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Interview: The Rising Sun of Romford by Artist David Shearing and Art Director Laura Ann Price

Image: Artist David Shearing, photographed by Tom Joy.

Artist David Shearing and Art Director Laura Ann Price have been developing a new immersive installation situated in the historic market town of Romford celebrating 775-years of existence this year. The pair have received international acclaim for previous project ‘The Weather Café’, a weather responsive café in Leeds City Centre, with The Rising Sun they aim to shed new light on the changing identities of Havering and Romford. This time the piece borrows from the cycles of day, forming narratives that chart the rhythms of the sun, of life and passing. We posed some questions to them to tell us more about their first project in 5 years.

Run Riot: How do you explore voice and story within The Rising Sun? How do you know what to include and what are the ethics of this?  

David Shearing:
We always start by asking ourselves what type of conversation we want to have with our audience. We want uncovering the hidden stories of those who walk past us every day. The project has been in development for over two years, and for the past four months, we have been recording one-to-one interviews with people across Havering. We have 24 hrs worth of interviews that go through a process of editing and selecting clips. The voices are then composed by sound designer James Bulley into a sonic score, which for this piece is presented over 48-speakers. The ethics are always a challenge, we are guided by the insights that people share, often these can be quite vulnerable, but also hopeful, insightful, funny, and as you might imagine with those from Essex quite direct and candid.

Laura Ann Price: For this project the ethos was exploring the life cycles of people; where they came from, how they feel right now and their hopes. Our approach is to celebrate people for who they are, and this is our guiding principle.

Image: The Rising Sun, Romford

Run Riot: Previous works have responded to the weather and environment, how does this work in The Rising Sun?

: For me the project is specific to Romford. The sound is built not only from the voices but the sonic environment of Romford itself – it has a direct relationship with place. The project seeks to reveal, shed new light and reflect Romford back to itself – a prism.

Laura: Previous works have always been anchored by a form of measure, The Weather Café, for example, made use of a digital weather station that read the weather outside and translated it to into moments of light, wind and rain on the inside. The Rising Sun follows the same logic by making use of 24 windows wrapped around the walls of the installation. These have been specifically positioned to optimise shafts on sunlight throughout the day. The design of the windows has been intrinsic to the conceptual intent and atmosphere of the piece. To measure the sunlight within the installation we have carried out sun studies at the markets and worked digitally with geo-location to render and track the suns movements. Our findings led us to design the angle of the windows making use of a 45degree slant to mimic the angle of the sun when it sits at the ‘equi-umbra’- where the altitude of the sun creates an ‘equal shadow’ to its object. Fingers crossed Romford gets some sun!

Image: Artist David Shearing interviewing market stall vendor George Chinook, photographed by Hannah Davis.

Run Riot: Can you explain the decision to use the pub as a framework and what is the relationship to installation?

In the past we had worked with the concept of a café space, which offered a familiar environment to welcome people into the art experience. The pub is a lose framework this time, we were interested in how we offer a context to the voices, pubs are a place to imagine, slow down, contemplate some of the more complex ideas in life, philosophies, and pose questions to each other. Pubs play an important role in bringing people together and Romford has a long history with Romford Brewery and three significant pubs in the market ‘The Bull', 'The Golden Lion' and ‘The Lamb’.  

Laura: The answer I think lies in the people and communities that will visit the space. It’s always a fine balance to manage the tone of an installation ensuring that its familiar but also conceptual, it’s about managing the design to ensure that there is an essence of pub not a whole recreation. We’ve used small gestures in the design through reclaimed materials that nod towards a pub but ultimately, I think that the sense of togetherness and people inside will be what reveals the strongest relationship with your typical Romford pub.

The Rising Sun opens from 15-30 July in Romford Market, accessible via the new Elizabeth Line and Romford Station. It is free and no booking required.

A website version of the project will be available on project launch.
Visit for more information.

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