This year, for the first time, we’re offering cold hard cash for the winners of the yearly Sound Walk September Award. You’ve been following the run-up to this announcement, and know that we’ve been close to doubling the prize money, based on the monthly financial support WLC receives from you, our supporters, the community.
In the end, that is, today, we fell just short of the threshold, meaning that this year’s winner walks away with 250 euros, with the honourable mention receiving 100 euros.
Still pretty cool.
If you are keen to support WLC, the community, and the lauded creators, head on over to our support page, and consider contributing.
For the Grand Jury, the decision to pick a winner and honourable mention from the shortlist was a close call. The jury was impressed with the high quality of the work this year, and were entertained and intrigued by the wide variety of submissions. Four pieces jostled for first and second place, and two, only-just, didn’t make it to the top two spots; Portland: The Town That Built Sydney, by Hamish Sewell, and Machair, by Duncan MacLeod.
Besides cold hard cash, winner and honourable mention will also receive a plaque, to hang on their wall. Or to take for a walk.
Winner: Headford Lace Trail
The winner of the SWS23 Awards is Headford Lace Trail, by Ed Coulson, which allows you to join a cast of characters from the Irish town of Headford’s past and present. An audio walk with a twist… in time.
Here’s what our Grand Juror Annie Mahtani has to say about the piece:
This walk offers a truly engaging experience through storytelling and music. As you travel through the trail, accompanied by a modern day lace maker also experiencing the sound walk, you hear stories from the present day and the past each contributing to the understanding of the heritage of lacemaking in Headford. Each segment is well paced and timed and the history of lace making, and the importance it had for the community, is unveiled and brought to life as we encounter stories and tales from the past through memories, personal stories and conversations with historical characters. The experience is articulated with sound design and music as you traverse the past and present.
A site specific trail, using the SonicMaps platform, the audio directions are clear and concise with plenty of references to landmarks to ensure the listener is in the correct location. There is no doubt that this is best experienced in the location but the excellent pacing, careful curation of stories and high quality production ensures it is an enjoyable and informative experience even from your own home.
Honourable mention: Semi-Colon (How To Draw A Tree)
This year’s honourable mention goes to Semi-Colon (How to Draw A Tree), by Dawn Matheson, a meandering, philosophical walk inviting the listener to interact with nature in imaginative and playful ways, lead by Abhiraj Dadiyan, whom “death has always given her bid, but never her hand”.
Here’s what our Grand Juror John Drever has to say about this piece:
Semi-Colon is a wonderfully listenable, intimate soundwalk, where we are invited to enter into the transformative world view of Abhiraj Dadiyan. This work is part of a collection of grounded soundwalks produced by Dawn Matheson, as part of How to Draw a Tree. The title, Semi-Colon, denotes the continuation of a sentence, where there could have been an ending punctuated by a full stop, and it is the symbol of Abhiraj’s tattoo, marking the continuation of his life beyond a suicide attempt.
Despite the refection on what brought him to contemplating the end of his own life, shadowed by the challenges he encountered, the walk continually focuses on the positive, acting as a guide to new and renewed creative and imaginative relationships with life, with birds, insects, frogs, squirrels and above all, trees. The audio is not perfectly finessed, rather it is personable, as the medium is embodied by the author’s character, savouring his utterances, movements, outtakes, and fumblings. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, and that is very much part of the charm of the work.
Other voices are present, such as the tree specialist, who plays an important role, but Abhiraj’s wisdom and engagements are just as, if not, even more valuable than the expert’s textbook definitions. Abhiraj animates the world around him, through his imagination, yet this is not a one-way monologue. He prompts the sound walker to be active and to conjure up their thoughts and creativity, and to, at times, simply open our senses to what is present.
We are invited to eat mangos, make stories and poems, even if they may turn out to be “shitty, … what do you have to lose?”
I accessed this sound walk online from London, and although it specifically describes and responds to one physical geographic location, Arboretum in Guelph, Canada, I found the narrative and the ideas easily transferable to my context and geography.
I encourage you to take the time and space, to benefit from this human, sincere work.
Changing of the guard
This is also the time that we say goodbye to some of our grand jurors, and welcome new ones.
To ensure a constant stream of fresh insights, we introduced 3-year term limits for the Grand Jury last year, which meant that this year was going to be the final participation for Josh Kopeçek, Annie Mahtani, Andrea Zeffiro, and John Drever. Then, for personal reasons, some jurors had to excuse themselves at the last minute from the judging process, but new grand jurors Kim V. Goldsmith and Richard White were so kind to get on board on short notice, starting their tenure a year early.
Laonikos is a Shakuhachi player, composer, and teacher based in London. He works as Creative Project Leader at Sound and Music, supporting anyone who wants to make music and sound to shape the modern world.
Sophie is a writer, dramaturge and the founder of the audio walk platform Storydive.
Stefaan is a walking artist who regards the act of walking as a kind of subjective thought process in the urban and natural landscape. His piece I don’t remember me the rain was shortlisted for the SWS20 Awards. His piece Wander Weed received an honourable mention for the SWS19 Awards.
Henna is an art historian and sociologist deeply interested in human creativity and connection. She is Co-founder and Co-CEO of Gesso, a mobile app for exploring the world with audio that plays based on your location. Her piece The Last Eccentrics of Greenwich Village was shortlisted for the SWS20 Awards.
Richard is a UK-based walking artist who devises, curates and hosts walks involving listening, sensing, making and asking questions. His piece Bath Workhouse Burial Ground: Walking the Names was shortlisted for the SWS20 Awards.
Kim is an Australia-based interdisciplinary artist whose creative output uses sound, video, and writing to explore layers of nuance and complexity within the rural and regional territories in which she works. Her piece Sonic Byte: Wingham Brush Boardwalk was shortlisted for the SWS23 Awards.
We’ve already received our first submissions for SWS24. We’ve also extended the eligibility-window to the start of the previous year. That is to say, sound walks, released on or after January 1 2023 are eligible for the SWS24 Awards.
For the first time, the general public will also have a say in what pieces make it to the shortlist; the sound walk with the most hearts/votes that is not already selected by the Online Jury to be part of the shortlist, will be added to the shortlist, too. Make your opinion count! And, if you’ve submitted a sound walk for SWS24, tell your friends!
What are you making this year? We’re very much looking forward to seeing your work come in!