‘It was good having the library collections available so we could find relevant text to read over the different sounds we recorded on the tube.’
Working with young people from the Adventurers History Club and David Gunn from Incidental, the Schools & Community Learning department set out to discover whether it was possible to combine modern technology and historic archives to find exciting new ways of engaging with the past. The experiment took place on 17 December 2012.
The participants met in a quiet corner on the third floor of the British Library and the Incidental team handed out headphones and iPads pre-loaded with a music app called Feed. The app enables manipulation of a ‘live feed’ of sound drawn from the iPad microphone or an audio file. The Adventurers were shown how to record, play back and modulate sounds using the app: creating a sound loop by tracing a semi-circle around the recorded sound on the touch screens was an especially important part of the process. Once the young people were able to use the app with confidence, the group left the British Library and headed to Kings Cross underground station. On the metropolitan line from Kings Cross to Liverpool Street, incidental sounds were captured on the iPads – with safety and station announcements proving especially popular!
At Bishopsgate Institute, the Incidental team explained how the recordings could be remixed using the Feed app. Each Adventurer then created a single ‘Underground London’ track.
The next job was to add vocals to the compositions. Archive materials relating to the history of the London Underground had been placed on tables around the room. The young people pored over the close print of Victorian timetables, examined inter-war tube maps and read through late-20th century safety reports. Once they had selected a passage or extract which corresponded with the rhythm and mood of their audio track, they began to record short readings over their compositions. Two of the created tracks can be heard via Sound Cloud.
This experiment in learning showed how modern technology might be harnessed to help young people learn about and reflect on London’s past in new and creative ways. We are now considering using the Feed app to add value to our London Tourist workshop for school groups. If you are a teacher or youth worker, please contact us if this is something your young people might like to try in 2013.
The underground theme of our Feed workshop was inspired by the Institute’s upcoming series of events celebrating 150 years of the London underground.
Read Incidental’s blog post about the workshop.