Richard White

explorations in place and time

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Sweet Waters: Soundings

Sweet Waters: Soundings from the walks

Saturday 21 October from 13.00-16.00

Saltford Brass Mill
The Shallows
BS31 3EY

an installation in sound and images

Responses and resonances sense-ing legacies of slave-ownership in Bath and along the River Avon….visit the Mill discover sounds and images gathered from the Sweet Waters walks and related research along side the existing information and orientation

Sweet Waters graphic final

Working with field recordings, background research and other materials this begins a reporting phase from the Sweet Waters project.  The Mill is a relic of an industry producing brass goods that were loaded on ships from Bristol and traded for enslaved people. The water wheel still turns and the installations will respond to the watery sonic environment, repatriating sounds of the manufacture of goods destined for the West Coast of Africa.

Sweet Waters is a wayfaring through interconnected cycles of Water and Trade exploring legacies and revealing resonances:

Water: from rain to river to sea to sky and back, power and transport, plantation irrigation and country park decoration. The river washed away the sweat of the brass workers, returning slave ships were scrubbed down into it, while the tears of those who lost loved ones to the slavers flowed to the sea in the rivers of West Africa. In the water: blood, vomit, excretia, the dissolved and digested flesh of those who resisted, sea-sick, home-sick, tears of grief, tears of despair, blood of punishment and cold sweat of survival. In the vast Atlantic Ocean there are generations of lives thrown overboard as damaged goods, food for fish and cowries. Heritage, memories, stories, languages.

Trade: the Triangular Trade: products made and transported on the River Avon shipped to West Africa and sold for enslaved people, those who survived the crossing were sold again to work in field and factory, the materials they produced and the wealth generated returned up the River Avon. Sugar. Tobacco. Timber. Wealth fuelling industrial development and embodied in country houses and the fine buildings Bristol and Bath.
So when it rains in Bath or Bristol or when the river swells with the tide and as the water turns the Saltford millwheel we remember and sense legacies of slave-ownership. We are mindful of our heritage. We are connected. Sweet Waters.



Legacies I am reflecting on

Global warming begins at the hearth of the slave-owning nations, hurricanes today drawing up the warmed Atlantic waters.

Colonial assertions of white skinned dominance feeds deep and long-lasting racism and the trauma of enslavement continues to fills prisons and mental hospitals.

Weapons from England sold in West Africa escalate violence and dislocation.

Cultures of addiction, sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee chocolate on which slave-owners fortunes are made.

Slave-owner wealth embodied in grand houses, parklands and cityscapes.

Enslaved people who survived carried beliefs, skills, stories and sound memories into the cultures they fashioned.

Echoes of resistance and survival in the popular music of today.


Richard White 2017


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Autumn Sound Walk

Portesham Sound Walk

honestyseeds4 copy

Up the hill out of Portesham

Rural icons,

church bells, ducks on the pond,

babbling brook already overflowing

With sounds

Is this the way to the Hell Stone?

remains of a lane

old apple tree dropping

small yellow fruit

crunching under my step

water tank rings to my kick

a gate sings in the wind


Looking out over grey windy seas silver

Dive sites

Brittle stars

Swyre Ledges

Hardy’s monument looms out of the mist

A lost factory chimney.

keystone1768 copy

Roofless farmhouse former film set

The year 1768 cut in the front door keystone:

galvinise screeches in the wind

old dry stones scrabble, clatter, collapse. Dry.

slow relentless decay

slow relentless advance

a sapling grows through ancient iron wheels


and in rusting steel tubes

a tattoo slaps and beats

A huge fiberglass tank becomes

for a moment





Circular walk from Portesham to Hardys Monument and back October 2013

South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership, Dorset AONB, HLF funded project supported by WDDC
Download the sound walk autumn 2013 four track mix from DIVAcontemporary Radio