Two Summers ago, I was lucky enough to attend the first ever Hearsay Audio Festival. If you haven’t heard of the festival, it’s a unique chance to enjoy the most inventive, avant garde and creative audio from around the world. The festival is also a hella chill break, as it’s held in the bucolic idyll of Kilfinane, Co Limerick. One of the highlights of the first Hearsay was the short doc contest run by Bristol based BBC crew ‘In The Dark‘ (and not just cause I won ;). In The Dark run uniquely joyful listening events in a wonderful variety of locations from crypts to eerie forests . At last years festival they setup a shop full of curiosities, each of which was paired with a story. Visitors plucked an object from the shelf and were passed an MP3 player containing an accompanying story. Mine concerned an urban myth about an underground group of students who got their kicks climbing into tumble driers and experiencing the spin cycle!
AIRPI have invited In the Dark to Dublin, for what promises to be a unique listening even at the Unitarian Church. In The Dark will be playing a selection of stories for the start of winter. Highly recommended!
I really had no idea what to expect. Where is Kilfinane? Why is it so far away? What has it got to do with radio? The Hearsay Festival turned out to be chock-full of talented folk obsessed with sound in all its forms. Rachel Ni Chuinn’s talk about her intricately wrought documentary ‘The Shape of Sounds To Come‘ was one highlight. Steve Fanagan‘s overview of the sound design of ‘Frank’ was another. I’ve always felt the best cinematic sound design is on a different level of sophistication and subtlety to radio work. Steve’s talk only confirmed my suspicions. There are so many lessons I’ll take from his approach to using sound to build story, take the audience on an emotional journey, and reinforce character and POV.
Storytelling through sound was a facet of all the Hearsay Prize winning pieces. I’ve attended awards shows or contests where the choice of winner is inexplicable or downright outrageous. The opposite was the case here. Every single winning entry had something new to teach.
‘One Time’ is the gorgeously subtle and heartrending account of Julia Barton‘s then infant son’s life threatening illness. The piece wove archival recordings together with Zach’s response to hearing them as a precocious eleven year old. It managed to be personal, fearless and lyrical.
Kaitlin Prest’s (Audiosmut / The Heart) piece ‘A Kiss’, managed a similar feat, recounting the last kiss of lost love. The piece reveals an intimate moment in a manner both simple and surprising.
Karen Robin’s ‘Lasagne Days’ (available at her site) used a memory of childhood meals to explore the story of her broken home. I could listen to this piece all day, utterly poignant and bewitching.
‘All For Nothing’ is a mini documentary by filmmaker and journalist Charlie Lyne, with original music fromAnthony Ing. The piece tells the story of the eccentric director Rolfe Kanefsky and his decent into, well if not madness, at least amusingly tragic delusion. The piece was confounding and compelling in the way the best This American Life stories used to be – developing a general point about art and ambition from one unique and memorable story. The accompanying full length album is well worth listening to.
Brendan Rehill’s beautiful soundscape ‘Aran Of The Saints’ cast us under the waves and across the sea on a journey that explored an Aran natives relationship to the perilous waves.
Finally Conor Reynold’s picked up a much deserved prize for his almost wordless drama ‘News Is Proximity’. I won’t spoil the story, but this brilliantly put together audio fiction came along at just the right time. This morning I had the opportunity to facilitate a script doctoring workshop at Colaiste Dhulaigh, and ‘News Is Proximity’ was the first thing I played. The students seemed to really respond to it’s audacious approach to narrative.
I filled dozens of notebook pages with ideas, techniques and inspiring radio pieces to listen to. I met many many amazing people, whose work I look forward to following over the coming years. Huge congratulations to Diarmuid, Mairead, Greg and Mary at Grey Heron Media, who put together a genuinely worthwhile weekend.
The piece at the stop of this post is an outtake from my documentary ‘Mad Scientists of Music‘, which was shortlisted for the Ballyhoura Award at the festival. It features the voices, music and robots of ‘Deathness Injection‘.
The piece below was made during the festival, and won a tiny award for best story in the In The Dark audio scavenger hunt! It features Pat Herbert of the Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum, the sounds of the Hearsay Festival church heater, and György Ligeti’s ‘Requiem’.