Leeds School of Arts

Temple Newsam Grounds

Principal Lecturer Paul Ratcliff was recently commissioned to create an artwork featuring the recordings of various birds and animals in the grounds of West Yorkshire stately home Temple Newsam.
Web article header with photo of bird


Commissioned in 2019 and recorded in 2019-2020, This artwork focuses on the site-specific sounds of wildlife and the parkland in Temple Newsam grounds. Unlike many documentary productions, which use sound-libraries sourced in other locations including foley sound-effects, all of the sounds were in fact captured at Temple Newsam. This work uses sound to explore and depict the parkland, contributing to an ongoing conversation between Temple Newsam, nature and art.

Despite their close proximity to the adjacent motorways, the grounds at the park are rich in wildlife. The parkland is part of a natural-wildlife-corridor that includes the two nearby and successful RSPB reserves of St Aiden’s and Fairburn Ings that lie to the south. Temple Newsam grounds are not only visually stunning, complimenting the site’s impressive Elizabethan manor house, but they also provide green-space and tranquility for visitors and a sanctuary from the built-up and industrial outer-reaches of Leeds, one this country’s largest cities.

Many people today are realising that we need to reconnect with nature, wildlife and wooded-areas. For those living and working in cities, green spaces also offer us a mindful rest-bite, a chance to re-discover eco-systems familiar to preceding generations.

The project aims to celebrate the dawn chorus, heard and recorded in spring-time in the grounds. These sounds also connect the landscape paintings viewed in the Temple Newsam gallery to the parkland around the house. Using subtle and intricate wildlife sounds which require listeners to stop and take notice and remind us, as a society, we need to experience and value these special suburban green spaces.

As well as featuring in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Paul Ratcliff was interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds (3hour, 15minutes).

The Species recorded:

Red Kite
Black-headed and common gull
Grey Squirrel
Grey Heron
Female Tawny owl
Long Tailed tits
Honey Bee
Water beetles
Grey Wagtails

The Artist and his practice:

As well as being a Principal Lecturer in music & sound at Leeds Beckett, Paul Ratcliff is a Yorkshire-based artist and academic who uses field recordings (non-studio recordings), photography and writing in his productions. His field recordings are being used in educational video games, gallery-installations, popular music compositions, performances and as demonstrations of how wildlife and human populations co-exist.

His artistic practice focuses upon urban wildlife recording and decaying and renovated industrial buildings. Typically, his recordings are made in places ignored by his contemporaries, as they are often thought to be too noise-ridden to record in or too difficult to access. His work has been exhibited and performed across the north of the UK, Germany and America.

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