Research Blog

Sonically rebelling in Brighton

I visited the English seaside resort of Brighton in early June to present some of my work at a conference on the interface between sound and social justice.

Sonic Rebellions is a two-day symposium of panel discussions, interactive workshops and film screenings that explores how artists, academics and activists use music and sound to engage with social and political issues in new ways. The biennial event is co-hosted by the University of Brighton and the London School of Economics.

I delivered a workshop entitled Sound (a)sleep: Design speculations and the sleep-positive city.

The workshop explored the application of my research into sleep, design and social equity to the concept of spatial justice. Spatial justice is a relatively new way of thinking about the design of urban spaces. It recognises that access to resources and services like public transport, healthy food options or safe streets are often unfairly distributed in our cities, and that this helps intrench injustices such as racism, sexism and isolation.

My workshop asked participants to think about the aspects of modern cities that support or hinder good sleep and how they’re distributed. Attendees then discussed the idea of sleep and justice and were invited to creatively respond to the discussion through drawing, collage or map-making.

It was challenging making the case for the liberating power of silence in a context where sound and noise was overwhelmingly seen as positive and empowering. How do we make space for the silence we need without silencing creative, marginal and heterodox voices?

Below are some of the creative responses generated. I was prompted to explore the concept of ‘wall creep’ – my term to describe what happens when a wall or other barrier is erected for an ‘innocent’ reason, such as dampening the sound from a busy road, but becomes a real/symbolic instrument of repression, such as delineating the ‘bad’ side of town.

A big thank you to everyone who took part and the organisers of Sonic Rebellions.