The Cries of Peckham Rye (2015) is a 12-minute acousmatic composition. This output was commissioned by artist and filmmaker Sarah Turner to feature in her film Public House with funds from the Arts Council of England and Film London. The composition was developed over six months with text written by the celebrated poet Jane Yeh and choral elements performed by Dulwich Folk Choir. Although commissioned for film, this output is a standalone electroacoustic composition written for quadraphonic sound.
Public House tells the story of the Ivy House Pub in Peckham Rye. Slated to be sold to property developers in 2012, the local community triumphantly came together to save the pub from closure. Made in collaboration with the local community, the film features their voices, poems and performances, as well as key moments in the community takeover which led the Ivy House to become one of the UK’s first co-operatively owned pubs and the country’s first ‘asset of community value’ under the 2010 Localism Act.
The Cries of Peckham Rye is a reimagining of a vision recounted by the poet and artist William Blake, who as a child saw a tree on Peckham Rye ‘filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough with stars’. Although heard throughout the film, this output underpins an extended climactic sequence in which the Ivy House community takes to Peckham Rye park in an act that Turner describes as ‘a communal celebration of human creativity and resilience’.
In terms of originality and significance, this output engages with participatory arts practice, namely the development of artistic practice through collaboration with community groups. More broadly, this output contributes to various areas within practice-led research, such as electroacoustic choral music and electroacoustic music in film.
The film was selected for premiere at the 2015 British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival and was nominated for the prestigious BFI Grierson Award in 2016. In 2017 the film toured over 20 film festivals across the UK and exhibited at key contemporary art galleries, including FACT Liverpool and Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow. Elsewhere, the composition was twice broadcast as part of the BBC Radio 4 documentary ‘A Vision on Peckham Rye’ presented by Levi Roots in 2016.
This output formed part of Kent’s REF21 (UoA 33) Impact Case Study ‘Public House: arts activism and community arts engagement’.
‘The performing body provides the medium through which cinematic experiment with multi-layered sound is projected towards the audience, a connection point that allows us to feel the film deeply. [The] combination of the choreographic and choral offer a dazzlingly unique form in which to make the collective cinematic.’ Mayer, S. (2016). Bodies and film. Sight & Sound Magazine. November. 77.
The choral heard earlier in the film, bursts forth. Extracts of a poem (after William Blake) … are sung and whispered by the assembly: “Glitter in the trees” … “Stars in the dark, our collective dreams.” A completed invocation. Salmon, Y. (2019). The Third Space: Sarah Turner’s Public House. LUX [online]. Available at: https://lux.org.uk/the-third-space-sarah-turners-public-house (Accessed: 30 May 2021).