Photo Credit: Phoebe Wingrove
Photo Credit: Phoebe Wingrove

Reflections on Neolithic Cannibals

A socially engaged sound art project and exhibition at Brighton Festival from the young people of Whitehawk and East Brighton, artist Simon James (who was born and raised in Whitehawk), and Class Divide who are campaigning for educational equality in Brighton & Hove.

The work was about listening, deep listening, to a community often ignored, and often stigmatised. Neolithic Cannibals was a project that rewrote the story many people have in their minds about Whitehawk or any council estate. It challenged people's perceptions of Brighton & Hove, asking people to listen to young Whitehawk artists' work, while considering the important issue of inequity in the city.

Over 1000 people visited the free exhibition in the two weeks it was open and the audience feedback was positive. Please see below for some of it.

To support or find out more about Class Divide, please follow Class Divide on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and most importantly sign up for the newsletter here.

The Young Artists Involved in Neolithic Cannibals

Neolithic Cannibals Simon with participants
Neolithic Cannibals Participants in a workshop

Photo Credit: Curtis James

Why is Class Divide's Work Needed?

If you grow up in a lower-income household, your chances of doing well in school, in a career, and life, are heavily impacted by systems rigged against you.

Listen below to Sound Artist Simon James speak about his time at school and about the lucky break that propelled him towards a life working with sound.

But it shouldn’t have to come down to luck. Sadly though, for most young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, luck and chance are what they will need to get into the creative industries.

Audience Feedback

"Informative, thought-provoking and excellent."

"It was great, such high production value and an important subject matter."

"The ideas behind it are great. Seeing children having fun, owning their local history + processing it through media, sound and vision. Refreshing and inspiring"

"It was fascinating to see a presentation like this, an area I grew up in and was proud to be a part of."

"Excellent. Linking a supposedly politics-free archaeological dig in the 1930's to current political and sociological info."

"Incredible. One of the best sound/art installations i've ever seen. I feel transformed and moved and see Brighton differently now."

About The Artists

The artists are a group of young people from Whitehawk in East Brighton, uninhibited by experience or knowledge and any preconceived ideas of what sound art should be. They bring an instinctive, playful and raw energy; turning sounds inside out, carving new shapes, oscillations and resonances.

Supporting them is Simon James, a self-trained sound artist and composer engaging in deep listening to the unheard and hidden - mixing environmental field recordings with electronic sources such as the Buchla Electric Music Box, which over 10 years of exploration and performance has become Simon's main instrument. Simon’s skills with the Buchla have been called upon by Massive Attack, Toy Drum, UNKLE, and Max de Wardener and have featured extensively in Emmy award-winning composer Andrew Phillips' soundtracks.

Simon’s compositional approach is exploratory, playful and instinctive, focussed on timbral shaping, finding the sounds in between the sounds and exploring the relationship between these and field recordings.

Sound designs have been created for Heineken, Salesforce, Kaspersky, Dalmore Whiskey, Bushmills, Sheytan Jewellery and The Horror Channel, and in 2023 he produced a multi-speaker gallery installation at the RIBA gallery in London. In 2019 Simon visited Shenzhen/Shanghai in China on a British Council residency, exploring the shapes and structures of architecture through sound and music. In 2023 Simon was the recipient of an Arts Council DYCP (Developing Your Creative Practice) award and used it to focus his practice around listening, the environment and community, which culminated in a residency in the Pyrenees with artists Mark Fell and Michael Von Hauswolff, where he created an interactive installation, ‘Can We Echo the Forest?’.

He has also recorded music as The Simonsound (with DJ Format) Black Channels (for cult soundtrack label Death Waltz) and under his own name for Lo Recordings and Castles in Space Records. An album of architectural resonance and Buchla electronics, 'Sounding the Shadows', is due for release on YYAA Records in 2024. He is currently developing an exhibition, 'Neolithic Cannibals', working with young people from the council estate where he grew up, for Brighton Festival, May 2024.

www.simonsound.co.uk | @thesimonsound

About Class Divide

Class Divide are a grassroots campaign drawing attention to the deeply unjust educational attainment gap in Whitehawk, Manor Farm and Bristol Estate in Brighton and Hove

www.classdivide.co.uk | @divideclass | @DivideClass | Newsletter sign up

About Lighthouse

Lighthouse is a charity that supports artists who use digital technology in their work. Their vision is a diverse and inclusive creative sector where digital art and artists are valued and thriving; where everyone, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity, has the confidence to enjoy cultural experiences; the opportunity to unlock their potential; and where every young person is empowered to explore a creative career.

Their mission is to nurture the next generation of diverse, talented, creative people working with digital art and innovative creative technologies; and to support them to become leaders themselves, building a richer cultural landscape for the future.

www.lighthouse.org.uk | @lighthouse_btn

Funders & Partners

Neolithic Cannibals is a Class Divide project, commissioned by Brighton Festival, in collaboration with Lighthouse. Funded by Brighton Festival and the Chalk Cliff Trust.

Supporting Partners include The Crew Club, Brighton and Hove Museums, Archaeology South East (UCL).

Neolithic Cannibals Funders & Partners
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