Halfway to Heaven (2017)
2nd September – 5th November 2017, Folkestone Triennial
Halfway to Heaven is an interactive sound installation in The Baptist burial ground on Bradstone Road, Folkestone. The Baptist burial started in the 1750s, in the garden of a miller. Until 1855, Baptists were buried there, as their ‘radical’ beliefs resulted in discrimination that prevented burial in Anglican ground. Following law reform in the 1850s, the burial ground was no longer required. When the railway arrived in the late 1800s, the slopes of the Pent Valley were cut away to be developed as terraced housing and the burial ground was left stranded as an ‘island’, floating 55 feet in the air. Since, as Folkestone has evolved and time has passed, the burial ground has become overgrown and forgotten by the town. Emily Peasgood’s interactive sound installation Halfway to Heaven explores this curious situation, with the deceased in their graves, elevated high above our heads, in a forgotten graveyard. Each audio channel is linked to a specific gravestone and contain musical narratives and references to the history of the burial ground and the people buried there, as an act of remembrance. Halfway to Heaven is ‘created’ by visitors working together to activate it, bringing the burial ground into existence once again.
Materials: For SSATB multichannel, synchronised and interactive sound installation, coded with C and created with: custom-built computer, ultrasonic sensors, and marine speakers in custom-made memorial urn housing.
Commissioned by: The Creative Foundation for Folkestone Triennial 2017, curated by Lewis Biggs.
Team: Lead artist & composer: Emily Peasgood. Lyrics by Emily Peasgood, Daniel Wright-Hadley, Eleanor Rudd & Kate Harwood. Producer: Emma Wilcox. Memorial urn fabrication: Darius Smith. Sound installation and synchronisation: Rhys Beetham of AP Interactive. Recording engineer: Ian Button. Sound editing: Matthew Smyth. Singers: Emily Peasgood, Catherine Futcher, Juliet Schiemann, Rhonda Merrick, Peter Futcher and Michael Burke. Film: Clare Unsworth and Daniel Battersby of Foxbite Media. Photography: Thierry Bal. Researched with the assistance of Robert Hughes (living relative of the interred).
Awards: 2018 Ivor Novello Composers Award Winner for Sonic Art (prev. British Composer Awards).
PhD: Halfway to Heaven is included in my PhD ‘Creating Accessible, Inclusive and Engaging Musical Works Through Experimental Processes in the Community‘.
Visitor Interactions Documentary
Trailer (Recording the work)
Site Sound Test (Pre install)
The work comprises 5 mono audio files to be installed in each of 5 memorial urns in the burial ground. A stereo recording is provided below.
The musical score will be available to view online in July 2020.
Visitors were provided with optional lyrics, and a limited edition lyric book was created for sale at the Creative Foundation Folkestone Triennial shop. Click on the tool bar at the bottom of the PDF viewer below to navigate and view each page.
Folkestone Artworks with Jean Wainwright
Exhibitions & Performances
2nd September – 5th November 2017: Folkestone Triennial, Bradstone Road Burial Ground, Folkestone, Kent.
22 October 2017: Live performances at St Mary and St Eanswythe Church, Folkestone and Folkestone Baptist Church, Folkestone, Kent.
4 December 2017: Live performance for Folkestone Living Advent Calendar, Creative Foundation, Folkestone, Kent.
12 January-23 February 2019: Video installation of ‘Visitor Interactions’ documentary at Emily Peasgood: LIVING SOUND exhibition, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, Kent.
“Ascending a flight of steep steps, you find yourself in a tiny graveyard 20ft above the road at what used, 150 years ago, to be street level. Speakers disguised as urns sit in front of five of the graves —the piece, a beautiful five channel choral work, relates to the individual gravestones— and are activated by a visitor’s presence. You can collaborate if someone else is there, or dash around like a loon to get them all going together. Either way the experience, once they’re all singing away, is magical” – The Times (1.9.17) Full article.
“There are 19 new commissions in all, and one of the most memorable is Emily Peasgood’s Halfway to Heaven. It’s a lovely piece, more so since it feels like you’ve entered a secret garden” – A-N (1.9.17) Full article.
“To experience this most evocative of sound pieces involves climbing a vertiginous 19th century staircase […] Now, speakers disguised as urns have been discreetly installed in front of five of the graves and are triggered by visitors to unleash a haunting, five-channel choral work which relates to the inscriptions on the gravestones and the occupants they describe […] It is a magical work which brings a neglected fragment of the town’s history and its forgotten inhabitants back into the here and now” – The Telegraph (8.9.17) Full article.
“In collaboration with the Folkestone Baptist community, Emily Peasgood got the cemetery unlocked and cleaned up. She then researched some of the people buried there, creating a narrative audio installation around the grave plots to commemorate the long-unattended dead. This work is one of the most popular within the triennial, daily drawing in locals by the dozens who had wondered who may be laid to rest atop the building and the secret past of their own community” – The Observer (23.10.17) Full article.
“In its best moments the Triennial draws on these sharp edges of division and potential unification. Artist Emily Peasgood’s standout piece ‘Halfway to Heaven’, is one such work. Bringing this lost community of the dead into the present is a poignant reminder of the shame of religious segregation” – Wall Street International, (5.10.17) Full article.
A-N: Q & A with Emily Peasgood by Jillian Knipe (3.10.17) Full article.
Canterbury Christ Church University: Emily Peasgood Folkestone Triennial 2017 by Sophie Stone (6.11.17) Full article.
Eye Magazine: Sea Levellers by John L. Walters (18.9.17) Full article.
Frieze: Folkestone Triennial 2017 by Sarah James (20.9.17) Full article.
The Cusp Magazine: Halfway to Heaven Review by Jan-Peter Westad (12.9.17) Full article.
Third Text: Joining the Dots by Philomena Epps, no date. Full article.
This is tomorrow: Folkestone Triennial by Jillian Knipe (2.10.17) Full article.
Writer in the Garden: Halfway to Heaven in Folkestone by Sarah Salway (13.9.17) Full article.