Musician Kareem Samara facilitated a number of projects with young people from Kids on the Green and Salusbury World in Spring 2018. Here are some of his reflections on the project, accompanied by the pieces composed by the children and Polaroid photographs taken by them.

Text by Kareem Samara

The way you understand your city, your community, your environment, influences the way you see yourself within it.

Having spent some time in a composition and writing workshop with ‘Kids on the Green’, I heard them describe how the Grenfell fire affected them. Their astute understanding of their community and their opinionated ideas about music, inspired me to work with them on a project that I had conceived in the weeks following the fire. A project, facilitated by Shubbak, that would see children use field recorders to listen to, and record, the sounds of Ladbroke Grove.

They were aware that sound is something that we cannot escape. The sounds they hear on a daily basis, and how they hear them, are not random. This project attempted to demonstrate that the way that they engage with these sounds could determine the extent that they listen to these sounds, and that listening is the only way that they can begin to really understand why they hear what they do.

There were two main goals. Firstly, to demonstrate a different way of working with sound that wasn’t a standard composition of a pop song. The young participants were already taking part in songwriting workshops and music production sessions in local studios, I wanted them to understand that whilst this is a totally different project, what they learnt with me would help with their general understanding of sound and music.

The second main goal was to identify a link between the children’s relationship with sound and the rich cultural backgrounds of residents, the ongoing gentrification of Ladbroke Grove and the community resistance to this, especially post the horrific fire.

The field recorders pick up sensitive sonic details, and the headphones isolate the participant from interaction with passers by, allowing them to focus on sounds that they are familiar with and also to investigate the sounds that perhaps they hadn’t noticed before. Participants not only recorded obvious sounds like buskers and traffic, they also experimented with their relationship to surrounding structures, by banging, stomping, flicking and blowing on such material as fences, doors, and bushes.

To help demonstrate some of my ideas to participants, I distributed Polaroid type cameras to them. These more ‘old fashioned’ methods of taking pictures were a novelty to the kids, as they were faced with the unthinkable reality that they were limited to how many pictures they could take. This contrast to modern picture capturing on a camera phone forced them to choose carefully what photographs they wanted to accompany their sounds. Many of the young people took pictures of places and things that they walk past everyday but had not noticed or investigated before, leading them to discussions about significance and history of the subject that they photographed.

The recordings that you hear, and the photographs that you see, were captured over three workshops with 'Kids On The Green'. I edited the recordings together to reflect the different routes and experiences that we took when walking around capturing the ‘Sounds of Grove’.

Shubbak encouraged this same project to be extended to another one of their partners, 'Salusbury World'. These participants were children that had recently arrived in the UK and for whom English was their second or third language. Their recordings of the area are distinctly different to those of the ‘Kids On The Green’ participants, due to the make up of the surrounding area (a more traditional high street with side streets, as compared to the Westway concrete shelter of much of Ladbroke Grove) and their level of familiarity to the area. They are still getting to know the local area, do not know their way around too much or regularly communicate with the locals, you can hear their excitement and surprise at sounds, whereas in Ladbroke Grove, the kids were a lot more familiar with their area, and as such aware of what they would hear and, perhaps, why they would hear it. The 'Salusbury World' participants also had the opportunity to take photographs with the Polaroid cameras, and you can see the results below.

Sometimes the simplest of actions and understandings can facilitate greater community cohesion and social change.

Kids On The Green – Polaroids

Salusbury World – Polaroids

This project was coordinated by Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture and supported by Qatar Foundation International. With thanks to Kids on the Green, Salusbury World and all participants.