Listening to Voices: Creative Disruptions with the Hearing Voices Network


Principal Investigator: Dr Gail McConnell, Queen's University Belfast
Co-investigators: Dr Jo Scott, University of the West of Scotland; Dr Deborah Maxwell, University of Edinburgh
Collaborators: Time and Space, Glasgow; Hearing Voices Ireland; Belfast Hearing Voices Network; Dundee Hearing Voices Network
Duration: From 2015 to 2016

In the field of mental health research, voice-hearers feel the effects of academic language-use in their everyday lives through the hierarchical language of ‘others’ (e.g. ‘researcher’ and ‘researched’) and stigmatising labels. This project seeks to learn how to listen to ‘others’ and to counter oppressive structures of language-use by building a network of expertise in listening. It brings together voice-hearing networks, independent artists and academics to develop a suite of resources for creative listening practices.

‘Listening to Voices’ asks ‘what would it be like to learn to listen together/ differently?’ How might creative listening practices enable individuals and communities to become more attuned to the voices of ‘others’ previously marginalized, repressed or ignored? It focuses on listening as the site of meaningful exchange and collaboration between the academy and those outside it, recognising that voice hearing networks in Scotland and Ireland are experts-by-experience in developing innovative and carefully thought out listening practices in relation to multiple and complex voices. Similarly, the early career researchers facilitating the research are also experts in listening practices and notions of ‘voice’ in poetic, musical and narrative texts.

In May 2015 members of Time and Space HVN group joined HVN representatives, the project researchers, sound artist Pedro Rebelo (Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast) and designer Sara Nevay at a co-designed weekend retreat to reflect on, share and broaden their experiences of listening and being listened to. The retreat will result in the co-production of a best practice guide to listening and a public sound art project.

The aim of this exchange is to disrupt hierarchies of knowledge and power, where ‘expert’ academics conduct research on ‘subject’ communities and then create texts that reproduce aspects of this power structure. All co-created texts that result from this project will be subjected to the disruptive effect of ‘other’ voices, and creative means used to display the results of those disruptions within the text itself. The Latin for ‘text’ is ’tissue’ or ‘woven’ thing. The listening guide will make visible the layers of meaning that represent the struggle for authority in the tissue of a collaboratively produced text, woven from the voices of voice-hearers, academics and artists. By making visible and audible the creative disruptions (in, for example, ‘overwriting’, erasure or annotations), these texts will foreground what is challenging and meaningful about the collaborative process and the politics of authority written over and into the fabric of the ‘finished’ text.