Educating and uniting communities through power of conversation

A large-scale audio installation in Dewsbury Minster aims to educate communities around their common interests using the power of conversation.

The Festival of Conversations, which is being delivered by local arts organisation Manasamitra, launched earlier this month and will run throughout September.

The scheme is the first of its kind and is being piloted in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, before being rolled out in other regions.

The series of conversations, which will be conveyed through eight interconnected loudspeakers within the Minster, will focus on the subjects and challenges that unite communities, while aiming to emphasise similarities, rather than differences.

The conversations were captured over three months from schools and community groups across Dewsbury, including Eastborough Junior & Infants School, Pentland Infant and Nursery School, The Basement Recovery Project, Madni Muslim Girls School and The Savile Town Local Women’s Association.

Creative director of Dewsbury-based Manasamitra, Surpriya Nagarajan, developed the Festival of Conversations in partnership with international sound artist Duncan Chapman.

Supriya Nagarajan said: “Dewsbury is an important town in the region. It has recently been in the press for the wrong reasons, while recent government statistics have named North Kirklees in the bottom 20% of areas across the country that engages in arts activity.

“It is also often perceived as an area where the voices of women and children aren’t truly represented, and emotions stirred as a result of the Brexit vote have also presented challenges to the community.

“These factors helped to inspire the creation of the Festival of Conversations, which aims to educate and bring together participants from various communities, and enable discussions on a wide range of topics. It will bring together people who otherwise would not interact socially, and allow participants to explore different points of views in a safe space.”

Duncan Chapman said: “This project aims to blur the barriers between differing religious and socio-economic groups, discovering how much alike they are and how they can develop a united and communal voice through shared experiences and activities.

“The installation will paint a vivid sound picture of Dewsbury. Some voices have been combined with a rhythm or translated into musical phrases and the result is an immersive and educational listening space for guests to enjoy.”

Manasamitra is an arts organisation that delivers a range of South Asian arts and cultural experiences in traditional and innovative ways.

The company’s work is stimulated by ideas, forms and aesthetics from India located within a contemporary British context.

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