Sonic Postcards Project, Shetland, UK-wide and International, 2004-05

Sonic Postcards is a unique and innovative national education programme which explores soundscapes and encourages participants to “open their ears”. The project enables pupils from across the UK to explore and compare their local sound environments through the composition and exchange - via the internet - of sound postcards with other schools.  I was a workshop leader in the first years of the project, working in four Shetland schools: Bressay, Hamnavoe and Whiteness Primary Schools and Baltasound Junior High School

The project focuses on the impact of sound on our lives and demonstrates the possibilities for creativity through the manipulation of sounds with technology. As with an ordinary postcard it offers the opportunity for people to exchange information about their local environments; providing windows into a variety of places, lives and cultures in rural, urban and coastal locations.

Sonic Postcards is aimed at young people between the ages of 9-14 in primary, secondary and special schools, PRUs (Pupil Referral Units) and community groups across the country.

Sonic Postcards is run by Sonic Arts Network, the national organisation which explores the art of sound. 

Blueprints was a participatory project using process-based research methodology, commissioned by Newlyn Art Gallery to celebrate the gallery’s redevelopment.  I developed a proposal during 2006 and began in 2007 to work with a small group of Newlyn residents to observe, record and respond to the process of building and redevelopment. I organised site visits during which we were escorted by the range of people involved in the redevelopment, from builders to gallery staff. The group comprised people of a range of ages who brought different experience, knowledge and attitudes to the gallery to share with the group. Four lived within site of it. I worked closely with them as well as builders, gallery staff and and others who had worked on the redevelopment. The work in this project evolved slowly and changed in response to each encounter I had. I was privileged to return to Newlyn to create this project following the project 1,100 Rosebuds I had realised in the gallery in 2004 as I was able to build the  relationships I had begun to make with people in the community then.  

A clear Perspex ‘Blueprints Box’ became a motif throughout the project.  I used four of these at my stall at the Crafts Fair held at the Trinity Centre in April 2007 to publicly launch the project. It seemed appropriate that it would be used to form part of the final work I left for the gallery. The final form of these boxes represents a symbolic record of all aspects of this complex project: freehand ‘technical drawings' of elements of the building lined the base of a structure created by 80 boxes that mimic the form and proportions of the main gallery; the names of all participants; a photograph of the artefacts given to the project; a verbal description of each artefact given to the project; a ‘blueprint’ of the cards that people made of their experience of the building process and the building itself.  


After each walkabout the group went to a nearby pub for lunch where we discussed the experience of our walkabout. I gave everyone a set of blank postcards and a cyan blue pen to record their impression of the experience. By the end of the project I had collected over 200 of these cards.


I invited people who were involved with the refurbishment to give artefacts to the project. These were all recorded through photography and textual description. They also each were given the Newlyn Art Gallery classification number.  


010  Annie Metcalfe receives her gift. I gave each participant a box as a memento of the project and left 80 of the boxes with the gallery for display and archiving.  We had a final Tea Party to celebrate with a cake specially made by a local neighbour depicting the final set of boxes.