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Mary Hooper recording the soundscape for the sound walk. With Patch the driver of a converted freight barge hired from Yorkshire Waterways Trust, travelling on the Aire and Calder Navigation from Goole to Leeds and back. © Elise Liversedge

Local artist Mary Hooper joins Global Sound Walk September Festival

It might seem strange that a walk in itself can be a work of art. Yet there has long been a tradition of British artist walkers ­– or walking artists: Francis Alÿs, Richard Long, Hamish Fulton to name but three. Alÿs explains the value of his walks: “A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed, while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along the way.” Now local artist Mary Hooper has joined the walking ranks as part of the global Sound Walk September Festival. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was intrigued.

So what is a sound walk? A sound walk focuses on listening to the environment, with or without the use of technology, or through the use of sound or voice.

The month-long festival of sound walking began on 1 September and culminates with the Sound Walk September Awards.

Mary Hooper’s sound walk 

copy of document of canal rates, tolls and charges

Copy of document of canal rates, tolls and charges

Mary Hooper’s contribution is Freight 1983, a one-hour sound walk that opens up the world of the early days of the canals and the freight carried from Liverpool to Leeds.

The canals were the main arterial routes for manufacturing and distribution of goods across the country. This walk creates a window on a time when Leeds was a major industrial hub.

The underlying sound tracks are composed from recordings that she made on a trip from Goole to Leeds and back on a converted industrial barge. The sound walk is an interesting way of preserving and interpreting our collective heritage. Mary described the way the work was made. “I recorded volunteers from Leeds, Hull, and Goole, who beautifully animate what could be a dry historic document first published to regulate the tolls and charges for freight on the completion of the Leeds to Liverpool canal.

“The classification of goods, the names of raw materials and types of freight carried on the barges create a sound memory for a different age, to hear the words spoken by the different voices has a hypnotic quality.”

Exploring Nature

Nature as its own art work.

Nature as its own art work.

As we all know the pandemic and Lockdown have encouraged people to investigate the great outdoors, as a form of exercise, exploring, discovering new walks or foraging. The Sound Walk September team hope this expanded interest will attract new participants and creators to the month-long, global event.

One of the festival’s co-producers, Babak Fakhamzadeh, explained:

“Sound walks, physical exploration through listening, open up an alternative world that’s explored by more and more participants, world-wide. The low threshold for consumption, and the low threshold for creation, also means that sound walks, as an art form, are easy to put together, and easy to get into, in a way democratizing this niche form of art.”

These shoes were made for walking

These shoes were made for walking

Mary Hooper said: “Being involved with Sound Walk September has been fantastic and I hope my work Freight 1983 will encourage more people to take part, and to look at the wider programme for inspiration, too. At a time when the world can seem divided and when art has often been overlooked, Sound Walk September provides a welcome way to come together, to access and appreciate art.”

What does walk · listen · create do?

walk · listen · create is a dedicated website which brings together artists who walk, and provides a place for walking artists to share their work, thoughts, websites, online presence, pieces, and events.

Getting involved

The Sound Walk September Awards celebrate the skills of those composing audio, listening and sound walks. Entries should be created during the previous 12 months. Any events held during this year’s Sound Walk September are eligible and should be submitted to the walk · listen · create website.

Artists can get involved with  Sound Walk September by hosting a live event and contacting the website  or Andrew Stuck (

Sound Walk September runs through the month.


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Posted 09:53 Saturday, Sep 4, 2021 In: Music & Sound

Also in: Music & Sound

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