s happening and move on and get the specific help that they need.
Sound design: Segues back to city journey sounds.
City Journey – Journey to The Cathedral
Narrator: In the city journey Lou and her daughter Emily have moved on, they’ve wound their way back through the centre and are passing through Millennium Square, where Lou notes that silver fencing, being used to block off a construction area, is blending with the grey floor of the square making it invisible. They then travel on up to Bristol Cathedral, Lou’s final stopping point.
City Journey – Last Stop – The Cathedral
Sound design: Segue into sounds of the cathedral. Abell softly rings out as Lou speaks:
Lou: We’re at the cathedral. We’re actually outside the cathedral at the moment, we will go in. But I think, the cathedral, I was very privileged to be able to come into the cathedral to listen to the cathedral school choir and have the privilege of having prize days and school assemblies in there, which was quite incredible to have in the cathedral of a city.
Sound design: Segue into next section.
Parents and Parenting
Co-host Fanny: Lou’s son was a student at Cathedral School, and as you heard Lou say, she had managed to have two children during her retraining after her sight loss. Holly, whose journey we’ll be hearing in Part 2, has a son. They got together to talk parenting.
Sound design: Sound of many children playing gradually fading to the clarity of one or two children’s voices in a quieter space.
Lou: I mean my children have always known me with a visual impairment, although I have never actually made a thing of it with them, so we used to get on really as normally as possible and one of the things that they always loved were Halloween parties and you know I always used to go that extra mile. There was a competition for whose was the best costume and the children all decided that mine was the best because of my cataract on my left eye, which was just white, so it looked like I had some sort of lens in there and they thought that was so good.
Holly: And you won first prize?
Lou: And I won first prize for having a white eye, which was no effort needed! [Laughter].
Holly: And didn’t you have a story about when you, something to do with your contact lens.
Lou: Yeah yes, I had a cosmetic contact lens made, for the white eye, so it would look more like the other one, it was actually hand painted, very lovely. But I often couldn’t be bothered with it. But one day one of the children, they were quite small, about five said ‘where’s your eye?’ and I said ‘oh I’ve got it in a box’ [Laugher] and they just laughed and said ‘no you haven’t, no you haven’t’ and I said ‘yes I have’ and they were all around the tea table so I went off, and I got it out and I put it on the end of my finger, so it was just like an eye, with an iris and a pupil.
Holly: Yeah, yes.
Lou: And I put it on the end of my finger and put my finger round the kitchen door and said ‘here we are, I’m watching you’ [Laughter] wiggling this lens on the end of my finger and of course there were squeals and howls and ‘errgh’!
Holly: Oh fantastic.
Holly: When my son was young, I think I probably always talked about being visually impaired in one way or another, quite often it just came out over practical things where there might be something that I couldn’t see that he would see, or just for him to be really aware of when we were crossing roads and that sort of thing I guess.
I really remember, you know that time when they’re still kind of really young and sort of just starting to toddle about and find their way around playgrounds and things like that but they’re not old enough to really understand dangers and that sort of thing. I remember that period being quite tricky and quite often I would actually go to places like that with another mum, a friend, someone who of had a bit more sight to keep track of them because I’d find once he’d gone out of my sight line, which isn’t very far, that was it then.
Lou: Anxiety hits big time doesn’t it?
Lou: I mean even the playgrounds, school playgrounds, once they are all running about, you can’t see anything.
Sound design: Sounds of playground fades in.
Holly: It’s so hard yeah.
Lou: I mean it’s easy to lose any child let alone when you can’t see very well.
Holly: Absolutely and particularly because they are wearing school uniform I used to really find that tricky because there was no kind of way of spotting my son from any of the other children at that point.
Lou: Exactly, could have taken anyone home really!
Holly: Absolutely! You never know!
Sound design: Segue back into city sounds, before arriving at Arnolfini.
Back to Arnolfini
Narrator: At the end of their city journey, Lou and Emily leave the cathedral behind them and head back to Arnolfini, where coffee and cake, and a chance to reflect on what their journey together has revealed to them, awaits.
Sound design: Arnolfini light studio soundscape: voices talk indistinctly.
Emily: I think my perception of visual impairment before this was that my mum just kind of got on with it and I also just kind of forgot that she was blind and you wouldn’t really notice, but then after this it’s kind of made me realise all the challenges that she faces and how it’s a constant thing to have on your mind, a constant thing to have to focus on.
Fanny: Emily said she gained a new insight into you after the journey, her reflections, I mean has that grown, how is it now all this time after the journey?
Lou: I think it’s definitely made her more aware of what she needs to do to help me in situations, well sort of pre-empt what needs to be done if we are going someplace and it’s suddenly darker or things are awkward; there’s a flight of steps or, so it’s just made her just think of me in a slightly more, instead of being just mum who gets on with everything, it’s made her actually, just think again about what she, as now a young adult, can do to support me, in the way that she didn’t think of it before.
Fanny: Do you think it has altered her sort of perceptions in a way of how she looks at the city as well?
Lou: Oh yes, definitely, definitely. I mean she says herself she hadn’t realised what the difficulties might be, for anybody with any sort of disability actually. I mean when you just go about things every day in your own way it just doesn’t occur to you that things are uneven or think that there are steps that aren’t marked.
Fanny: Or tree roots!
Lou: Ooh the tree roots. Things that are hazardous that normally you just, the majority of people, will just step over them or step around or just not have to consider them in such a way. The concentration that is needed for just an everyday journey around the city is so much more than she ever had considered. So, yes, definitely and I think as I said it’s probably given her a broader outlook as far as considering what other people have to do. That shift, not so that she’s, you know, I don’t think she ever would be, but, sort of all over me saying ‘oh no are you alright there, can you do that?’, absolutely not, and I would not want that at all [Laughter] and she would not do it either I’m sure, so, so it’s just that little bit of understanding really and I am really happy that she now has a better understanding.
Sound design: Music fades in with a sense of new perceptions and completed journeys, creating a palate cleanse to take us out of Part 1.
Lou: Well, that’s my journey done now Fanny. Let’s take a short break.
Fanny: OK, back soon!
End of Part 1
Sound design: Music fades in.
Lou: Welcome back to City of Threads: ‘We’re going in’. I’m Lou Lifely.
Fanny: And I’m Fanny Eaton Hall, and we are your co-hosts.
Lou: Right, we’re going back in!
Arnolfini – Holly and Ant Intro
Sound design: Music segues into sounds of a vibrant city.
Narrator: Here’s Holly at Arnolfini, with Ant, her travel companion, just before they set off on their journey.
Holly: We’re actually at the very top of the Arnolfini on the top floor and you can lean over just a little bit very safely and you can get this real sense of depth and the size of the space because it’s open all the way down to the ground floor and I love that sensation of when you can really feel like a drop below you or a height above you and even if you can’t see the depth of the space, you can really get a felt sense of it through the sound, that felt sense of how open the space is.
Narrator: Ant is not so keen.
Holly: But I understand you’re not so keen on that sensation?
Ant: I am feeling slightly vertigo-y, I don’t have vertigo, but looking down over it, it’s making me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Narrator: Holly and Ant have known each other for years. Here they are a bit earlier, introducing themselves to other journey takers also taking their journeys that day
Holly: Hi I’m Holly and I am the journey lead today.
Ant: Hi, I’m Ant and I’m going to be out with Holly today as her guide. Holly and I have known each other for just over twenty years. We met when, well, I guess the first time I met Holly’s friend Amy, and Amy and I started going out with each other and we’re still together and we have two children now.
Narrator: Holly is a dancer and performer, and is one of the movers and shakers behind the City of Threads project. She explains to Ant about her eyesight. Unlike Lou, who lost sight as an adult, Holly has had a visual impairment since birth and doesn’t experience her eye condition as a loss of sight.
Holly: So, my eye condition is called sclera cornea. It’s a condition that affects my cornea, so the front of the eye. I also have something called latent nystagmus which is like an eye wobble which usually only happens if I close one eye or if I’m really tired and then I get it then. But I shouldn’t imagine that that will kick in at all today. So yeah, my eyesight’s quite blurry and I get almost like triple vision a lot in my right eye and I don’t really have very much depth perception at all, so that’s the thing that I probably most notice, so in familiar places, like on our journey today, I kind of know where the steps and stairs are that I need to know about but if I was somewhere unfamiliar then it has kind of more of an impact.
Ant: Can I ask if you are going to be using this stick?
Holly: Ah, yes, so I’ve got my symbol cane with me and I’ll use that.
Narrator: Visually impaired people use a variety of canes, there’s the long cane which is used to navigate by sweeping from side to side, but Holly uses a symbol cane, which is a small white cane that you hold in front of you, that does not touch the ground but indicates to others that you have a visual impairment.
Holly: So I don’t usually use that when I am walking with someone else but I will use it today so you can see the times when I would use it in the city.
Narrator: And with all necessary practical information shared, they gather their things ready to set out. Just before they head out of the door.
Holly: I am just going to take one of the little orange-like satsumas and have one of those. Would you like one?
Ant: No, thank you.
Holly: You sure?
Ant: I’m really sure, I don’t like citrus fruit that much.
Holly: Don’t you?
Holly: Oh there’s something else I’ve discovered about you.
Ant: Yes [Laughter].
Tuning In – Outside Arnolfini
Sound design: Shifts to outdoor sounds of the city.
Narrator: Once outside Arnolfini, they read their first wild card, then look for a quiet spot to stand for a moment, so Holly can help Ant tune in to the way she experiences the city.
Holly: So it might be worth, because we are somewhere quite quiet, just standing for a few seconds with our eyes closed, maybe like half a minute or something.
Ant: OK. I’ve got my eyes closed now.
Holly: OK I’m just going to close mine and just tune in a little bit.
Sound design: Immersive binaural harbourside sounds.
Ant: [Laughs in appreciation].
Holly: Do you start to notice things already?
Holly: So there’s quite a lot of sound of pedestrians. I heard the sound of the steam train that’s just over by the M Shed, just before we started recording [Steam train hoots].
Ant and Holly together: There it is!
Holly: So I guess the steam train is running today.
Ant: I find it strangely relaxing.
Holly: It’s really nice here isn’t it?
Holly: Can you feel the change in the surfaces underneath your feet?
Ant: Yes, I can.
Holly: Yeah and then you become aware that even this pavement is quite uneven.
Ant: Yes, yeah. Textures to it.
Holly: And then the temperature of the air?
Ant: Yeah and it’s the voices, I’m getting, as well. Footsteps.
Holly: I really start to notice the air on my face.
Holly: And on my hands.
Holly: OK and then if we open our eyes.
Narrator: And, finely tuned, they set off from Arnolfini, towards Holly’s first stop.
Sound design: A sound of a car passing and sounds of city create momentum after this quiet still moment.
Narrator: And while they do that, let’s hear a bit more about Holly. Holly is from the small seaside town of Burnham-on-Sea, which is south of Weston-super-Mare.
Holly: At home I grew up with my mum and dad, and my sister, and also my grandparents, we all lived together. But then I went away to a special school, as they were called then, when I was six. I was a border from the age of six until I was about fourteen. And then I spent a couple of years in mainstream school. Went away again to do my A-Levels in a specialist school and then I went to University in Liverpool, to study Drama. From there I worked for a community theatre company for a couple of years in Bristol and then moved away and taught performing arts at an RNIB college in Surrey and it was while I was there that I did some dance training and sort of continued my dance training from there.
Sound design: Segues back to city journey.
City Journey – Queen’s Square
Narrator: In the city journey, Holly and Ant have arrived at Holly’s first stopping point: Queen’s Square, a beautiful Georgian park area, surrounded by trees and cobbled streets, and edged on all four sides by elegant Georgian town houses.
Sound design: Immersive: Sound of footsteps on cobbles and voices talking and laughing captures the sense of Queen’s Square.
Holly: What I really love about Queen’s Square is its, I just love the sound, there’s just something about the way that the sound is captured in the square. I don’t know how well you can hear it on the recorder but it really reminds me of being at the seaside.
Sound design: Captures the sounds of the seaside – seagulls and surf.
Holly: It really makes me think about home where I am from, where my parents live, and I just feel like the sound is really held and it’s really quiet, there’s a kind of stillness about it that I really love even though there’s people kind of coming through and passing by. And I kind of feel like I have been to Queen’s Square a lot through living in Bristol, most years that I have been here and it makes me think about the seasons, so I have been here a lot in the autumn and we used to come here a lot when our boy was little, and take photos every autumn, and picking up the autumn leaves and the colours are so beautiful.
Sound design: Leaves crunching. Sound of crows.
Holly: And then also thinking about, I’ve been here in the winter. I don’t know if you have ever been here when all the crows are roosting, have you ever been here when the crows are roosting?
Ant: I don’t think I had no.
Holly: There’s been a couple of times when I have been here at dusk and there have just been tens, if not hundreds, of crows just stood all over the grass and they just stand really, really still and kind of gather and every so often you’ll just hear one of two calling, just calling to each other and then more will come and land and stand and just, it’s amazing! And then a few of them will go up into the trees but it’s just [Sounds of crows], there you go, there’s a crow sound now [Ant chuckles].
Holly: It’s such an incredible sound and I just happened to pass through here in the evenings. [More crow sounds]. There’s another one, er yeah, through the winter and just seeing them all, they look like old men or something, all gathering and standing together [Ant laughs].
Holly: Lovely, shall we move on?
Narrator: And leaving the atmospheric Queen’s Square behind them, Holly and Ant, head into the busy part of the city, towards Holly’s second stop.
Sound Design: City sounds return.
Holly – Dancer
Co-host Lou: Holly has a sensory awareness of the city that is finely tuned. She credits this to her dance training. Before we follow Holly and Ant onto the next part of their journey, let’s hear Holly talking about how she ended up specialising in dance.
Holly: Whilst I was teaching at the RNIB college in Redhill in Surrey, we were approached by a contemporary dance school called The Place and they were running an education project with a choreographer called Saburo Teshigawara and they were looking for visually impaired dancers to be part of the project and they really couldn’t find anyone and I think at that time there were maybe one or two dancers in the country who were visually impaired. So they approached us and asked if any of my students might be interested in being involved in the project so I went along with one of my students and took part in some dance training and some workshops there and then asked me to be part of the project.
Co-host Lou: This was a turning point for Holly, not only was she working with a top choreographer and training in a highly disciplined dance form, this is also where she first came across a company called Touchdown Dance, whose director then invited her to join the company.
Holly: Touchdown Dance is an integrated dance company of sighted and visually impaired dancers using contact improvisation as the main dance form, which essentially is an improvised dance form where you are exploring your sort of connection with your own body and with another dancer. So rather than learning a practice where you sort of watch the teacher and try and copy the shape of a particular dance move for example, you are actually working from an internal sense of your own body and your own movement. So it was through working with Touchdown that I learnt about contact improvisation and this sort of somatic approach to movement and dance.
Co-host Lou: And this in turn had a knock-on effect on how Holly experiences and navigates the city.
Holly: One of things about somatic practice is it’s about using all of your senses to connect both with your own body but also with your surroundings, your environment and the space around you. One of the things I really remember noticing is coming out of class or rehearsals, where I’d been very much in this embodied state of movement and coming out and having a really different connection with the space around me. So even travelling home on the bus or walking through the city, it suddenly became far more three-dimensional and I had a much greater sense of not just the buildings or the landscape, but the space that I am actually inhabiting, and I think, as someone who doesn’t have very much depth perception at all, so visually I live in a very kind of flat world, the somatic training enables me to key into that three-dimensional space that we actually inhabit.
Narrator: As well as her creative dance practice, Holly is also developing audio description that explores how to bring that felt experience of dance to a visually impaired audience.
Holly: Yeah, so it just completely fascinates me and interests me how you use language and words and description to connect your audience if you are not accessing that visually.
Holly’s AD Poem: Two dancers with eyes closed lie motionless on the ground, they are separated by space, lying on their backs like upturned starfish. Their arms and legs outstretched, finding surfaces against the floor. Without moving they delight in the sensations of limbs falling away from body, pelvis open, the ischium, the lonely bone, is still.
Narrator: That was an audio description written by Holly. If you’d like to hear the entirety of it, you can tune into the immersive sister episode of ‘We’re Going In’ after this, but for now let’s head back to Holly’s city journey.
Sound design: Sense of sweeping back into the cityscape.
Narrator: Holly and Ant have left Queen’s Square and headed towards the city centre by the cascade waterfall steps and the shared space. As they pass this area, Holly explains that, though she loves its vibrancy, she wishes it were designed better for visually impaired people.
Narrator: They continue up Bristol’s busy Park Street to the narrow, hard-to-spot, corridor that leads to the Folk House, a Bristol gem and Holly’s second stop.
Outside The Folk House
Sound design: There’s a slight echo to Holly and Ant’s voices.
Holly: We’ve just arrived at the entrance to the Folk House and as you might be able to hear it’s very echoey. It’s a sort of long enclosed corridor and you can hear the traffic at one end.
Narrator: The Folk House is tucked between a travel agent and a music shop. It’s an art and education centre, has a cafe and is a live music venue. Holly and Ant are still in the corridor.
Holly: You were just commenting on really noticing the sound, how it sounds.
Ant: Yeah, yes absolutely. Which I probably take for granted usually.
Holly: That sort of echo.
Ant: Some steps coming up.
Holly: Yes which are very nicely marked with yellow edging.
Holly: So I knew exactly where they were.
Ant: Thank you.
Holly: Thank you.
Sound design: Change of sound to peaceful courtyard.
Narrator: They come out the other end, into a peaceful courtyard.
Holly: And then there’s this nice little courtyard, which is nice and quiet, I do like finding all these quiet places, close to the centre, so, do you think it’s open?
Inside The Folk House
Sound design: The explosion of the bustle in the cafe.
Narrator: Yes, it’s open!
Holly: I wanted to come to the Folk House because I really, really associate being in Bristol and discovering Bristol. I moved to Bristol when I was in my mid-twenties, I think, early twenties, and I remember coming here to the Folk House and I’d never really been anywhere quite like it before and I love the fact that it hasn’t really changed in the whole twenty years I’ve been in Bristol. I feel incredibly comfortable here and really I love that there’s this independent place that makes music and dance and art that’s just so warm and friendly and it’s on Park Street. I actually probably first came here with your partner Amy. So, as you know Amy and I went to university together and I really discovered Bristol through Amy.
Co-host Lou: Holly says being a border at school meant that while her family home, was very much her home, she had never felt part of a wider community or place, but Bristol was that place, a perfect fit.
Holly: So she invited me to do some puppet shows with her at festivals. I used to come and stay in the summer with her and we’d do all these crazy puppet shows together and make puppets and go off to loads of different festivals and entertain the kids and it was great fun and so I’m sure it was probably Amy that I first came here with.
Narrator: And Holly and Amy are still coming here, all these years later.
Holly: We came here three weeks ago to see a singer called Rory McLeod, who me and Amy have been to see over the years, and we use to see him quite a lot when we were younger, we both really love him, he’s a folk singer and sings about real people’s lives quite a lot. Whilst we here a few weeks ago I was very involved in planning these journeys, we were at that time of planning all these journeys that we are now all taking around the city, and Rory played a song that I had not heard him play before which is quite unusual, ‘cos he’s got a set that I know quite well, and it was such a beautiful song and its cover, I think, by another singer called Ewan McColl, I think.
Ant: Ewan McColl?
Sound design: Some uplifting folk music begins to play.
Holly: And it had some words about journeying and it just really struck me whilst thinking about these journeys that these words sort of appeared and I heard them so I wanted to just read them out, so can I just ask you to hold the microphone. There were just a few lines that made me think more widely about what it is to journey.
Holly [begins to sing]: ‘May your wings be strong, may your days be long, safe be your journey’.
City Journey and The Fountains
Sound design: Music takes us out of the Folk House, leaving the bustle, back down the main street to College Green.
Narrator: So Holly and Ant leave the warmth and bustle of the folk house café, go back down the corridor, turn right down Park Street and head towards the cathedral, which is Holly’s last stop, but on their way they get diverted by a beautiful sound.
Sound design: The sound of the fountain appears before Holly speaks.
Holly: You can probably hear the waterfall.
Ant: Umm hmm.
Holly: Which is really lovely.
Ant: I am just wondering if it sounds more beautiful than it looks? [Laughs].
Narrator: The sound is being created by the functional looking fountains outside the Council House.
Holly: Yeah! I mean it’s just a bit of moving water isn’t it?
Ant: Because it’s a beautiful sound.
Sound design: We focus in on the sound of the fountains for a moment before segueing back into the city journey sounds.
Narrator: And finally, they end up at the cathedral, Holly’s final stop.
Holly: We’re just by the cathedral and I will tell you a little bit about this before we go in.
Narrator: The cathedral is a place Holly discovered as part of an artist course she did, and it turned out to be another one of these quiet places of sanctuary that Holly loves, close to the city centre.
Holly: I’m not, as you know, a religious person at all but I just found this place of stillness and sanctuary, and somewhere to rest and contemplate.
Narrator: They go into the cathedral vestibule, ready to sample the peace and tranquillity.
Sound design: Organ begins to play faintly.
Holly: Oh it sounds like the organ’s on, so we’ll hear the organ and I’m just going to ask you to be really, one of the things I always notice in here is the smell, just notice the smell.
Narrator: They open the heavy wooden doors to the main space and go in.
Holly: The smell is amazing.
Sound design: The sound of the organ: loud, dramatic and the opposite of peaceful and still!
Journey from Cathedral to Millennium Square
Sound design: Sounds of them journeying through the city.
Holly: Well, we went in and obviously the organ was playing and we both felt like it made us want to laugh really.
Ant: Yes, yes. [Laughter].
Holly: It was quite dramatic, a bit comical somehow?
Ant: Almost overdramatic?
Holly: A bit over dramatic, yes, a bit melodramatic?
Holly: Yes. [Laughter].
Holly: And you were saying though?
Ant: The space, Bristol Cathedral, even though I have no religion, I do like being in those spaces, and there is something about those spaces, I don’t know, about the size of it, the fact that you can just sit, on your own and it’s fine.
Ant: You know people aren’t going to think anything of you, it’s just well, yeah, perfectly acceptable to sit there on your own and just be, and how often do we get that?
Holly: I actually really like being in the cathedral when there isn’t any sound. I love it when you can just go in and you smell that amazing, I don’t know what that smell is, the building? And just ahh, I really like again, that when you go into the building, that you can feel the three-dimensionality of it, so again I don’t really see that because the world’s a pretty flat place – I’m fine on these steps actually.
Ant: You’re fine on these steps yes.
Holly: But just that sense when architecturally it seems to have been built in a way that opens the space up and you suddenly feel the connection, the felt sense of the space, I just love, and I just want to move and dance, but I don’t, in the cathedral [Laughter].
Narrator: As they have this conversation, Holly and Ant are descending the steep and uneven steps behind the cathedral that Lou classes one of her no go zones in the city and avoided taking on her route. Crossing a busy road, Holly and Ant arrive at Millennium Square, which Lou passed through earlier, on her journey with Emily.
Narrator: And Holly has stopped again, but this time by an architectural anomaly that she’s never had time to explore before.
Holly: There’s this very odd, like I think it’s like a glass archway, but I remember walking along here and I was looking at it and suddenly I noticed it and had this moment because there’s this bit of glass that comes. Oh! I thought it came out towards you, it actually doesn’t. That’s really interesting. There’s a flat bit of glass I thought was coming out towards me but it actually goes away from me, wow, I had no idea, I really thought that was coming out to hit me and it’s not. Like, does it have a purpose, do you think it has a purpose?
Ant: It is some sort of archway, entry way, I guess the architect designers had a purpose for it, maybe it deflects sound, I don’t know.
Holly: Aah, could be.
Ant: Maybe, I don’t know.
Holly: Maybe that’s what it is, very confusing though.
Sound design: Sounds of the city fade swiftly away.
Holly and Lou – Maverick Sight
Co-Host Fanny: Apart from the glass wall mirage and the invisible fencing, Holly and Lou both find Millennium square an easy space to navigate, but here they are talking about the kind of tricks their eyesight can play on them.
Holly: It wasn’t a glass wall it was a glass archway and there was like this new layer of discovery when I was on the journey with Ant. You know that trick that your eyes play on you almost, if you don’t have depth perception your brain is almost trying to fill in the gaps.
Lou: And sometimes getting it completely wrong.
Holly: Yeah, completely and it’s just part of pretty much daily experience when travelling through places that some things are not always what they seem and I also have this other thing where my brain will fill in something completely different from what is actually there. So I had a story when I was younger where I was outside and walked up to speak to my manager and I was actually walking up to the back end of a bus. [Laughter]. And I did tell her about it and…
Lou: Not that you look like the back end of a bus or anything!
Holly: But I did mistake you for the back end of a bus! [Laughter].
Lou: I’ve tried to have a conversation, or what I thought I was, engaging with this smartly dressed gentleman by the male changing rooms, and my partner came out of the changing room and said ‘could you get me a size something something trousers, I think they’re just over there’ and I said ‘well ask the nice gentleman’, and he looked at me and said ‘it’s a dummy!’.
Narrator: Writer Kate O’Reilly calls the tricks your eyes can play on you when you’re visually impaired ‘maverick sight’.
Holly: If I am really tired I might often be somewhere and I’ll see my cat for a second.
Lou: Yeah, yeah. I have done that, and funny you should say your cat because, and this is more recently, I see my dog and I almost trip over him.
Narrator: And the everyday optical illusions caused by city design.
Lou: I mean daily going around the place it’s more things like, with the depth perception, those ridiculous markings on the pavement that make it look like there’s a step when there isn’t, or one or markings that would indicate the edge of a step but the actual step isn’t for another six inches or so beyond that.
Lou: And you stumble because they’ve marked the line showing the edge of the step and in fact you’ve got more step to go.
Holly: And do you ever find yourself doing those?
Lou: Step steps.
Holly: Fake steps.
Lou: Oh absolutely [Laughter]. Ministry of Silly Walks here we come!
Ute Leonards and City Design
Co-host Fanny: One of our project’s core collaborators has been Ute Leonards, a neuroscientist and lecturer at Bristol University. She specialises in the neuroscience of well-being in relation to the built environment.
Co-host Lou: She spoke to Holly via a zoom call and started by talking about how we might all work together to design more inclusive cities that would take into account the experiences of us as visually impaired people.
Ute Leonards: Our tendency now in design is to think only of the visual system when designing. It’s almost like, you know, yes human beings are visual animals, we think in visual terms etc. But it would be completely wrong to think that we are happy with just the visual, to the contrary, we are really highly multisensory and we are embodied beings and those two factors need to be accounted for.
Beauty is, not for nothing, in the eye of the beholder and varies massively with my background my cultural and my educational background, and lots of other factors. What varies far less and what is certainly far more important than ‘beauty’ is the comfort you are experiencing because that is a direct physiological measure. So, it’s that that we need to try to figure out – what is it that provides you with the comfort that you need? All our senses need to work together and if that information that we receive from all the different senses is coming together in a sensible and congruent way, that means, if that tells the same story about the outside world, then it’s easy to understand the environment we’re in.
Sound design: Immersive sounds of the forest floor.
Ute Leonards: For example, if I walk in a forest and I see branches on the floor then I know before I step on those branches, not only that the branches might be dangerous and I could slip but also how it might feel to step on them, and how it would sound when they crack.
In cities however the design is not at all always congruent and you have got this beautiful example of the pavement outside there where you say ‘it looks and feels different as if there is an edge coming up, a step coming up’. So your visual information warns you that you might fall because there is something that is not real and doesn’t fit together between the information that your visual system gives you and how the outside world really is physically set up
So, by design something that looks spectacular on the visual side, we might actually override the information that we need and we get from our other senses to really make sense of the world.
So, we are speaking a little bit of what we call ‘visual clutter’ or ‘visual noise’.
Co-Host Fanny: Ute explained why Millennium Square is a space that is congruent for both Lou and Holly.
Ute Leonards: All of a sudden you have all the information which comes together, the sounds which travel and come back to you and therefore gives you a feel of how big that space is, where the boundaries are. You feel really comfortable because you can actually thrive in there. The other example which I really, really loved was Lou’s experience of St Nicholas Market, where she really talks about the multi-sensory experience of sounds, smells, colours, lights. You know which is on one side almost confusing the first moment because there is so much of it, but because they are all working in harmony they work together they join up to an experience which leads her to feel pleasure and delight and comfort, and that is far more than what vision on its own could cater for.
Co-host Lou: And what might our V.I. experience of travelling through the city offer our sighted travelling companions.
Ute Leonards: There are actually something all of a sudden coming up which they have ignored before, which are lovely and beautiful, actually more beautiful than the visual input. I love the fountain example you are giving. The fountain as such is visually actually quite brutal. But the sound is absolutely stunning.
I think when we come and we look at it as a whole, how the whole body is affected, we will find that then actually things start to become far clearer. You are a specialist in one way and can tell me things which I might not see. I can provide the science and I can provide, you know, what is going on in the brain and how different senses might come together and, you know, put the mechanisms in place. The designers can give me a completely different aspect, an artist might then be able to then make it graspable for everybody by proving beautiful examples to play with and to experience the different kinds of experiences other people might have, and through all these people, bringing them together, that’s how we get further. Nobody on their own can do that.
Co-host Fanny: Ute goes on to describe a space that engages all the senses.
Ute Leonards: In the cathedral and you have the smell, you have the sound, you have the stillness – which is almost a special kind of sound – and the visual softness gives you a feel of freedom because the space is really enveloping you, almost like embracing you, and therefore letting your embodied being fully relax and open up. And all of these different factors need to be taken together and appreciate the beauty of the other senses and how we could use them to make the city more navigable but also more beautiful for everybody.
Arnolfini – End of The Journey
Narrator: Back at Arnolfini having finished a journey characterised by discovering new things about the city and each other, Holly and Ant have discovered one final surprising thread of connection.
Holly: I really realised when you were reading the cards sort of like maybe it’s quite challenging reading it out and then recording it.
Ant: Yes, because of my dyslexia.
Holly: I had this real thing like, god that feels like when I am trying to navigate something that I can’t see very well, you know like really having to concentrate, almost like I look through a forest or that there’s things in the way, things that you’re trying to navigate and communicate, I could really feel that level of attention, just had that feeling of like ‘oh gosh that’s a real connection’ in terms of, you know, it’s like the city is not really designed for people who don’t see very well and like written language isn’t really designed for people who have that neuro-diversity and don’t read in the same way.
Ant: Yep, yeh.
Holly: And I had that real connecting moment for a minute and I don’t think I had ever thought about it like that before.
Ant: Yep yes.
Narrator: And leaving Holly and Ant, we’re joining Lou, Fanny and Holly many months later, when they gathered to talk with Rachel, director of PECo theatre, to discuss their episode and what they hoped others might gain from listening to their journeys.
Holly: There’s the shared experience, so I guess there is something about this is an opportunity for the audience to take a shared journey with somebody, or to take a journey where you spend the time to really connect with the space around you and really take in all those different sensory elements that make up whatever it is that the space where you live or the place that is important to you. To make time to take a journey for that reason rather than just getting from A to B.
Fanny: Yes, I certainly picked up on that, seeing the city now: the sounds, the wind in the trees, the birds, the scents, the smells of food, the surfaces of pavement. I just see the city in a whole new light now.
Holly: I think there’s something as well about those spaces that you are then drawn to because of that. Like where are those places that you feel drawn to or that you want to explore, or just land in for a moment?
Lou: It’s like a reawakening isn’t it, a place that you’ve always taken for granted.
Holly: Yes yeah! Absolutely, experiencing it in a new way. Isn’t it?
Rachel: To return to the place that you started from and know it for the first time.
Holly: Da da daa!
Sound design: Journey music merges into theme music as the episode comes to an end.
Fanny: We’ll be handing the baton over to our fellow City of Threads team mates for the next episode.
Lou. But first we’d recommend you tune in to the sister episode of ‘We’re Going In’.
Fanny: Where, through the magic of immersive sound, we’ll take you deeper into the heart of some of the places and moments in the journeys.
Lou: So you get to experience the city, in our shoes.
Fanny: 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.