Sittingbourne's Creative Media and Digital Arts Group has been involved in creating a sound art installation for the Turner Contemporary as part of Margate NOW festival, celebrating this year's Turner Prize.

The sound installation is the work of artist Yuri Suzuki, a sound artist, designer and electronic musician who explores sound through unusual, interactive creations. His work looks into the relationship between sound and people, and how music and sound effect their minds. His sound, art and installations have been exhibited all over the world. 

In partnership with Kent Libraries, Suzuki will use artificial intelligence to bring together sound and sculpture, inspired by people from across the county. The piece will be on the South Terrace at the Turner Contemporary, Margate, from Saturday 28th September - Sunday 13th October.

Turner Contemporary Navigators, Bob and Kathy, have been visiting Kent Libraries to source sound for the installation. They have run workshops with existing community groups including a Creative Writing group, Talk Time, Knit and Natter, Kent Adult Services and 4 Books Beyond Words groups across Kent.  Every other week, our Creative Media and Digital Arts Group go to Sittingbourne Library for Books Beyond Words where we enjoy stories and books, regardless of our reading ability. The group is a great way to share stories, explore our own experiences and think about different ways of communicating. 

bemix Director of Ethics and Communications, Louise, says "taking part in the art installation is not only a great opportunity for people to have their voice REALLY heard as part of an innovative and famous work of art, but as active members of the local community. The whole workshop process highlighted the importance of community connection and shared experiences to enable people to feel they really belong"

Along with library staff and volunteers, we were asked to talk about Sittingbourne and wider Swale while our conversation was recorded. To begin with, people did not have much good to say about Sittingbourne, feeling it was boring, run down and lacking in opportunity.  People were skeptical of the benefits that the new cinema and shops are aiming to bring. For many people in the group, they were concerned that the more expensive food and cinema chain stores would put independents out of business.  With many people on low or no income, the idea of building new, more expensive shops feels like a development they will be unable to access.  However, as the conversation progressed Tom, Gez, Rosemary and Stewart, who have all lived in Swale for years, shared a wealth of local knowledge and experiences. We talked about the wonderful creative hubs that bring the community together; Books Beyond Words, Ideas Test, Eco Shed and The Pulse, and the workshops linked to Milton Creek Country Park and Kent Wildlife Trust.  With the general theme being "the lack of" in Sittingbourne, we were asked to draw the things that could be added to Sittingbourne to make it better. People wanted to bring back the heart of the town and connect people through community activities and funding and art. People wanted to see more trees and green spaces.  The discussion made it clear that people (with learning difficulties and/or autism) value opportunities to connect and engage with their community in creative ways. People talked passionately and knowledgeably of events, groups and interesting places in the area - including the sunken WWII warship, the Richard Montgomery, which lies laden with explosives about a mile from shore off the Isle of Sheppey. 

"It was all about artwork. We talked about trying to rejeuvenate Sittingbourne with art" - Rosemary

We added our drawings and key areas of importance to a large map of Swale. The map, along with the maps from the 11 other districts in Kent, will be photographed and made into a zine which will be exhibited and available at the exhibition. We thought about the sounds and colours we related to Swale and sang S-W-A-L-E to the tune of D-I-S-C-O by Ottowan. In true Books Beyond Words style, we also performed the song using sign language. The recording of the workshop will be fed into an Artificial Intelligence computer which will convert it into music. The music will play from one of 12 coloured trumpets (one for each district in Kent) which will make up the installation. 

Gez reckons that the trumpets will "blast out some terrible sounds!".  Make sure you come along to the exhibition and make up your own mind.