ame research and development residency 01 with Jo Kennedy : River Colne Residency (June Update)
River Colne Residency update by Jo Kennedy, June 2020
ame has invited three musicians / sound artists to take up research and development residencies during the lock-down. The first to introduce here is Jo Kennedy who lives in Todmorden. Her works often incorporate experimental sounds and explicitly engage with ecological issues. She’s interested in how sound, and sound art, can connect people with the natural world. Here with ame, she will be spending the next months through the pandemic period to this autumn, researching the River Colne (which runs through Huddersfield) and people’s relationship with it.
|In 2017 Maori tribes living alongside the Whangunui river in New Zealand successfully fought for it to be given the same rights in law as a human being.
They considered the river to be a living being, and intrinsic to their being: “the great river flows from the mountains to the sea. I am the river, the river is me”. They had witnessed decades of damage, and by enshrining its rights in law, hoped to save the river from further pollution and over-exploitation. 
To us in the UK, it is inconceivable to think of a river as having the same rights as a human, and to feel so connected to it that we would want to afford it the same level of protection as we would a person.
Nevertheless, we do have some kind of relationship with our local rivers, whether that is positive (for recreation), negative (flooding), or utilitarian (provision of drinking water and disposal of sewage). The main river through Huddersfield is the River Colne. Over the coming months I’ll be making a series of field trips along its course, starting at the top of the catchment and working my way downstream. I’ll be using these experiences and my findings as the basis for creative work, with the aim of an exhibition and / or series of events in the autumn. I’ll be seeking creative inspiration from the sounds, sights and activities in and alongside the river, and from people’s connection with it as part of their everyday lives.
The creative outputs that emerge are, as yet, are only loosely defined, but my work primarily involves use of audio material, including field recordings, and sometimes also photography and film. One idea is to create a GPS-triggered audio tour which anyone visiting the river bank with a smart phone can listen to. There are also several sources of chemical and ecological data on the river, taken at different locations over different time periods, so it may be interesting to create sonic representations of this data, that is to say, to sonify it somehow, such that it can be heard, rather than needing to be viewed as numbers on a spreadsheet, or lines on a graph.
I’m not a resident in the Colne Valley, I live a few valleys away in the Upper Calder catchment, so I’m keen to hear insights, thoughts and feelings from people about the river they live near to, or if they are professionals working with the river, the role they play in managing, protecting or utilising the river. If you’d like to share information or stories that could be incorporated into the project please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org It would be great to hear from you.
My first trip has been to find out where the River Colne starts. It doesn’t have a single source but is the convergence of two small tributaries, Red Brook Clough and Haigh Clough (each in turn with their own tributaries), that funnel steeply down through the Pennine moorland and join to form the start of the Colne a little way above Marsden.
Two main tributaries from the moor converging to form the start of the River Colne (shown by the dot), West Yorkshire[OS map screenshot]
From here the river then flows some 12 miles downstream through Marsden, Slaithwaite, Linthwaite, Milnsbridge and Huddersfield to join the River Calder near Mirfield.
Here is the sound of the Colne at its start, where the two tributaries join.
The convergence of Haigh Clough (left) and Redbrook Clough (right) to form the start of the River Colne
 See: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/04/maori-river-in-new-zealand-is-a-legal-person/