SPECTRA festival: 1st Noise Walk

SPECTRA Festival . Aberdeen. First Noise Walks

Ahead of our travelling to Aberdeen was the news that we had SOLD OUT all of our walks for the festival. Good news. No Pressure. Tech must work …. It did!

We arrived a couple of days early to scope out potential routes and key locations for the sound walks. As we could only properly test the machines at night (we need darkness and a high level of contrast between brightness for the best experience) we spent the days navigating the city and tweaking the tech, checking our new rechargeable units.

SPECTRA Festival (by Curated Place) covers the entire city venue wise, with the main concentration of public light installations and interactions situated around Union Terrace Gardens in the centre of the city. We planned a route that would take people off the beaten track and explore the less well trodden routes that were sonically interesting. Aberdeen is fairly hilly, our route came off the main high street, down the stairs and under bridges into Aberdeen’s hidden tunnels.

The walks were 30 mins starting on the hour. It soon became clear that the walks had been advertised as interacting with the light festival exhibits, so our alternative more psycho-geographical route wasn’t right for this event. The new route traveled along the high street, down into Union Terrace Gardens, via a mirror cave area, through to the flashing seesaw and a giant led lit cycling competition installations.

The combination of being within the festival exhibit areas and the usual public space such as the main shopping areas worked really well, with the groups testing the machines out in shop windows, standing under streetlights and pointing at passing traffic. We gained feedback from participants, here are some of the key findings/observations from the walk:

·       Narrative : worked really well. Some people really believed that we had found the machines in a skip on a Moscow street!

Interface deciphering: We ran a short demo/instruction at the start of the walk, the interface being in Cyrillic meant this was a conversation and interaction point, with participants helping each other out throughout the walk – it added an additional element of play and curiosity and experimentation.

·       Spectacle: Great response from the wider public. The festival was quite busy and we got caught up a few times, with not being able to get away due to so many people asking what the machines were!

·       Participants: youngest was 5, oldest was 70, we had groups of friends, families, professors – a real mix of people.

·

Improvisation/play: we were impressed with the sounds people were able to get from the machines, there was collaboration, thoughts around sound and placement and a real sense of fun.

·       Logistics: Thermals are essential. Timings were crucial – we needed a longer gap between groups really.

·      Tech: Machines worked wonderfully for our first prototypes. Some had their own individual quirks, but we brought back up machines and it was easy to swap around tech with the group. The abandoned soviet tech angle meant we had a caveat if some temporarily went on the blink!

·       Response: everyone who took part were extremely positive about the experience, we were blown away by the feedback and kind words. It was definitely a team atmosphere and dare I say a major success!

Looking forward to the debrief, 2nd iteration of machines and our next 2018 noise walks now.

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