Unlocking Our Sound and the Big Friendly Group

The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage staff spent three Wednesday mornings this Spring in the company of The Big Friendly Group and community/glass artist Kerrie Hanna. 

The room was buzzing with vibrancy, laughter and thought. Just at the half way point, the project had to be put on pause. While we wait to get started again, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the amazing work undertaken so far.
The Big Friendly Group came to us through the Community Outreach team at NMNI. The group had previously taken part in a 6 week Live Well project, where they thought about health and wellbeing through art and craft. They since enjoyed follow up visits to the museum and other activities. We were thrilled to be introduced to them at UOSH, and to engage them in another 6 week art project.  They really are incredibly friendly and big in personality.

The aim of the six week engagement project is to explore the sound collections which UOSH are digitising; to discover new ways of using the recordings in art practice; and to increase awareness of the Sound Archive housed at National Museums Northern Ireland.


The UOSH team received an excellent proposal from Kerrie Hanna, an artist with a wealth of community experience and great expertise and skills in her field. Kerrie’s proposal involved working with the group to produce individual pieces of glass art inspired by the collections, their memories, the local area, and the seasons.

Kerrie was engaged in the project because of her flexible approach to working with sound. She thought hard about how to integrate recordings into her workshop and to guide the participants in engaging with the sound recordings in creative and dynamic ways.
In the workshops, Kerrie gave a lot of space to the sound recordings, asking open questions, and providing creative tasks in which to respond to the sounds.

Kerrie and Alice (UOSH Learning Officer) selected sound clips that relating to Newtownards, which is the town where the workshops were taking place and home to many of the group.
The recordings included oral history with a woman who worked in a textiles factory which is now a department store in the town; a recording of a male motorcycle enthusiast who used to take Sunday trips to an ice-cream shop near the town with a group of bikers; as well as poetry, oral history about working as a female doctor and as a mill worker in the 1920s, and song.

Through listening to the UOSH recordings, the group were able to have open discussions about work, life, health, class, history, the past, relationships and romance, and childhood. The recordings prompted them to be open in their conversations and creative in their approach to drawing, visual art and creativity. The drawing was to be the starting point for the creation of their glass pieces.

Due to the current pandemic, the project has unfortunately been paused. We really look forward to picking up the second half of the project with the participants in the coming months. We can’t wait to explore more sound recordings with them and to see their finished glass pieces, guided by the vivacious Kerrie.