Maindee Library: A Quiet Place?

A few weeks ago, Maindee Unlimited invited applications for a Sound Artist, or Artists, to produce a new art installation for the newly refurbished Maindee Library building, with the commissioned work to be situated and made in response to aspects of the social and cultural ecology of Maindee.

Beyond this remit, the brief was open, and our plans for the outcome equally so.

This blog post will detail the choices and decisions we made to appoint a Sound Artist. 


Why sound?

Despite the usual quiet associated with libraries, a sound installation made the most sense, and the Finding Maindee project has been perforated with the music of Maindee from the get go.

Artists have been commissioned for making and performing music, for singing, drumming, whooping and hollering (in celebration and applause). Rohan Bishop presented Sounds Alive, Rob Smith, received funding for the Sounds of Maindee and with Stuart Farnsworth’s Nonsensus, the voices of residents have been recorded, transcribed and retold… and recorded again.


What is Sound Art?

Sound Art can be defined as,

“Art which uses sound both as its medium (what it is made out of) and as its subject (what it is about).”



Find out more about Tate, the name associated with a family of art galleries that host the United Kingdom’s national collection of British art, alongside international modern and contemporary art, and their definition of sound art and other art terms. 


Stories and story telling

Our libraries are evolving; they are living, breathing organisms that reflect the culture of the community that use them, and Maindee’s inhabitants, like the lending library, are rich with stories that, whether fact or fiction, are ripe for telling.

Maindee is seldom a quiet place, and there are no rules to say that the library must be a quiet place, all the time! Besides, wall and floor space is at a premium, and a permanent, piece of public art in the form of a painting or sculpture didn’t seem the best fit. It certainly wouldn’t have fit with our desire for a flexible, moveable, versatile space.


The Selection Process

We used the expertise and networking capabilities of Sarah Pace at Addo like we had earlier in the year when we appointed a Creative Practitioner to develop the fabric of the Maindee library building.

The deadline for submissions passed on 25th July 2018 and we received 29 applications from a variety of sound artists.



A shortlisting session took place on the 30th July, a week before the interviews were due to take place. The panel included library volunteer, Maggie [also a trustee of Maindee Unlimited]; Sarah, from Addo; and Jo, a member of Finding Maindee staff.

This wasn’t by any means an easy process. With each artist came a new potential for the project. Which artistic direction should we go in? We didn’t ask for a definitive pitch or direction, so our decision was based on the artists past and present history written on paper. A further dilemma: Was the brief too open? And how would we justify the artists we had chosen from the breadth of knowledge, skill and experience we were presented with?

Through a diligent shortlisting process, Sarah helped us to assess the advantages and disadvantages, practicalities and feasibilities of every artist, until we had focused in on 6 artists for interview.


Final interviews

The interviews took place at Maindee Library on 7th August 2018, with the same interview panel: Maggie, Sarah and Jo.

Each candidate had been asked to give a 20 minute presentation, before the panel asked a series of 6 questions to help ascertain how they would consider the social and culture context of Maindee in their work, how they would collaborate and managing risk, amongst other things, and the artists had an opportunity to ask the panel questions also.

The interview process was extremely competitive and we had a difficult choice on our hands. Our final decision: to appoint musician and composer, and BAFTA award winner, John Rea

While the project is still in its infancy, we are hoping John will be able to help us sculpt the cacophony of sound (of Maindee) into a symphony.


What happens next?

John has quite a tight schedule. He will undertake a period of research and development, between now and the beginning of September (Phase 1), before moving onto a process of implementation and installation, which will culminate in the production and installation of atwork by the end of November.

We are very pleased with this appointment. We thank Sarah Pace at Addo for doing a fine job and for the support of Cerys and Henry at Arts Council of Wales for their support.


We look forward to keeping you updated on the process and developments.


Related Links

More about Addo  

More about John Rea 

More about Tate  

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