I have already written once about marking out pitches. On that occasion I wrote about marking out an eleven-a-side pitch on the Bullcroft Playing Field. For most of this season I have been marking out the pitch at St.Georges Field but this week I returned to the Bullcroft as one of the teams that I coach has a match there in a week or so and the lines were beginning to fade. I’ve been looking into the history of the Bullcroft as a site of football and there was certainly football being played there in the early part of the C20th. This aerial photograph was taken in May 1928 with a match in progress and there is some evidence that there was an organised football club in Wallingford as early as 1881.
The ephemeral sounds activated by the painting of the white lines whilst being elusive appear to have been heard on this site for at least the last ninety-seven years and probably more. For much of that period some kind of wheeled appliance would have been used although lines were also painted manually. The pitch that can be seen in the bottom left of the photograph is further South than the present pitch but occupies the same part of the Playing Field.
On the occasion that I made these recordings I was struggling with the padlock on the back gate of the pavilion where I usually exit with the line-marker. I couldn’t open the padlock and so decided to wheel the marker through the pavilion and out of the front entrance.
As I began to make the lines the wheels were stuck so I moved the marker backwards and forwards to try to free them until giving in to the inevitable and turning the wheels manually until they became looser – covering my hands in paint in the process.
The two images in this post are taken from the English Noise map Viewer that can be found here. There is a key for the map indicating the average decibel levels represented by the overlaid colours at the end of this post.
The A34 runs from Salford to Winchester. The Southern leg of the road cuts through Oxfordshire from North to South. The soundscape at Drayton FC to the East and Milton United FC to the West of the road is dominated by the sound of the internal combustion engine; the resonating tarmac; and the rattle of trailers and trucks . Drayton FC play in the North Berks League and their pitch is on the South-West edge of the village. The centre circle is 175m East of the A34. If you stand in the centre-circle – where this recording was made – there are benchless breeze block dugouts; a line of low trees; and an electricity pylon that stands in the field between the pitch and the road. The embankment of the A34 rises above the field and the sounds of the road flood down the embankment and saturate the surrounding area with a band of consistent high frequency noise. The rattle of trucks; the phasing of tyres on asphalt as they approach and depart; the liquid drone of the road – these are the sounds that dominate the listener’s attention.
Milton United FC play at Milton Heights which sits above the Milton interchange of the A34. I made this recording from the centre circle of one of the two pitches on the site which is 370m South-West of the A34. The sound here differs radically from that at Drayton. There is more local detail and a more varied frequency range. There is a sense that we are listening to sounds from farther afield – that this is an auditory vantage point. If I turn my head to the South I can hear the road as a high frequency drone – a more distant sound; if I turn to the North-East I can hear a more complex sound – a greater range of frequencies that includes vehicles slowing and braking as they exit the A34. There are sounds that are closer by too – trucks sit in the lane that leads to Milton Heights; the president of the club is painting white lines and at times we can hear this as the wheels of the line marker work against each other and the paint moves from wheel to wheel before it makes contact with the grass.
The fleeting and ephemeral presence of grassroots football matches on rural recreation grounds has become an obsession during the development of Get Rid! The recordings in this post were made in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell during the match between Didcot Eagles and Marcham Reserves in the North Berks League Division Five. Didcot Eagles featured in the previous post Presence and absence at Brightwell Recreation Ground alongside recordings of a match taking place and a match not taking place. In another post I considered the ephemeral nature of the soundscape within any given match – the tendency for the sounding presence of the match to arrive and depart like a series of waves with sound-making concentrated around crucial moments in the game.
These recordings were made as I walked towards and then arrived at the Rec. I have written elsewhere about the moment at which we first become aware of a sound – the boundary of encounter – in particular when spending time in the marshes around Aldeburgh recording sounds for a project the Swimmer developed with Roma Tearne:
Standing in the marshes, microphone in hand, headphones on I am thinking about the point at which we first meet a sound, where we first become aware of it – the boundary of encounter. As I walk towards the beach I become aware of the white noise of waves on shingle. How long have I been able to hear this? I retrace my steps. I can’t hear it now. I step forward; one step, two steps. There it is – faint but present.
Standing in the lane
The variable presence of the sounds of any football match mean that the boundary is constantly moving – striking out into the surrounding fields and lanes as a firm command is given and then shrinking away as the game stalls. I first became aware of Didcot Eagles v Marcham Reserves as I walked along the lane next to the Red Lion Pub and stopped to listen and make a recording:
On the path next to the allotments
I began to walk down the path next to the allotments and stopped to listen again as the on-pitch voices began to become more audible. I was the only person present at that time. As I stood still and listened there was a balance between the on-pitch sounds of the match and birdsong in the surrounding shrubs and trees:
Near the stream
As the path leaves the allotments behind there is a copse of recently planted trees and the path then leads to a bridge of split logs that crosses a small stream. I paused just before the stream and recorded again. This time the on-pitch communication was much clearer. I arrived at this point just as there was a pause in play – perhaps a lost ball or a contentious decision – there was a lot of talk directed at the referee. Whatever the case, the game was static, inactive. After a couple of minutes of this the game began to move again articulating the dimensions of the pitch beyond the stream and the screen of trees at the edge of the Rec. As the play moved from end to end and the on-pitch communication followed the ball I began to get a sense of the space the game was taking place in:
Sitting on the bench
I crossed the stream, walked out onto the Rec and sat down on one of the benches. On pitch communication was very vocal at this stage. In addition to this several families with young children were playing on the swings, slide and climbing frame.
get out, get out
all up chaps
that’s a foul
well done lino
shut him down
come on boys
What the fucking hell
It’s gotta be said
he weren’t offside
let’s talk yeah
talk to each other
come on son
you’re on, you’re on
how long have we got?
I want to go and have a beer
can you do ‘im
stay up, stay up
go wide man
time, time, time
come on then boys
eh, well done lads
boys, you need to fucking mark a man
man on, man on
you’re not going to do another one like that
and you had a shot
you cannot say nothing
he’d have blown up
what’s it for ref
how far are you going?
it wasn’t there
stick it go on
touch it, touch it
He weren’t even offside
behind him ref
all of us, yeah
back ‘I’m up
he didn’t touch me
don’t fucking lose it
how long ref?
middle, middle, middle…
Standing close to the pitch
As the match finished I walked East across the Rec and paused to make a final recording as the home team dismantled the goals and talked about the match. The children continued to play and spilt out onto the pitch as the presence of the game waned:
As mentioned in previous posts the parameters of Get Rid! are under development. As part of the process of investigation into the sounding cultures of grassroots football I have begun to visit each of the match day venues of the teams in all five divisions of the North Berks League – a total of fifty-one teams for the 2016-2017 season. This number does include multiple teams from the same club. Wallingford Town – for example – have three teams – First in Division One; Reserves in Division Three; and A in Division Five. As you would expect venues are shared or pitches are adjacent. In total it looks like there will be around thirty-four venues in use this season. My recording process at present involves visting each of these venues during a match and at a time when there isn’t a match. At this stage I am making relatively brief recordings so that I can begin to understand the soundscape. It is likely that I will make much longer recordings later in the process.
The two recordings here were made at the Hithercroft home of Wallingford Town AFC and were both made in the same location behind and slightly to the right of the goal at the South end of the stadium. The first recording was made during the second half of Wallingford Town AFC reserves v Watlington Town FC. For the duration of the recording Watlington exerted almost continuous pressure on the Wallingford goal which I was only metres away from. As the action moves toward or away from my position the voices of the players emerge from or are submerged by the sounds of the by-pass; the high frequency sounds of the wind in the grasses; and the air conditioning system of the industrial unit to my right. In this recording I began to get a sense of the resonant qualities of the stadium as the voices of players rebounded from the stand and low-level building on the West side of the pitch. There is a partial transcription of the on-pitch communication below.
head, head, head
are you fucked, i’m on the line, oh my…
space, space, space
ref, ref, ref
free ‘ead, free ‘ead, free ‘ead
round the back
let’s go, let’s keep walking up towards them
get out, get out, get out
centre half’s on
head, head, head, head, head
hold that, hold that, hold that
(partial transcription of on-pitch communication at Wallingford Town AFC reserves v Watlington Town)
I returned to the same spot later in the week and made a recording in the absence of football. I could hear a lot more detail in the sound of the surrounding network of roads with clear distinction between vehicles travelling quickly on the bypass and those moving more slowly on Hithercroft Road. There was sound from air-conditioning and occasional release of air pressure from the adjacent industrial units; more distinct birdsong and air traffic. The fence behind the goal is a complex construction and there is some twine in one place the end of which occasionally strikes one of the metal uprights.
You can find out more about the North Berks League here. Of particular interest is the geographic spread of the competing teams. Participants need to be within twenty miles of Steventon Green – a playing field at the centre of Steventon – a village around four miles West of Didcot. Given this geographical limitation it is likely that the main sound-making features of the region – in particular the A34 and its tributaries – will have a major impact on the soundscape in each of these locations. There may be common traits in the wildlife of the area too. For example I have seen Red Kites at four of the venues I have recorded at but haven’t yet heard their call.
As a committee member of a local youth football club I sometimes find myself assisting with clearing up the pavilion at the Bullcroft Playing Field in Wallingford – one of our venues. The pavilion is a timber-clad building which must have been constructed in the twenties or thirties. There is often talk about refurbishing it or replacing it but this is usually accompanied by discussion of the alleged status of the Bullcroft Playing Field as a scheduled monument as – at some stage in the C12th when Wallingford was a major centre – there was a priory here. There have been several archaeological explorations on the site but no conclusive evidence has been found to my knowledge but then I’ve never been to Wallingford Museum… What you can see on the site are Anglo-Saxon earthworks which are visible on the North and East perimeter and one of the pitches is just below these creating a natural North Bank for spectators.
When clearing out the pavilion we have been discarding the containers that the line-marking paint arrives in. This is a recording of me crushing the containers and putting them in black bags for disposal.
On my second visit to Fortescue Farm in February 2013 the flood waters had receded. I stood beside the seven-bar gate in Second Marsh and listened to the river. Here are some thoughts from my blog:
I made this recording on my second visit to Fortescue Farm standing next to the seven bar gate at the former site of a ford across the exe. The river was running within its banks but was still very fast flowing and swollen. Several times during the recording you can hear trains passing on the mainline between Exeter St. David’s and Taunton and in the distance you can hear the sound of an excavator somewhere near Stears Cottage to the North of Stoke Cannon. Recently I have begun thinking that rather than record at the field I should consider how to create a permanent audio stream to the site perhaps because I see my recording activities not as creating documents of a specific moment – although they do – but of making the soundscape of the location audible beyond our boundary of encounter with the site. I’m looking forward to returning to the seven bar gate in April to see how the soundscape has changed in that time.
While I was making this recording I walked West across the site taking photographs of the remains of driftwood scattered across ‘third marsh’ and material that had become lodged against wooden posts of the fence that separates ‘second marsh’ from ‘third marsh’.
Grassroots football is a game of variable intensity; of noise and silence; presence and absence; activity and inactivity. Substitutions are made; the ball takes a wild deflection and disappears into a garden followed by a player who climbs into the undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; there’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or looking at the ground. Then the game explodes with a high tackle; a controversial decision from the ref; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who instead ends up kicking the dugout. The action comes in waves. The sound builds then recedes.
The quality that football pitches have as sites of presence and absence – of sound heard and sound imagined – is discussed in a previous post and will be discussed further as Get Rid! develops. This post concentrates on the presence, absence and qualities of the sounding events during two particular matches.
To listen to this recent recording of the match at Wallingford’s Hithercroft stadium in which they took on Berinsfield – leaders of the North Berks League Division One – is to experience an ephemeral and fragile soundscape. The sounding presence of the match is at times indicated by intense verbal activity whilst at other times there is little evidence of it at all. At these times of absence the sound of game-time activity – rather than being projected beyond the physical bounds of the players and the playing area – becomes localised. The sounds are denied to the spectator as they dissipate between the source and the listener: the sound of studs making small depressions in the soft surface; the sleeves of shirts brushing against the body; players catching their breath. There were times during the match when there was a real intensity in the communication between players, coaches and match officials; and times when those sounds were absent or indistinct and instead the ear was drawn to the conversations of small groups of spectators; the sound of a toddler exploring the stands; the sound of fast-moving cars on the bypass; and of birdsong. This variance in intensity of game-time communication may – on this occasion – result from the stage of the match as the recording was made in the last twenty minutes with the result already decided; or it may be the particular nature of these squads – perhaps they are not big talkers; or perhaps this ebb and flow is part of the syntax of the game.
Game-time communication in the match between Dorchester and Hungerford Town FC Swifts – who were the most vocal of the two sides – from the North Berks League Division Two was consistently intense despite one of the sides being several goals clear when the recording was made. I made this recording from behind one of the goals and the goalkeeper was vocal in instructing his defenders and encouraging the team. The culture of the squad was clearly predicated on a lot of talking – there was a sense that every action required an instruction – free header – and an assessment – tell you what, another lucky one, tell you what, we’re shocking at defending corners. A player making a forward run; an adventurous goal attempt; defensive positioning when in possession and out of possession – all of these activities were commented on. Perhaps this emanates from the methods of the coach or the way that training is conducted. Whatever the case the game-time soundscape provides an alternative behaviour to that recorded at Wallingford; one in which there is an almost constant chatter of instructional and reactive commentary.
stand him up
get out boys
too deep, too deep
free ‘ead, free ‘ead, free ‘ead
stay high, stay high
eh, come on let’s keep working
get out, get out
walk it up
lino, lino, sub please
well done son
two touch two touch
Hey, settle, settle
watch the flick
put a challenge in there
just hold it
come on, gee it up, piss poor
free header, free header
left should, left shoulder
hey, we’ve all gone to sleep out here
stay high, stay high
hey shush come on let’s think about this now
hey boys let’s wake up come on
just do it
now we get up
all of us, come on, work
time, time, good lad
you going to kick the ball away every time it goes out are we
help ‘im, help ‘im
get it out
ref, we’re just going to swap linesmen
no free headers in there
no free header boys, no free header
attack the ball
winners boys, winners boys come on
stand up, stand up stand up
lob ‘im, lob ‘im
tell you what, another lucky one, tell you what, we’re shocking at defending corners
send it back and the second ball
man on, man on, man on
right shoulder, right shoulder
Can we keep the fucking ball?
we don’t want that
that’s alright, that’s alright son, head up
let’s attack this ball blues
ref, ref, ref
hey, why aren’t we talking about who we’re picking up? who are we picking up?
stay tight to your men, that’s good tight
and again, same again
get out, get out, get out
want it, get some chalk on your boots
good area, unlucky, that’s unlucky, good area
come on blues, let’s keep working
get that ball down
come on boys
that’s handball ref
let’s have a blue win this time
let’s compete in the air
free header, free header
stand him up, stand him up Jack
get out get out
that’s great ball
can you do him, go on son
hey come on
ref, ref, ref, come over here for me
don’t switch off
last ten, hundred percent, come on
come on ref
come on ref
give us the width out there
far too easy
walk it out, walk it out when we can
great ball, great ball
track him, track him
stay here, stay here
get rid, GET RID!
two touch, two touch
(partial transcription of on-pitch communication Dorchester v Hungerford Town FC Swifts 28.02.2017)
The fields that I have been exploring at Fortescue Farm are very exposed to the elements. There is a rise to the North that provides some protection for the field nearest the farmhouse – known as First Marsh – but the landscape is open to the East, South and West so the wind can sweep across the fields at a fearsome pace. This particular quality of the site provides a ready supply of aeolian sound as the wind activates gateposts; fence wire; tall grasses; the small copse of trees near the dry river-bed; and any other objects that might vibrate in the wind. Following serious flooding, which had damaged the fencing in the fields new gates and gateposts are installed. This is the blog post from a particularly windy visit:
On April 16th I visited the site with Emma Welton. As we walked away from the relative shelter of Fortescue Farm it became evident that strongly gusting wind was going to be a strong feature of the day. The wind cut across the site making the sound of the wind in my ears the most prevalent sound of day. This always seems amplified when wearing headphones as the wind is channelled through the gaps between the headband and the earpieces.There’s very little shelter on the site until you get to the copse of trees in rough marsh so this made recording very difficult even with a blimp. We heard all manner of aeolian phenomena during the day including the crackle of dry grasses; the tapping of tree branches as they are pushed around; the flutter of boundary tape; and the rush of white noise as the wind got amongst the grass in rough marsh. The most distinctive aeolian phenomena of the day was the sound made by the passage of the wind through small holes in the new gates that had been installed to replace those damaged in the flooding earlier in the year. We set up next to one of them and spent some time listening.
Later that day we worked with the violin in the centre of one of the fields and listened as the wind activated the strings.
Wallingford Town FC are one of the bigger clubs in the North Berks League. They play in Division One and have a home ground that looks like it could belong at a higher level. There is a vast difference between this and the ephemeral situation of Didcot Eagles who play at Brightwell Recreation Ground in Division Five. There are regularly fifty to sixty spectators at Wallingford’s home games. On the occasion that I made this recording I was sitting in one of the stands so the conversations and comments of spectators – rather then the players and coaches – dominate the listening experience.
The most distinctive aspects of the sounding culture of the event on this occasion were spectators clashing with both the referee and the linesman. The first of these exchanges took place between a spectator and the referee. When I say exchange that might be inaccurate as it was – as far as I could tell – entirely one-sided. The spectator was trying to attract the attention of the referee regarding a decision but to my knowledge the referee didn’t respond which led to a series of rhetorical questions from the spectator – was he not through on goal? The spectator walked up and down at the front of the stand getting more and more frustrated as the referee chose to continue refereeing rather than halting play and coming across to discuss the spectator’s opinions. Referees at this level strike a lone figure. The assistant referees are supplied by the competing clubs and there is no other back-up so making controversial decisions or decisions that are unpopular with the most vocal team is a hazardous occupation.
(that’s a penalty)
(definitely inside the box)
(it’s inside the box)
(that’s a red card)
(he’s through on goal)
(he’s through on goal)
(he hasn’t even spoke to him has he)
(was he not through on goal there ref?)
(was he not through on goal?)
(was that player not through on goal?)
(was he not through on goal ref?)
(you didn’t even speak to him man)
(through on goal ref)
(through on goal)
The second interaction between spectators and match officials was between the assistant referee on our side of the pitch and another spectator who accused him of cheating. The Assistant Referee’s response was to challenge the spectator to a post-game discussion of the offside law – you explain the offside law to me after the game. Whether or not this discussion ever took place I couldn’t say.
how can he be offside from there?
I thought you’d give offside for that wouldn’t yah
cheating little cunt
that’s what i thought
cheater you are
you’re a cheater mate
(explain to me the offside law)
(explain the offside law)
(what do you know about it)
(what do know about it)
(you know nothing)
(you’re good sitting there)
(you come and do it out here)
(you know nothing)
we’ll see you next week
we’ll see you next week
(you explain the offside law to me after the game)
(in word for word)
Amidst the antagonism between spectators and match officials the verbal culture of the players and coaches communication – while playing a major part in the sounding experience – was indistinct at times. Lots of background noise – a real cacophony – but less clarity. These are the on-pitch comments that I could accurately transcribe:
These two recordings made with hydrophones (Aquarian Audio) provide different perspectives on the River Exe in flood. The first is one of the first recordings that I made as part of somewhere a field in January 2013 whilst the second was made in May 2014. During many of my winter visits to the field in the first two years of the study the River Exe was either lapping at the top of its banks or was spreading out across the fields.
The first recording was made by hydrophones cast into the flow of the river. This is what I wrote in my blog:
This is a recording i made on my first visit to Fortescue Farm. The River Exe was in flood and had swept away parts of the river bank and there was driftwood scattered across the fields. Riverside fencing had been washed away by debris and it was hard to tell where the river ended and the fields began. I used two hydrophones to make this recording. One of them i cast as far out into the River as i could whilst the other was closer to the bank. The river was moving very quickly and in the recording its possible to hear the clatter of small stones as they are swept along past the hydrophone.
The second recording – as noted above – was made in May 2014. I arrived in the field just as the River was breaking its banks and stretching out across the fields. As I left the River was lapping at the top of my boots:
…the River Exe was just beginning to break its banks. As I arrived the water was seeping into First Marsh. By the time I left several hours later their was a foot of water across the field flowing swiftly towards the River on the other side of the fields and short circuiting the passage of the Exe – making small islands across the landscape. As the River rose I placed a hydrophone in the soil and listened. As soon as the banks were breached the water sped down the slope and eventually created a channel across the site linking up with the Exe again as it headed North West towards Brampford Speke.
Sound Diaries explores what it means to record life in sound. Exploring the cultural and communal significance of sounds, Sound Diaries forms a research basis for projects executed both locally and Internationally, in Brussels, Tallinn, rural Estonia and Cumbria; within local institutions in Oxford; and within cultural organisations like Sound and Music, BBC Radio and Boring 2011.
Sound Diaries was established by Felicity Ford and Paul Whitty in 2008.