Sounding the River

mac birmingham’s 50th year celebrations closed with the premiere of a magical journey of sound, light and performance along the riverbanks of the River Rea into Cannon Hill Park. Five years in the making and led by leading environmental, sound and light artist Jony Easterby, Sounding the River, (3 – 6 October 2013), celebrated the hidden beauty of Birmingham’s urban river and surrounding open spaces. Audiences experienced exciting and unexpected art installations, complimented by the hidden landscapes found along the riverbank.

Produced by mac birmingham, Sounding the River is a collaborative piece, bringing together six internationally acclaimed artists, who transformed Birmingham’s well known Cannon Hill Park into an enthralling environment that engaged adults, young people and children alike. Among the many installations, audiences experienced electronic song, fire-lit performances, mechanised birds in trees and mesmerising water sounds, brought together by a mixture of old and new technologies, created with the local environment in mind. Several of the artists created Power Plant, a feature of Durham’s enigmatic LUMIERE and Liverpool’s Capital of Culture, which continues to tour the globe.

Guided by mac birmingham staff and an enthusiastic army of trained volunteers, 3000 audience members were guided over four nights along the riverbank and across the urban wilderness of Cannon Hill Park. Live music, water reflections, mechanised birds and installations that reflect nature, will all come together to create an event like no other.

Lead Artist Jony Easterby said: ‘It has been an epic journey of conception, ideas, fundraising and exploration to get to this point, where I can finally see this celebration of the River Rea coming to life. From my early explorations walking and canoeing along its length, up to the most recent experiments along the river, my vision and determination to see this project happen has never wavered.’

Jony continued: ‘My aim was to create an event which touched on all the things that are important to me in my life and work, combining landscape re-invention through lightness and dark, fire and water ritural, South Asian Dance, sound in space, ecology and even folk music! All have been created by a group of my favourite practitioners working in contemporary art today. I am most excited by the prospect of seeing all the new work that is being created for this unique event, which guarantees I, along with the audience will not have experienced anything like this before.

Working alongside mac birmingham has also been a brilliant experience, their dedication to making this project happen through thick and thin has buoyed me up throughout its long vision from vision to reality’.

It has been an epic journey of conception, ideas, fundraising and exploration to get to this point, where I can finally see this celebration of the River Rea coming to life

Jony Easterby, Lead Artist

Sounding the River represents mac birmingham’s commitment to producing exciting, ambitious work and is a fitting end to our 50th anniversary celebrations. Our support of and partnership with Jony Easterby, has created a unique experience. It is also testament to the value of research and development in creating an event in such an unusual community setting. While Sounding the River completes our celebrations, it also represents an era of creative work which will continue for years to come at mac birmingham.

Dorothy Wilson, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of mac birmingham