thirteenfridays: Newtown



Our 13 week picnic marathon started on Friday 13 April, we’ll be visiting a haunted location every Friday until Friday 13 July 2018.  Each week we set off armed with sound recording equipment, digital cameras and an original Polaroid camera – to take an unfakeable and unique Polaroid image at each location.

For our 11th week we decided to revisit Newtown in Powys where we had spent some time back in 2013 making work for the Be Our Guest exhibition at Oriel Davies. As well as making a piece for the exhibition called Who is this who is coming? we interviewed a number of people who had experienced uncanny and ghostly phenomena at the gallery as well as in Newtown at large.

We were delighted to make the acquaintance of Rory Evans at that time who very generously shared a great many ghost stories about the region with us. We spent the day visiting some of the locations Rory had spoken about hoping to get a glimpse of the many spectral residents of the town.

We started with gallery itself where lots of spooky occurrences have been reported from books flying off shelves to mysterious telephone calls. Rory thought the culprit may be Sarah Briscoe, a descendant of the Pryce family of Newtown who donated the clock tower (known as ‘Sarah’) to the town and died in 1901.

B06014D0-9E71-4777-83A9-CF51E73A7362We then headed into town to have a look at the haunted pubs that Rory mentioned, The Sportsman, The Victoria Vaults, The Buck and The Black Boy.

Next we drove to The Vastre, a road heading out of town towards the village of Kerry. Rory had told us some particularly unsettling stories, firstly a woman dressed in Victorian attire has been seen, apparently extremely tall she seems actually to be hovering above the ground. Also the tale of a motorist who encountered a terrifying medusa like red-headed woman appearing in the back of his car after the temperature dropped to below freezing on a warm summer’s day.

We also visited the area of Bryn Bank hill fort where Rory had told us Charles I had been taken during his visit to the town during the civil war.

We’d hoped to drop in to see Maesmawr Hall, now a hotel in Caersws on the way home. We’d previous heard tales from both Rory and our friend Rhowan about ghostly goings-on at the location, but the hotel was bustling with a Prom event happening that day, so we decided to save our visit for another day.

0102We picnicked in the dappled shade of the trees on the bank of the river Severn near the Oriel Davies gallery.  We had 13 smoky spiced mini bean burgers with 13 ingredients (Kidney Beans, Onion, Garlic, Carrot, Tomato puree, Chipotle smoked chili, Cumin, Oats, Soy Sauce, Pepper, Oil, Lime Juice, Salt); a 13 ingredient rice salad (Rice, Red Pepper, Green Pepper, Pickled Jalapeno; Garlic, Coriander; Sweetcorn, Cumin seed, Lime Juice; Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Salt, 13 slices of Avocado) a 13 ingredient sweet potato salad(Sweet Potato, Onion, Garlic, Tomatoes, Coriander, Chilli, Salt, Black Pepper, Spring Onion, Caraway Seeds, Black Onion Seeds, Mustard Seeds); 13 arancini with 13 ingredients (Eggs, Parmesan, Parsley, Black Pepper, Oregano, Salt, Sundried Tomatoes, Olives, Mozerella, Stock, Rice, Breadcrumbs)

Our desserts this week were a 13 ingredient apricot and raspberry tart (Flour, Butter, Eggs, Caster Sugar, Ground Almonds Almond Essence, Apricots, Raspberries, Apricot Jam, Salt, Water, Flaked Almonds, Icing Sugar) and 13 aztec chocolate mini cupcakes with 13 ingredients (SR Flour, Egg, Granulated Sugar, Butter, Cocoa powder, Chili powder, Milk, Kahlua, Icing Sugar, Cinnamon, Salt, Water, Vanilla Essence).


Whistle Quietly

Absent but not Forgotten: ‘Who is this who is coming?’
(Technical processes)

The installation for Oriel Davies consists of 2 main elements; A video presented on the vintage television and a 4 channel sound work allied to the table setting.  Derived from the incidental audio within the breakfast scene, the sound emanating from the table is presented as 2 separate stereo works. A number of techniques and ideas were used in its production.

First of all the scene was examined to identify all of the sounds that contain no dialogue – the silences between words; cutlery on crockery; sounds of the professor eating etc. were extracted and placed in a time-line. While the volume was increased, the durations and relative positions of these clips were maintained to keep the random rhythmic structure of silences within the scene.

The very short, sharp sounds of cutlery and crockery were extracted and condensed to remove the gaps in between and create a single sample. This was then treated using software dedicated to time-stretching, changing the 4 second sample into 4 minutes. This element in the overall sound is the more musical, orchestral, composed sounding piece. The musical tonal qualities coming from the ringing sound of the original samples.

The clip of condensed sounds of the cutlery and crockery was added a second time and time-stretched to 15 seconds, this time allowing the samples to pitch shift with the duration change. Finally the unprocessed, individual cutlery and crockery samples were reintroduced to the time-line and scattered randomly throughout the time-line, repeating to spread them across the entire duration.

These 3 elements were then combined into 2 stereo files, each containing the more musical element in both channels and the silences or cutlery placed in only the left or right channel. Playing together as separate sources allows small variations in the timing which when combined with the sound on the television create a complex, subtly changing work.

The use of recorded silences has been important within Absent but not Forgotten since it’s inception in 2010. It’s use is derived from ideas surrounding paranormal investigation and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), and in particular the studies undertaken by my grandfather who used to attend spiritualist meetings, record the medium and analyse the silences within the recordings to try and find evidence of the voices. We have adopted this technique and used it as a starting point within a number of our video and installation works.

The video is a simple corruption of footage from ‘Whistle and I’ll come to you’ using filters which emulate analogue detuning and static interference. The breakfast scene emerges from the distorted, detuned footage roughly once every 10 minutes. The white noise soundtrack within the video is created by processing silences extracted from the breakfast scene, with the volume modulated randomly, the scene itself has it’s soundtrack left intact.

(The video below uses a stereo version of the same audio described above)

Who is this who is coming?

Absent but not Forgotten will be part of Be our Guest, Oriel Davies, Newtown 29/06/13 – 04/09/13

Who is this who is coming?Who is this who is coming takes as a starting point the idea of the haunted B&B; many such establishments are rumoured to have a resident ghost and indeed, it is often a selling point to prospective visitors.

This new installation references the classic 1968 television play Whistle and I’ll Come to You directed by Jonathan Miller from the original ghost story written by MR James in 1904. It features the breakfast scene in a guest house whereby an empirically minded Cambridge Professor declares his scepticism regarding the supernatural but later comes to find himself prey to a terrifying otherworldly force. The play’s simple but haunting treatment conjures an atmospheric cautionary tale which warns against the rigidity of fixed academic opinions – as the professor illustrates with his self-satisfied corruption of Shakespeare’s quotation from Hamlet, “There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth…”*

To accompany the installation in the gallery we have gathered a number of stories about the ghostly goings on in and around Newtown, they will be available here

*”There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  Hamlet (1.5.166-7)