On the River

Late last year, I was asked by James Mabbett, a sound artist and musician working under the name of Napoleon IVth, to collaborate with him with Ben “Dr Simpo” Simpson, an animator, in working on a project involving primary schools, the River Holme, a charity (River Holme Connections), experimental video, sound installations, and animation.

Generously funded by the Arts Council England, we’re working with a number of schools along the River Holme in West Yorkshire. With each school, we take a class of enthusiastic children down to the River Holme for a couple of hours. In between getting stuck in the mud and getting filthy, the children get a chance to use action cameras to record river scenes (under and above the water – the cameras, not the children), record sounds, and collect material for animation. They also get to learn about what lives in the river, what might pollute it and how they can help keep it a clean and healthy habitat.

We then revisit the school a week later and the children get to put together experimental films using the footage they’ve shot (which I’ve sorted and trimmed in the meantime). They also create sound installations and make prints which are then animated.

It’s tremendous fun, and it’s great to see the children creating work that resembles that of either Stan Brakhage or Margaret Tait, or both. Two sessions of creative play isn’t much, but it’s clear that some of the kids are naturally artistic and love the process of making something strange and visually compelling out of their footage. Here are a couple of examples of the work:

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