Brighton & Hove and NAS are Sounding Brighton – “Exploring practical approaches towards better soundscapes”

On 18-19 June Brighton & Hove City Council, the EU COST Action TD0804 on “Soundscapes of European Cities and Landscapes” and the Noise Abatement Society hosted the second international soundscapes conference, ‘Sounding Brighton,’ exploring practical approaches towards better soundscapes, with workshops, installations, and a soundwalk.

Following on from the success of last year’s conference, Sounding Brighton brought together world environmental sound experts, in its home town of Brighton & Hove. The primary focus of the event was on soundscape issues relating to health and quality of life.

The event once again provided the opportunity to raise awareness and promote communication on soundscapes among the general public and facilitated exchange between international soundscape experts involved in the EU COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), Eurocities and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) networks; and policy makers, academics, scientists and local people. It also explored new ways of listening and assessing local sounds, as well as innovative methods for tackling noise through local town planning.

Professor Jian Kang, of Sheffield University and Chair of the EU COST Action TD0804 on “Soundscapes of European Cities and Landscapes” said: “Reducing sound levels, the focus of EU environmental noise policy, does not necessarily lead to improved quality of life in urban/rural areas, and a new multidisciplinary approach is essential. Soundscape research represents this paradigm shift as it involves not only physical measurements but also the co-operation of human/social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, architecture, anthropology, medicine).”

Brighton & Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “The Soundscapes project is unique in the way it brings together experts in their field and local people to explore the different aspects of sound, how it relates to people and how we can improve quality of life in the city.

“The conference informed the council’s work on finding practical ways of improving public spaces, managing noise where it is having a negative impact and designing environments with soundscapes that can actually improve people’s wellbeing.”

Lisa Lavia, Managing Director of the NAS said: “Soundscape can be best described as the acoustic environment as perceived and understood by people, in context and regards sound as an important environmental resource to be managed and cared for. Sounding Brighton is an ambitious project led by Brighton & Hove City Council and the NAS, which will ultimately benefit the city and serve to showcase how innovative and forward thinking can lead to healthy, pleasant soundscapes.”

The workshop presentations included analysis of Sounding Brighton sonic installations staged during White Night, the city’s all night arts and cultural festival, on 29 October 2011, including a ground breaking pilot experiment using the soundscape to help enhance public safety and improve crowd behaviour on West Street. It involved Martyn Ware of the Illustrious Company and founder of the Human League and Heaven 17; psychobiologist Dr Harry Witchel of Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and film and broadcast specialists Driftwood Productions.

Also included was a review of a survey of local residents on their experience of local sounds in a city-wide online Sounding Brighton Survey conducted last year in conjunction with the University of Stockholm. The gathered international experts helped to propose a range of soundscape options for the council’s improvement of areas such as Brighton station, the seafront, foreshore, historic terraces, squares, lanes, parks and gardens.

To enable the public to better understand and interact with some of the concepts being presented to the city, a ‘Sounding Brighton’ free-entry poster and video installation also opened to the public on Monday 18th June for one week before being on display in other European cities.

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