Weymouth born Artist & Sound Designer Joe Butcher returns home to collaborate with The Nothe Fort museum on a brand-new project funded by the Arts Council of England. Voices from the Walls will re-purpose previously abandoned dungeons and tunnels to create an immersive audio-visual experience for visitors utilising the natural reverb and atmosphere of the space as a tool for design.
The first of three exhibits will be open to visitors this Halloween half-term starting October 21st, re-working the infamous Nothe Fort Ghost Tunnel, voted on internet polls as one of Britain’s ‘most haunted’ locations. Joe’s sound design studio Dark Age Audio will re-tell some of the more grizzly tales featured in local Historian Sue Hogben’s book the Nothe Fort & Beyond, combining Victorian architecture with modern acoustic science.
Joe said: “Growing up in Weymouth, the indomitable stone features of the Nothe Fort have always fascinated me. These impressive structures represented the height of industrial progress and military prowess in Victorian Britain. Cutting-edge at the time of its construction, the fort has been adapted many times and endured both the first and second world wars, finally becoming a bunker for the local government at the height of nuclear threat in the 1980’s.
Since I have been alive, the Nothe Fort has become a museum. The disorientating nature of the underground rooms and passageways is unique and exciting for visitors. It was here as a child, listening to my voice echo in these tunnels, that I first began to think about how sound reacts in a space and the magic this can create.
While studying ‘Innovation in Sound’ MA degree at dBs Institute of Sound & Digital Technologies in Bristol, I researched practitioners of Post-Industrial Art. This movement began in the 1990’s following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Britain had shifted its economy by shutting down factories, mines, and redundant cold war military facilities.
Many grand and often cavernous spaces were abandoned and ready for a new purpose.
It is my intention to innovate new ways for these acoustically rich rooms to be experienced using modern sound technology. I would like to encourage other sound designers like myself to come and join me in displaying their work, once we have set-up more permanent galleries. I am discussing the possibility of opening up previously unexplored sections of the Nothe Fort. Most impressive of which is the cavernous ‘Water Tank’ which was originally used as a well, in case the Fort was put under siege and the occupants needed drinking water to survive. Using Impulse Response technology, not dissimilar to that of sonar used on submarines, I have recorded data from three empty spaces within the Nothe Fort including the ‘Water Tank’. I am using this information to create a digital representation of the space, allowing me to test how creations will sound in the museum from my studio in Bristol.”
The Ghost tunnel will be open from October 21st 2023. Harnessing the walls themselves to give voice to real people who died in and around the Fort during its construction & operation in the Victorian period. It promises to be a truly thrilling experience which will test your fear but also tend your curiosity this Halloween!