Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Listening Post 

A collection of short stories. A collaborative binaural production by Elspeth (Billie ) Penfold  through Thread and Word .

A Review by the award winning poet and author Owen Lowery 

The Listening Post had its launch at The Book Buoy as part of the  Margate Bookie, at Turner Contemporary and is now at The Margate Bookstore until Saturday December 14th.

I am delighted to share this wonderful review by Owen Lowery  with   some photos of a busy few weeks with The Listening Post . 

"As a collection, I think that the stories are very effective and there is some lovely continuity between some of the stories, with the use of ambient woodland and beach/water sounds being extremely effective in helping to link the stories.  There is an otherworldliness to many of the stories, which certainly helps to transport the listener/participant, and demands attention. We are persuaded into a timeless environment, one far outside our normal experience, in which the magic of storytelling, the enchantment of the stories themselves, and their themes and subjects, become an escape in their own right."

 Now, taking each story one at a time, here are further thoughts from Owen:

A playlist

Story 1 – Melody. I really enjoyed this story, with its combination of ghostliness, eeriness, and humour. The voice chosen to read this story is perfect, and catches the wonderment of a childhood world in which anything is possible, and in which the veil between life and death is extremely permeable. The confessional and intimate nature of the voice successfully invite the reader into the story, just as the narrator is persuaded to enter the water by the ghostly and the increasingly real presence of Melody. The background soundscape adds a great deal of atmosphere, and creates quiet at just the right moments, adding to the sense of unease towards the close of the story.

Story 2 – What is Life. This story also considers the nature of the difference between life and everything that is not life, and uses a clear, if slightly disengaged voice. The voice though is that of intellectual fascination, rather than emotional fascination, which is in-keeping with the great questions that are asked. What indeed is life? That is the question that participants/audience are left to ask themselves as well. This supports the overall theme of the project, with its invitations to step outside of regular routines and consider what being and living actually mean. The ambient sounds of water again play a significant part, as do the background voices leading us into the next story.
Thank you for hosting us Rob.

Story 3 – Ponytail and Smokey Eyes. This is an interesting story with a good contrast between the past and present, the way in which the former continues to affect the latter, and the attempts of the narrator to escape her past and move on from a history of sexual abuse. This is a very brave subject to tackle, and I feel that it is handled extremely cleverly, with humour being used to underline the strength of character of the narrator, the means by which she has tried to move on after facing up to her demons. The public speaking environment is another fascinating challenge for the narrator, given the tendency for galleries to objectify. Despite this problem, the narrator is prepared to face these challenges on her own terms, which is in itself beautiful. The ambient sounds effectively evoke the very public nature of the speaking engagement, and the sound of children towards the end of the recording is particularly moving. Again, the voice is just right for this story and displays the strength and humour of the narrator extremely well.

Tuning in

Story 4 – Your Last. This story has an effective and strong reading, with the voice being both urgent and more than a little threatening. Again, we find ourselves in a world in which the boundary between life and death is paper-thin, uncomfortably so, given the expressed intentions, the ongoing possessiveness, of the ghostly narrator. I think I detected the sounds of soil being dug, which would be suitable, given that the narrator has a parallel existence as an inanimate dead person, and as a more mobile and transient ghost. This is one of my favourite readings.

Install at Turner Contemporary 

Story 5 – Night Going. Another of my favourite readings occurs in this story, with the beautiful delayed voice working perfectly alongside the piano. There is space for the reading and the story to breathe. There is time for the audience to think around the reading and around the words, which are in themselves extremely well-written. I particularly like the use of repetition towards the end of the story, underlining the inevitability of death and perhaps even the peacefulness of death. The use of ambient singing voices is also a lovely addition to this story, and adds to the magic of this reading and this recording. 


Story 6 – I Love to Dance. This story is a lovely celebration of the enduring strengths of the human spirit, and the ability of the human spirit to overcome all obstacles. There is defiance here, and passion, all of which are extremely infectious and uplifting. The way in which the granddaughter celebrates her grandmother, by dancing everyday, is a fantastic testimony to the importance of life and of actually living life, rather than simply going from day-to-day and giving in to circumstances. The clog dancing or tap dancing sounds towards the end of the recording are the perfect ending really, given the importance of rhythm and movement, rather than stasis and restriction. The reading voice does feel like that of relative celebrating the passion of another relative, and that is just what is needed.

Thank you for listening

Story 7 – The Trap. This is an interesting story of the tendency for violence of any kind, and in this case violence against rats, to dehumanise, two rob us of our emotions and breed more violence, perhaps. Again, the story is lifted by effective and engaging humour, and the use of natural sounds forms a very good contrast with the increasing tendency to violence, experienced by the narrator. It is also a good link to the next story. 

Thank you for great feedback

Story 8 – Agnes and the Woodman. This story is a little like a fairytale, with its beautiful combination of darkness and fun, plus its magical ‘landscape’, in which it is perfectly possible for dead spiders and dogs and birds not only to communicate, but to take part in wine-sipping encounters with the narrator. Background sounds are very important in the story, as they move from woodland birdsong, to the snapping and popping of flames as the story reaches its conclusion. The woodman is an extremely well-created character, capable of crossing from the magical world, to the regular world, and back again, but also suggesting that in fact the magical world is the more natural of the two. There is a contemporary poignancy to this story and the preceding story, given their concentration on the relationship between mankind and the natural world. This is certainly something that we will need to think about.

 A taxonomy of all things lost
Story 9 – Not Anymore. Once more, there is an engaging and inviting continuity between this story and the previous two stories. The reading is very effective and reflective. This is exactly as it should be, given the retrospective nature of the story, the manner in which it looks back towards a world in which the connection between the narrator, and therefore all of us, with nature, has been severed, partly through the need or compulsion for classification. Taxonomy seems to have stifled natural processes and growth. Perhaps once we name animal and plant species, we rob them of a little of their life, even though the process of classification in this story also represents the narrator’s former love of the nature around her. The paradox is an interesting one, and is expressed with moving simplicity and economy in this story, and in this reading of the story. I think there is a little of what Ted Hughes was getting at in his nature poems. For example, when Hughes writes about a pike or a hawk, it is not simply as taxonomy would describe it. It runs far deeper than that. It exists beyond the definitions and the words.

Lost in listening.

Story 10 – Always. This story touched me, from a personal perspective, because of the synergy between the rhythm of breathing, and the rhythm of the sea, as represented both in the story, and in the wonderful background soundscape. For obvious reasons, breath is something that enters into my poetry quite a lot. Here, the sea seems to become a means of escape into another world, again underlining the themes of other stories in this collection, and of the project as a whole. The clear ironic tone of the narrator is a very effective counterpoint to the importance of these themes.

A workshop encouraging listening.

Story 11 – Beach. Once more, the continuity between this story and its predecessor is extremely effective, particularly when supported by the continuity of the soundscape, the sounds of waves, the way in which they move, their rhythm, their complexity and simplicity. This story is the perfect reminder of the importance of our environment and other things that we so often take for granted, when we have ‘no time to stand and stare’, as it were. The story, and the soundscape, and the reading, the uniqueness of the sea, the manner in which it is always and always changing, its essential paradox are all there in this recording. Once more, the importance of seeing and listening actively, of experiencing, rather than simply remaining passive, is reinforced, and the connection with the audience, which is in itself an active audience, is underlined.

Story 12 – Island. The sounds of the sea are also emblematic of this story, which is effectively a miniature murder mystery, with a delightfully open ending. I like the fact that we enter this story on the terms of the narrator/ speaker, as she allows us into her private world, with all its dark magic and its secrets. Here, the relationship between the sea and the narrator replicate the relationships of Greek tragedy, with the sea serving as a Chorus, an insistent truth, and the protagonist seemingly certain to be found out at some point. Once again, we move between worlds, and what we have ‘seen’ and heard and experienced cannot be undone. We are transformed as we move through this collection. There is also an effective sensuality about this story, as all of the senses are invoked. We even smell and feel the beach and the sea.

Convivial sharing at The Margate Bookie

Story 13 – May and Amy. I love the characterisation in this story. The matriarchal grandmother figures are very well created and are worth celebrating in their own right. There is something essential about them, or even elemental. They are almost ethereal, but simultaneously real, as they continue to exert an influence on the present, reaching forward from the past, beyond themselves.

Storing memories like Magpies

You can listen to all these stories here linked on Sound Cloud :

Story 14 – Magpie Girl. I love the way in which this story is supported and perhaps even saved by the use of ambient sounds. The ‘voice’ of the magpie is such a vital part of the story and adds so much to the drama. With hindsight, I think I should have used a female narrator, preferably a young female narrator, so that the narrative voice would reflect that of the girl at the heart of the story, but I still like it as a story. 

I am just delighted that the story is part of such an amazing project. Thank you so much for allowing me to take part. “

Owen Lowery 


With thanks to all who have contributed and supported this project, it is wonderful to collaborate with you all. With particular thanks to Owen Lowery for writing this review.

If you'd like to hear more about the Margate Bookie and events here a link to a great review:Nothing The Rule Book by Mark Bowsher

You can follow Thread and Word on facebook , linked in , twitter and instagram see website links.

This project was made through the generous  financial support of :

Monday, 4 November 2019

Walking's New Movements

Plymouth University November 2nd - 4th

This is a snapshot of an inspiring conference organised by Claire Hind, Phil Smith and Helen Billinghurst.

prep a small vara and some ropes

With some trepidation I took my ropes and a soundscape to the Conference. It was hard to know what to expect. However, as soon as I attended the first session I knew I was amongst friends.

Ropes and knots , on the train home.

My small contribution to the conference
was a ten minute provocation .

We sat in room 206. I  introduced the context of the making of the soundscape and invited attendees to take a rope, sit or walk and knot the rope as they listened to the soundscape.

At the end of the provocation I invited attendees to attach their rope to the vara and as they did this  I recorded their responses to the process in one word. Their words are recorded at the end of this blog posting.

Here is a small trail describingthe journey  of this provocation.

The Context from writing to sound

The Context for this provocation.

As we all know one thing leads to another and the making of the soundscape developed from the walk we did through Thread and word in Seasalter ,' Sumak Kawsay' as part of the Terminalia Festival. 

You can find out more about this walk and the small limited edition publication of poems on this blog posting: Sumak Kawsay

As we walked for Terminalia through Sumak Kawsay, I was also developing a walk for the Chelsea Fringe : Are you Listening? This  naturally made me think about a soundscape. I am fortunate to know the artist and composer Lucy Claire having worked with her on a previous project and so the collaboration for the soundscape Are You Listening? began with Lucy and fab artists and friends who support Thread and Word .

The Provocation

A soundscape,  Are you Listening?

It was a pleasure to take this soundscape to Walking's New Movements and I am very grateful to the attendees who listened , walked and knotted.


Here a textile record through ropes and knots of responses to the provocation : Are You Listening?

A Vara , Walking's New Movements

Knots as memories of the provocation


Some words from attendees in response to this experience:

"agitated with the rope,
grounded by the birdsong,
 I was somewhere else,
a bit stressed by the sound,
 assemblage with rope and wool,
it takes you somewhere else and reminds you too of a familiar place,
remembering sailing,
 transported but with an abrupt end,
 the rope was good to be able to stretch into the soundscape, using the rope to stretch my body  and arms even though I wasn't walking
I felt rather in between places
I felt curious
recognition: I felt I knew the voices
I felt like I was sitting on a corner at a four road asymmetrical roundabout with headphones listening to the Kinks
Wonderfully disturbed
Quipu "

I was sorry that I couldn't attend more of the talks, discussions , papers and events.

 I have here included snapshots of my notes from the papers that I was able to attend. These have provided me with food for thought and inspiration. I am not sure this blog does  them justice, but then like a walk you have to be there to appreciate it!

Sonia Overall and James Frost: Being Horse

Sarah Scarfe ; Magical Aesthetics

Rosie Sherwood, Walking towards rewilding
Handrailing a Route through Mountain studies,  Jonathan Pritcher.

I would like to thank the authors, walkers, and organisers for their generosity in sharing their wonderful work . A really inspiring conference.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Welcome to the LV21

Let's Take a Moment : A Walk for Reflect; Arts and Minds, Gravesend, Kent.

produced through Thread and Word

October 11th , 12th and 13th

 3pm meet @LV21, an arts and performance venue on a Light Ship, moored  at St Andrew quay, Gravesend.

This is a walk involving benches, the coast, memory and ritual .

The walk will take approximately one hour and is mostly on flat terrain.


Those of you who have visited my studio looking out at the sea over Tankerton slopes near Whitstable know that there are many benches along the slopes above the beach  huts looking out to the sea. These give people the opportunity to create memorials for loved ones and also a place to take time to sit and stare at the sea. I have always been fascinated by these benches placed at regular intervals along the slope. So, when the call out came to take part in Reflect:Arts and Minds in Gravesend I jumped at the chance to be able to  create a temporary installation on a bench as a shrine or memorial in response to this event .

A vara
We will be walking from the LV21 to the bench I have been allocated in Promenade Gardens. The installation of the bench will take place on Friday October 11th. We then invite you to walk with us on Saturday October 12th and Sunday October 13th at 3 pm. to celebrate coastal living and what the sea means to you through  Reflect: arts and minds in Gravesham.

 I will be delivering this walk through the arts group Thread and Word which I set up in 2014 . This group invites artists to collaborate in walking performative events. These walks also give participants the opportunity to record their feelings as they walk  through a meditative knotting of ropes which are attached to a pole called a Vara at the end of the walk, to record the event.

We will be walking, with Thread and Word to celebrate all thing coastal in Gravesend, reflecting on what the sea means to us.

Anna Bowman
The artists joining this walk and offering poetry, performance and their own response to Let's Take a Moment are:

 A. Bowman, L. Claire, V. Fitch J. Mckay, S. McClymont, C. Lovey,  O. Lowery, S. Overall,  E. Penfold, J. Riddiough, L. Shawyer. 

Anna Bowman is sharing a personal anecdote of trips to the seaside as a child. She is also a talented film maker and photographer and will be photographing the event.

Anna Bowman
A plaque for our bench 

Lucy Claire is a composer and musician who works with soundscapes and will be collaborating with the group to create a  soundscape of the walk. This will be available to download . The piece will commemorate our walk through a plaque on the bench in Promenade Gardenswith a qr code linking it to the soundscape.

 "Soundscapes can transport the listener from one environment to another. Listening to a soundscape can calm the mind and encourage time for reflection. Let’s Take A Moment is a sound world reflection of a collection of poetry by Owen Lowery that focuses specifically on the coast and shoreline from With the fisherwomen of Nairn to the Mediterranean horizon of Pathos Sunset. I worked with sounds from the shore, the harbour, the hissing and sucking of the shore, the heady buzz of insects and the rhythmical sploshes of oars moving in and out of the water to bring another dimension to Owen’s words and help transport the listener from one place to another. "

Lucy Claire

Virginia Fitch will be reading a well know poem by Shelley to help us on our way.

Julia Riddiough is sharing two pieces, 'Windmills of my Mind' connecting with the story of the area with links to Don Quixote and his own inner daemons . Laura Shawyer will be enacting her second piece 'A Gesture of Harmony' a ritual devised by Julia using Palo Santo oil connected with well being, meditation and enacted through the holding of the knotted ropes as we end our walk.

Julia Riddiough

site specific work with James McKay
James McKay has created three interventions using poetry, place and string. It might even involve some costume changes. Looking forward to a few surprises.

James McKay

a mosaic by Susan Mc Clymont
Susan McClymont will share her poem "Pocahontas and me" She has also created a fab mosaic for our bench.  The design of the mosaic that accompanies the poem, is of an oak leaf overlaid by fern koru floating on the river. (Reflecting the oak trees of Pocahontas's Jamestown in America and the fern that emblematic of her native New Zealand).

Christina prep at Contemporary Art and Ritual
Christina Lovey is offering a personal reading of the knots in the ropes through tap dancing. Looking forward to some Flamenco rhythms . 

Owen Lowery has shared several of his poems read in his own voice for the soundscape. He has also helped with selecting the sounds he associates with the poems and the coast. We are delighted to take Owen's voice on this walk with us.

Owen Lowery

If you scan the qr code you can be transported to Owen's reading with a soundscape by Lucy Claire.

Sonia Overall  is joining us with pause/play
What is the quality of a moment? What do different pauses feel like? We will carry a bag of pauses with us as we walk, select one at random and enact it. Pause, play, repeat.  

Elspeth (Billie)  Penfold is inviting you to knot ropes to record the experience as we walk. These ropes have been made by hand by Elspeth for this event in her studio.The ropes will be attached to a Vara or pole at the end of the walk to create a document of the walk.
Elspeth (Billie) Penfold

I am always amazed by the creativity and generosity of all artists who collaborate with me in these walks with Thread and Word. I hope you are able to join us on the day and do feel free to share any readings/ memories or rituals with us as we walk.

although free, the walks are ticketed :Eventbrite and numbers will be limited .

The bench installation, soundscape and the walks have been delivered thanks to Funding from Arts Council England with seed funding from Sound Uk and the Welcome foundation.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

The LV21 Gravesend , two walks and a tactile bench in October

A Commission, Soundscape, blog, research and funding.

An MA in Creative Events Management at Falmouth University

Well it's been a while and there is  a lot happening. 


I am delighted to be working on two projects with LV21 and Sound uk. These are part of 'Reflect + Arts and Mind project, Gravesend and Bude, 'Time to Sit and Stare'.


I attended the launch of the project in May and am busy working with a group of artists to deliver two walks and a tactile bench.These projects will be delivered through 'Thread and Word'.

 Now thanks to the generous funding from Arts Council England ,we will be able to record a soundscape.


As things evolve, and they always seem to, it seemed a great opportunity to record a soundscape of the walks. I am delighted to say I put in an application to Art Council England and have received the funding. This will enable me to create a team through Thread and Word to work with The Mess Room in Chatham and the artist and music composer  Lucy Claire to widen participation in our walking events and soundscape.

 It is great to have the funding and I am grateful to the Arts Council England for their support.

Blogging, a new Thread and Word reflective blog and research

I have recently started an MA in Creative Events Management at Falmouth University. My first assignment has been to create a blog. This is part of the assessment for the MA and I have now completed it and handed it in .

I have used the metaphor of weaving to create insights into The Journeys with The Waste Land project at Turner Contemporary applying ideas and knowledge recently gained from the MA  course. 

New beginnings, creativity and project organisation

Here are images with themes for the blog postings . I hope you enjoy them. If you'd like to read them  click the caption,  I'd love to have some feedback !

The Problem, defining events.
Weaving, walking ,blogs and reflecting?

Moving the Heddle changes the pattern - how we measure value.

Unravelling the budget   


A reflective weave , hope you're having a good summer!