The Listening Bench for Southend is a U3A Shared Learning Project in partnership with the Essex Record Office, Sound Archive. Members of Leigh Estuary, Leigh-on-Sea, Southend and Thorpe Bay U3As have all taken part. Ten people have worked hard listening to hours of recordings about Southend and then selecting sound clips for the bench. Members also learned how to use “Audacity” software to edit the recordings. This is a great achievement and assists in presenting the U3A as a learning co-operative for retired people, showing the ability of older people to take part in valuable projects in their local community and learn new skills in the process. One of the most technically minded members of our team was an octogenarian.
The listening bench is part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place. Volunteers across Essex have been listening to recordings about their community from the Essex Sound and Video Archive; selecting relevant clips; and editing them into an audio montage that gives a taste of the community’s heritage. This montage is then loaded onto the bench, so that members of the public can play the clips at the touch of a button. For Southend the chosen audio includes memories of childhood visits to the Kursaal and the seaside; how the Second World War affected the town; and songs inspired by Southend.
The bench for Southend will be the first of ten benches to be installed in Essex this summer, following eight benches that were completed last year.
The first outing for the bench was at the Festival of Southend over the late May Bank Holiday weekend and there is a photo of the singer/actress Patti Boulaye and the Mayor of Southend Fay Evans sitting on the bench at this event, below.