Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #13 : The Green, Steventon

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

The Green, Steventon

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #07 : East Hagbourne Recreation Ground

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

East Hagbourne Recreation Ground

Football not happening at the Lockway

During the lockdown, on Saturday afternoons between 15.00 and 16.45, I have been revisiting the parish recreation grounds, village greens and playing fields where I have listened both to the sound of football happening and football not happening.

Drayton and the A34

The image above is taken from the English Noise map Viewer that can be found here.

The Dugouts at the Lockway, home of Drayton FC, are situated around 150 metres east of the A34. The phasing, pulsing, grinding white-noise of tyres on asphalt; the resonating tarmac gong activated north to south – south to north; and the shuddering rattle of articulated trailers sweep down the embankment and engulf the pitch and surrounding village. All other sound is submerged. I wrote about this as part of Get Rid! in an earlier blog 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.

I returned to the Lockway on April 25th to listen to sound under the lockdown. I was expecting a big difference in the level of sound from the A34 but what I didn’t expect was the emotional impact of that difference. The soundscape was clear, sounds were discrete, they articulated the space. I could hear a family laughing and playing football; blackbirds singing on garden fences; the voices of children playing in back gardens; the squeak of rusty swings; the detailed tremolo of a lawnmower – or perhaps a strimmer – with a small petrol engine spluttering into action. I could also hear the A34, but distant, part of the soundscape, a band of white noise that ebbed and flowed, an occasional wave rising above the chatter of children and hedgerow birds but soon falling back. This was a place transformed, a place of casual conversation and play rather than a place of violently shuddering tarmac; of the wheels of trucks digging deep into the asphalt and finding a sheer resonance there.

The Lockway 25042020

I have been recording sound from an upstairs window in my house every day as part of On The Covid 19 Shoreline and have written about the ambivalence of our current soundscape and the changes ahead:

Leaning out of an upstairs window I can hear the sound of hedgerow birds, chickens running in one of the nearby gardens; a football bouncing on a paving slab and then being kicked into the shrubbery; a lone car heading West on the A4130 sounding the asphalt; a Red Kite circling overhead. I lean out further, listening into the distance, into the future, waiting for the tide of mechanised sound to return, for the drone of tyres on asphalt, not the phasing passage of a single car, but the sweeping tide of traffic sound flooding across fields, down lanes, through dense woodland. Perhaps it is still here, cars pass in groups, the air vibrates, the X2 pauses at the bus stop. Covid 19 has transformed our sounding environment, but how much is that transformation felt in any one place, in a place on the periphery of the situation? Can I hear it from my window? Is it evident in my everyday? And when will the tide of sound turn? and when it does turn how will we feel about it? As the air begins to vibrate with the phasing of distant jets will we want to step back or will we embrace the return to the normative sounding of the world? The soundscape is ambivalent. It represents the reduction of pollutants in the atmosphere but also signals the absence of loved ones. The temporary absence of friends but also the permanent absence of those who have lost their lives. This is a soundscape of hope and a soundscape of loss. It is a soundscape of a brighter future, one where listening to the world is part of the decision-making process we undertake when we chose to travel or not to travel; but it is also a soundscape of a brighter past, a past where now lost loved ones were still with us, where we could hear the sounds of their voices vibrating in the air and not just in memory.

In Drayton this is about what happens next and how that changes the way we feel about our sounding environment. It is about what happens when the liquid roar of the A34 submerges every sounding thing in its path. It is about what we do with the memories of clearer skies vibrating with the sounds of laughter, rusty swings, garden fence chatter, and the sounds of football, heard, really heard, from the grass-tearing sliding tackle to the tap of goalkeepers boot on goalpost, to the cries of man on, they don’t want it… The wing-flap of wood pigeon and pheasant will no longer resound from treetop, vibrating across the fields, and reflect from the embankment, it will be stopped in its tracks, a sound observed not heard…

The Lockway, Drayton

Football not happening at Brightwell Recreation Ground

Goalposts lean against the pavilion at Brightwell Recreation Ground

During the lockdown, on Saturday afternoons between 15.00 and 16.45, I have been revisiting the parish recreation grounds, village greens and playing fields where I have listened both to the sound of football happening and football not happening.

On November 5th 2016 I came across a North Berks League Division Five match taking place between Didcot Eagles and Steventon Reserves. I was on my way to the Hithercroft in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, but had taken a short cut across Brightwell Recreation Ground. A football match on a parish recreation ground is an ephemeral event, ninety minutes of sound on the occasional Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. This was Didcot Eagles first home match since October 1st and they didn’t play at home again until November 26th so the chances of coming across the match in that ninety minute window were slim. The sounding culture of rural grassroots football seeps out into the surrounding countryside, across fields, down lanes, through woodland and past graveyards. The chance encounter is the beauty of the situation as the calls of Jackdaws and Rooks transform into shouts of man on, stand him up, press. One of the first recordings I made for Get Rid! came as the result of stumbling across a match at Bodkins Playing Field in Long Wittenham:

This recording was made during the North Berks League Division Four match between Long Wittenham Athletic Reserves and Berinsfield Reserves. I was driving through Long Wittenham and noticed the match taking place. I didn’t have my sound recorder to hand so had to make do with my phone so there isn’t as much depth in the recording as I would have liked. Just before I arrived Berinsfield had scored and Long Wittenham were under pressure while I was making this recording.

17012017

Of course there were successes and failures, chance encounters with matches and planned visits that delivered me to Village greens where nothing was happening. After a failed attempt to listen to Didcot Eagles later in the Autumn I wrote about the absence of football, about football not happening:

…Having established that the rec was the home of Didcot Eagles I looked up future fixtures and so later in December I took the short walk to the Rec to see the last few minutes of Didcot Eagles v Grove Rangers. As I walked down Mackney Lane I was expecting to begin to encounter the sound of the game as it bled into the surrounding countryside and travelled across the woodland towards me – but instead I only sensed absence. As I turned into the recreation ground the reason for this became clear – there was no match. The Recreation Ground was empty except for some children fighting with sticks and a few dog walkers. I walked over to the pitch looking for evidence of recent action. The white lines looked recently painted and the goalmouths were muddy but whether or not the match had taken place at an earlier time that day I couldn’t be sure. The goalposts were neatly stacked against the pavilion and there was no sign of the nets. I leant against a railing and recorded the situation and imagined the sound of the ball being struck; of players shouting instructions and their voices bouncing off the flat surfaces of the pavilion and back onto the pitch; of the referee’s whistle; and the frustrated exclamations of the coach. In the absence of these sounds the ear was drawn to the wider soundscape – distant tyres on the asphalt of the bypass; the air vibrating with the movement of the rotary blades of helicopters from RAF Benson; the conversations of dog walkers; and the chatter of children in the play park.

This is the recording that I made:

football not happening at Brightwell Recreation Ground

I pursued my interest in the everyday soundings of Village Greens, Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds, in the absence of football, and made multiple recordings, recordings of football not happening:

04032017

And as the deep quiet of the lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic spread I began to think about these recordings and started to revisit the sites where I made them to record the new absence, the everyday soundings of Village Greens, Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds in the pandemic. The drone of tyres on asphalt, the regular phasing of passenger jets, helicopters forcing the air to vibrate – these sounds are now rare, discrete, they arrive and depart, they are moments in a wilder and more diverse soundscape:

11042020

#10 Mass Air Electric Compressor Inflator 230V


(Mass Air Electric Compressor Inflator 230v at the Hithercroft)

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Visit the Get Rid! archive on RADAR here, take a look at the blog, or get a copy of the book and cassette.

#6 Big Head!


(Hillard Park, Ambleside)

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Visit the Get Rid! archive on RADAR here, take a look at the blog, or get a copy of the book and cassette.

#5 Standing on the lane in Long Wittenham


(Long Wittenham)

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Visit the Get Rid! archive on RADAR here, take a look at the blog, or get a copy of the book and cassette.

#1 Goalkeeper scores!


(Checkendon Playing Fields)

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Visit the Get Rid! archive on RADAR here, take a look at the blog, or get a copy of the book and cassette.

Get Rid! Advent Calendar 2018

(snow covers the pitch at Bodkins Playing Field, Long Wittenham)

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Travel! [#8] Oving Villages Cup Final and the sounding archaeology of goalkeeper’s studs on goalposts

In the first six Travel! posts I explored the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. You can find out more here. During 2017-2018 I have returned to some of the pitches to experience the sounding presence of football happening.

The Oving & District Villages’ Cup Competition affiliated to the Berk & Bucks FA was founded in 1889 and since 1892 the final of the competition has taken place at Oving Recreation Ground. I visited the Recreation Ground in July last year and listened to the sound of football not happening. You can find out more about that here.

It had always been my intention to return to the grounds that I had visited on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow and experience football taking place but somehow the season almost seems to be at an end and the fixtures are running out. I was casting about for potential fixtures to attend when by chance I came across the Oving Villages Cup Final between Long Crendon – who were also involved in the first final in 1890 – and Great Horworth. I arrived just before half-time and so missed the only goal of the game – Great Horworth held on to that slender lead until the final whistle.

The matchday programme included this information about the origins of the cup from the 1928 programme:

The Oving Villages Cup was formed by subsrcibers of the villages within a 12 miles of Oving in the year 1889, Mr James Evans of Oving being the Chief Organiser and acting Hon. Secretary. The first president was the late Rev. I Hill, the Rector of Oving.

The 2018 programme goes on:

The worthy Rector was obviously a football fan, for research by Hal mason of Sudbury Suffolk reveals that he appeared for the Pilgrims when they lost 3-1 to Foresters in the FA Cup of 1881.

The founder members of the competition were Waddesdon, Quainton, Long Crendon, Granborough, Oving and North Marston. The first two finals were held in Waddesdon but all subsequent finals have been held at Oving Recreation Ground.

Knowing that the cup final had been played on this site since 1892 set me thinking about how the sounding environment of the match would have changed over that period. A wind was whipping the black refuse bags attached to the boundary rope into feverish and sporadic sound-making – like aeolian devices – catching the wind and then collapsing inert as the breeze passed. Perhaps this is a sound unique to this year – lightweight recyclable black bags as opposed to their sturdier more heavily plasticised counterparts. What about the trees around the ground. How much has that changed in the one hundred and sixteen years since that match? The sounding environment would be completely different if the tree line had changed significantly. As the Great Horwood keeper banged his studs against his post just before a corner I began to consider the sounding history of that activity. When did this originate? If goalkeepers were doing this in 1892 what did leather studs on wooden goalposts sound like? I also started to think about the way that the formations would have changed the soundscape. 2-3-5 was the standard formation in the late nineteenth century. This would have changed the way that the sound-making activities of the footballers articulated the playing area – and what about on-pitch communication? left shoulder! Stick it in the mixer! Time!

(looking North towards the village hall)

man on
make your fucking mind up
I fucking have
I’m talking to him the whole time
yes
press him mate
time – time – time
hey – hey
come on Crendon keep going boys
come on
big win
hey heads
come out
get out
yeah that’s it options
heads on the way
turn him
turn him son
man on
two here – two here
drive – drive
go – go
head down

when the final man comes in

come on Crendon this is good
come on
move around
come on
options
time
that’s yours – that’s yours
one more
well done
superb
well done mate
oi!
well done
ref – ref
stay on
go line – go line
head it back in
play on red – play on red – play on red – play on red – play on red
come on come on
fucking edge
turn
i’ve gotta go
gotta go
coming in
seconds
one more
time
that’s it
come on boys, it’s coming
keep pushing it boys
you alright boy?
got spare here
ref

brainless that is

hey let’s get in then
be aware – be aware
back again
ref

whoever shouts gets the free-kick

get on with it
go on
come on – come on
get up – get up
that’s it
well done – well done
give it

 

(looking south-east from behind Great Horworth’s goal – black bag crackling in the breeze)

(looking south-west from the halfway line – black bag tied to the boundary rope fills with air)