New film of Peak District villagers' recordings spotlights pride at living in beautiful National Park

Villagers from four communities in the Peak District National Park have captured the sounds of everyday life for a short film.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 2:27 pm
Harp & a Monkey comprises Andy Smith, Martin Pury and Simon Jones.
Harp & a Monkey comprises Andy Smith, Martin Pury and Simon Jones.

More than 300 recordings from Tideswell, Great Longstone, Biggin by Hartington and Calton were submitted to the project’s creators, Harp & a Monkey who specialise in traditional storytelling and song.

Vocalist Martin Purdy, from the award-winning trio, said: "We were very surprised by the response – that is an awful lot of submissions for a community art project and the best response that we have had in many years of doing such projects. It clearly captured the imagination and also shows how comfortable most people are in using their mobile phones to record and send things.

"There were more than 100 people and organisations directly and indirectly involved in sending submissions - from schools to factories, cafes to churches. This was the most satisfying element of the project for us, the wide spread of age groups and people from different backgrounds: from farms to postmen, vicars to schoolchildren and their grandparents.

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Image from the film Birdsong and Bells in which the animation was done by Simon J. Jones.

"The four villages were chosen because they reflected different aspects of life in the Park – from a very small rural community with few facilities to a larger tourist-based community with more shops, cafes etc.

"As you might expect, there were a lot of recording of the natural world (bird song, livestock, wind and rain etc), but also industrial noises, traffic, brass bands, pub quizzes and more. We were sent recordings of a talking parrot, which we sadly had to cut in the end as he used some rather choice language!

"The breakthrough moment for us came when we realised that we had been sent sounds that we could arrange to tell the story of a full day – from the dawn chorus and a baby crying through to fox cubs barking and owls hooting."

The Peak Sound Project was commissioned by arts provider Live and Local in the spring of 2021 and Harp & the Monkey worked on collating sounds from April until late July. The trio spent August curating and editing the material, discovering a narrative for it and put the visual aspect of the work together.

Garden gnome pops up in the film where the animation has been done by Simon J. Jones.

Harp & the Monkey musician Simon J. Jones designed the film's colourful animation which includes butterflies, a bird, a dragonfly, a ladybird, a tractor and even a large garden gnome.

Martin added: "It was wonderful to see the immense sense of pride that the participants had in the National Park and their commitment to protecting those elements that they hold most dear – particularly in relation to the beauty of the environment they live in and the genuine sense of comradery and community. It was always noticeable on visits how many people knew each other and could find the time to stop and chat."

The trio will be playing live at the Tideswell premiere of their film Birdsong & Bells in the village's St John the Baptist Church on Saturday, November 27. The film will be shown during the interval of the concert.

Tickets £10 or £15 (meat/vegetarian pie), go to www.ticketsource.co.uk/tideswelltheatre.

Birdsong & Bells, which was premiered in Biggin by Hartington in September, can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEMz2p18kJk