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Voices That Take You Places

Part of The Land of Green Ginger / Project VEAR

*VEAR = Voice Extraction And Rediffusion

Voices That Take You Places

This project was essentially a ‘bus stop takeover’ and was commissioned as research and development.

Led by artist Thor McIntyre-Burnie, Aswarm is a transformative public arts company that specialises in site-specific and immersive work, using sound and other sculptural & AV elements to subtly alter our experience of architecture, public space and performance.

The bus stop with horns and sofa, of course. Photo Liam Rich

For the first of two projects with Aswarm, Voices That Take You Places, I worked with Thor to create a temporary bus stop installation that grew over a five day period, as follows:

Day 1

The bus stop environment is altered by secret speakers and an ‘options’ dial rigged on the central strut of the bus stop structure. Audiences (travellers or passing public) are invited to use the dial to choose from a soundtrack of (a) trawler boats out at sea, (b) background sounds from the famous Hull Fair, (c) the sounds from a bus stop in Hull’s Twin Town in Sierra Leone, or (d) original Rediffusion* broadcasts from the 1970s and 1980s.
(*Rediffusion were a major TV company and significant employer in the area but is sadly now defunct.)

Day 2

A purpose-built comfy yellow sofa appears in place of the bus stop bench.

Day 3

The bus stop ‘floor’ is turfed over night, making the space appear like an island oasis, separated from the rest of the pavement.

Day 4

Large sound horns burst through the ground and play poetry and fragments of historical speeches to passers buy. All the content is inspired by ‘change makers’ from Hull – from Philip Larkin to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wilberforce, many of these people have voiced dissent to champion change. The more renowned voices are joined by those of community champions that the artist gathered from across the city.

Day 5

A woodburning stove appears and artist’s assistants (claiming to be from the ReRediffusion company) offer fresh mint tea to bus stop users, or passers-by, as they wait. These audiences connect with one another and share stories about what it is to be from Hull, or passing through.

In addition, the bus stop’s digital display was subverted to show uplifting content from members of the public and quotes from famous local people, such as Philip Larkin.

“Impatience is Imaginations Roadworks” Photo: Liam Rich

We are on a mission to explode the very act of speaking to find ways to hold, touch and sense the voice… to walk amongst and play with it… and to find new ways of speaking collectively.”


Aswarm’s mission with this project was to search for a way to harness the power of the collective voice. Collecting voices from across a city and distilling them into a voice extract that encapsulates the ‘Essence de Voix’. This search led to the next project, the Voice Park – details of which are elsewhere on this website.

“[The producers of UK City of Culture] provided the perfect scenario to create and prototype. We now want to build on this and build towards a European touring project.”

There were several technical and bureacratic obstacles to overcome before the artist could achieve this and it nearly didn’t happen. Photo: Liam Rich
The Voices That Take You Places R&D project led to Aswarm’s Voice Park – details of which are elsewhere on this website.