The fog and freezing air did not deter participants as they attend the first of a number of workshops throughout November to help inform a brand new project — Almanac for a Walled City.
The project is an ambitious, immersive sound artwork from artist Christopher Steenson, in collaboration with Nerve Centre, supported by the ESB Brighter Future Arts Fund in partnership with Business to Arts, will be launched along Derry’s historic city walls in 2023. Steenson's ambition is to collect the thoughts, predictions and innovative climate solutions of Derry Citizens and imagine what the city will look like in 400 years.
Taking the form of an interactive soundwalk around the Derry Walls, the public will be able to access recordings through a bespoke geolocation app.
It is one of five arts projects nationwide supported by the ESB Brighter Future Arts Fund. The €250,000 fund, managed in partnership with Business to Arts, aims to support artists and arts organisations to deliver creative projects that will promote awareness of climate change and inspire positive action around sustainability and the energy transition.
Steenson kicked off the project with a programme of intergenerational workshops with Nerve Centre from 17 November, examining the role of forecasting and the place of the almanac in Irish society, with the objective of exploring how the loss of this close relationship with the weather has impacted the current climate crisis. Workshops will invite participants to reflect on their experiences and memories of the weather to help inform the new artwork.
Alongside the workshops, the public also has the opportunity to add their response and engage with the project through the Department of Dreamtime, an interactive freephone line that seeks to understand dreams and future-oriented concerns. For more information visit www.departmentofdreamtime.org.uk.
“For generations, almanacs were used for tide and moon cycles and in some cases to make longer-term predictions about the weather,” said Steenson. “But we have lost that historical connection to the weather, despite the fact that with all the renewable energy we are turning to, whether it’s wind, tides or solar, the weather will become more important to us than ever.”
For Nerve Centre, the project provides a welcome opportunity to use the arts to engage their local community positively around the issues of climate change.
“Listening to the views of intergenerational community groups here in Derry and having these feed into Christopher’s work was really important for us,” says Jude Mullan, Creative Media Trainer at Nerve Centre.
“The feedback we have taken from recent programmes is that the biggest fear young people have for the future is climate change. We saw the fund, and this project, as an opportunity to creatively engage with people here, to see what we can do as a community to address the challenges of climate change.”
As well as the community workshops, Steenson is also meeting with staff in the nearby ESB CoolKeeragh Power Station. With most staff at the station living in and around the Derry area, station manager Jim Cooke said there is a great interest in Steenson's project. “The weather, naturally, is central to the transition to renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar, and for us here in Coolkeeragh, listening to, and understanding the sounds the station makes is critical to the role of an operational engineer.”
“The arts sector has a unique capacity to engage communities around complex issues, like climate change and the energy transition. We are delighted to be working with Christopher and the team in Nerve Centre and are excited to see where Christopher brings the project and final soundscape.”