It’s what’s happening around you that matters

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With Stopping To Notice, Miranda Keeling, Oli Seymour, and Fresh Air Production created a podcast which follows Miranda as as she observes everyday pleasures and interactions around her.

This sound walk is one of the shortlisted pieces in the Sound Walk September Awards 2023. Here, Miranda discusses the podcast.

When life feels intense or overwhelming, I am drawn to noticing the details. I focus in on ordinary moments – the little things.

At art college I specialised in making tiny sculptures out of melted, recycled glass: small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but when cut into and polished up, they had universes of colour inside them.

As a writer, I create very small pieces of prose-poetry: distilling ordinary moments into their essential parts to celebrate and elevate the everyday. Moments like these:

A little boy on the tube is so worried about his soft-toy lion falling on the floor that he is saying to him ‘Hold on tight Sycamore Jones!’

A man walking along Caledonian Road falls over onto a huge roll of bubble wrap that he is hugging, perhaps for just this sort of situation.

Man on the tube: I’m tired.
His wife: Oh we’re all tired Brian.

I often find myself asking – how can a moment be put more simply and still get to the heart of something? As an actor, I used to do a lot of radio drama – learning to convey a character using just my voice. You can’t lean on costume or physicality in radio. The direction is often very specific to sound – instead of being told to sit down or run to the back of the stage, you’ll be asked to ‘put a smile into your voice.’ I love it because, again, radio involves a focusing in: an antidote to the all-consuming, 24 hour news cycle, smartphone merry-go-round that we are all in.

Stopping to Notice is a tiny podcast. Each episode is only 5 minutes long. It is a celebration of noticing through sound. Stopping to Notice is recorded in binaural audio. It is about sound: the sound of ordinary moments.

I first started posting my observations online in 2011 to a very niche audience of mostly friends and colleagues. Early on, an artist who I didn’t know, Wellbeck Kane, sent me this illustration of my words:

A woman on the tube, her beautiful silver hair cascading in waves over her vivid red cape, nods to herself as she reads a book about tigers.

Over the years people from all over the world, aged 11 to 83 have sent me their illustrations of my observations, simply because they wanted to respond to them.

A woman on the tube in a mint green jumper drinks a massive cup of coffee, the expression on her bird-like face of waiting for it to kick in.

There is something about stopping to notice that is universally needed and something about every day, ordinary moments that is comforting, joyous, poignant, beautiful or simply familiar. Every day people tell me how reading them makes them feel, or send me their own observations of their own lives:

I can feel my shoulders unclench a touch – I know something lovely and gentle is coming; a little bit of magic sprinkled over my homesickness for London (please forgive my anonymity)

In a week of craziness, your observations on life bring calm reflection.


A woman folds her pink raincoat into a small Selfridges bag, its unfurled edges looking like the petals of a rose.


In Medway, a brave little ice cream van plays a lonely tune part way along a residential street. Nobody comes.


We all need these little moments of delight.


When we started working on the podcast Stopping to Notice Oli Seymour, from Fresh Air Productions, and I knew that we wanted to try and capture these vignettes in a new way – through sound, and to bring with and include the wonderful community of ‘noticers’ that already existed.

What would it be like to be someone else for a few minutes? To hear the world as if through their ears? Those were the questions we asked ourselves and the first answer, was to use binaural sound to capture the experience I was having. Readers often told me that they felt like they were right there with me when I described something. When you listen to Stopping to Notice through headphones, it immerses you in that moment completely – you hear the birds chatter around you, the waves crash against a pebbled shore beside you, a man behind you tries to retrieve something from a pond in the park with an enormously large stick, and (almost) falls in.

Focusing through one sense makes us really pay attention and notice the little things. It has real benefits too – it slows my breathing down as I concentrate on what I can hear and how to describe it. The act of noticing in this way calms my mind. I can’t use my phone or get distracted while I do it.

I have recorded at Brighton Beach, Gouda in the Netherlands, Mirabel in the South of France, a park in Leicester, a busy street in Central London, and an unused tennis court by the Kent Coast. People like to hear places they know and love – to be transported there, to have those places captured in a unique way or to discover somewhere they have never been and maybe never will.

I was on Seaham beach earlier, looking for sea glass and noticing the people who were doing the same. You and your observations came to mind.

Becca Mason

Thank you for doing such justice to my hometown.

Carrie Hynds

‘That’s my favourite walk, at least three times a week, more if weather and life allows.’

Nicky McVeagh

For the 100th episode, we asked the community to send in short recordings of their own observations of the small moments around them. And they did! We were sent recordings from as far and wide as Tenessee, Devon, Oxford and California. Oli wove a beautiful sound-quilt out of their observations, which perfectly tells the story of what noticing the small things does.

I enjoy recording this podcast so much. The world is bursting with sound, and the fact other people want to come with me on a little 5 minute stroll through it is an absolute joy.

The winners and honourable mentions of the SWS Awards 2023 will be announced in January 2024.


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