Manchester International Festival: Audio Obscura

Have you ever overheard a snippet of a conversation while rushing for a train and wondered what they were talking about?

Artist Lavinia Greenlaw was drawn into the life of the railway station whilst having a cup of coffee at Manchester Piccadilly.

She has written characters from snatches of the conversations she has overheard.

The resut is Audio Obscura - an audio installation which offers a glimpse into the lives of imaginary people passing through the station.

"All the stories are developed out of me thinking about when people are going on journeys and what might be going on in their lives, their private lives that are hidden," she said.

For the duration of the festival, some of those wearing headphones at the station could be walking in the world created by the artist.

"I was really interested in the idea of things we overhear... especially these days when they are on the phone and very few people stop and think about what people might be listening to," Ms Greenlaw added.

Random connections

The installation is attracting members of the public, commuters and art enthusiasts to take part in the experience.

"We get hold of a little fragment of someone's story and we find ourselves inventing the rest. So I wanted to explore that."

Ms Greenlaw is a poet, novelist and an author of radio drama.

Image caption In Audio Obscura, listeners enter a hidden world of the private lives of strangers

She worked closely with sound designer Tim Barker and composer Harry Escott to ensure the experience is a mixture of sound, music, text and voices all brought together.

But Ms Greenlaw admits they had no idea "what shape it was going to take" when they started.

"We knew what we wanted to explore but we didn't know how we would deliver it, that it would be on headphones wandering in the station," she explained.

The festival is developing its reputation as a showcase for original, innovative art.

But for Ms Greenlaw, it was the city itself that attracted her.

"The city is so full of life - it's a local, national and international city and there are people coming through for work, for pleasure, people who are here every day and people that have never been here before."

"So it's a really interesting concentration of life that you have got here in the station.

"What's been the most exciting thing for me is that everyone has found that, at some moment, what happens in the crowd which is completely random connects directly with the voice they're hearing in their head."

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