This blog is about charting the before and after of new project ideas as they take shape; investigating and reflecting on projects as they develop. A process that often happens silently and goes untold.


My company Red Lantern has been commissioned for a 2nd year to work on a digital project with the Birmingham Book Festival.

Last year’s well received sound installation work Boy You Turn Me by writer David Gaffney and composer Ailis Ni Riain set a bar for a desire within the Book Festival programming agenda to continue unveiling events that showcase literature in new and exciting ways.

Cue Reliable Witness, this year’s first interactive storytelling experience for the Birmingham Book Festival 2012 programme.

The journey began in November/December last year with lots of thinking and throwing around (verbally) of ideas.


The project that I have been producing and working for in-situ over the past week is Boy You Turn Me, a text and sound installation and a collaboration between contemporary classical composer Ailis Ni Riain and writer David Gaffney. A commission for Birmingham Book Festival.

Both artists are based in Manchester and they visited the vacant shop unit, that we secured in Birmingham’s Pavilions shopping centre for the project, a few times to aid them in creating the final text and sound piece as a collaborative work.

I find it fascinating to learn about the process of two artists ideas working together to unveil a final whole piece – I squeezed in a quick interview with Ailis during the week before our install to ask her about how her experience of the artisitic production side of the work had gone and how she had found the collaborative process in this project.

(Please note the quality is not great because the footage was recorded on a mobile phone that is on the way out. What is being said gives you an idea though of the collaborative element and experimental nature of this project.)

The installation is open for one more day – Sunday 16th October, 11am to 4pm.

Lower ground floor, Pavilions shopping centre in Birmingham city centre.

Interview with composer Ailis Ni Riain for the project Boy You Turn Me


On Tuesday I met with composer artist Ailis Ni Riain and writer David Gaffney to listen inside the space we are using to the sound piece they have created – the venue is an empty shop in the Pavilions shopping centre in Birmingham.

We chatted about where to position the speakers to get the best effect for the inner and outer layered sound structure that we want to create. Here’s a few more details about the project below to see why the inner and outer layers are important:

Boy you turn me is a specially commissioned sound installation for Birmingham Book Festival 2011 by contemporary classical composer Ailis Ni Riain and writer David Gaffney.

Situated in a vacant shop unit in the Pavilions shopping centre it uses a unique structure of an inner and outer layer of sound to explore the feelings and thoughts of those who used to work in this vacant retail space.

The two layers of music and text can be heard separately or at the same time by moving inside and outside of the specially created space.

Funded by Arts Council England, PRS for music foundation and Birmingham Book Festival with support gratefully received from the Pavilions and Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College.

Preview event – Thursday 6th October 4.30pm to 6pm at Unit 10 The Pavilions, High Street, Birmingham


A week to go before we, the production team behind the Boy You Turn Me sound installation, test the audio set up for the piece inside Birmingham’s Pavilions shopping centre ready for this October’s Birmingham Book Festival.

This week is all about gathering the most appropriate equipment: 8 high quality speakers, a DVD player, an amplifier and loads of cables, leads and bits and bobs are needed. Having never worked on such a techie art project before I am relying on the expertise of our sound technician Peter.

He knows loads about setting up sound installations having worked with local radio stations in Birmingham including setting them up in schools as well as festivals and live music events.

So tasked with Peter’s recommended list I am off to purchase the goods – Birmingham has some great resources for this in Superfi and Digital Village. Off I go to see what deals they can do…


Myself and Peter the sound engineer for the project have met and discussed what is going to be possible to create inside the vacant shop unit that we have secured, paying close attention to the budget that we have available.

This is the part of a project where I wish I had studied carpentry or had more knowledge of DIY.

Peter has done a great sketch up of what the end result could look like (pictured). It seems just as important to get the look of a sound installation right as well as the feel of it.

The audience experience needs to be finely tuned – we’re catering to people who love to explore events with new music and new literature.

This is the first draft of the sketch so we’ll see what the artists think.