Storying Sheffield


By K. B.

Using collage and ‘found sounds’ to juxtapose the real, unconscious moments of separate lives in the same environment in order to produce the feeling of collective narratives.

‘Overheard’ is a poem formed from scraps of overheard conversations in Sheffield’s city centre one evening. It was influenced by David Shield’s statement in ‘Reality Hunger: A Manifesto’ that ‘you don’t make art; you find it.’ I wanted to create an artefact composed of ‘found sounds’.

West Street is a hub of noise and activity where students, locals and visitors congregate: a melting pot of narrative experience. The loud volume and density of people made it an ideal location to find the scraps to form a poem – with each individual narrative feeling as if it’s been superseded or consumed within the collective experience of unrelated lives. I wanted to capture a ‘shared narrative’ formed by unconnected, individual moments. I used italics to distinguish between what is ‘found sound’ and what is my own voice. My voice connects the italicised quotes, but doesn’t invade or remove their meaning. It just expands their connection to one another in order to create a visceral sense of real moments.

The act of a ‘dérive,’[1] (“a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences”) associated with psychogeography, relates primarily to the geographical landscape. However, instead of allowing myself to ‘be drawn by the attractions of the terrain,’ [2] I ‘dropped my usual motives’ [3] to be drawn by sound and interaction. Taking notes of interesting overheard one-liners of the plethora of different identities allowed me to collect found sounds that encapsulated the experiences of many through individual expressions. Similar to how Tacita Dean describes her cinematic work process, ‘nothing really happens much, other than somebody […] being present in that moment,’ [4] in my artefact, it is the juxtaposition of the ‘nothing’ [5] that creates meaning. 

After accumulating found sounds, I used collage to form the artefact (influenced again by David Shields [6]), bearing in mind that ‘the urge to connect bits that don’t seem to belong together’ [7] would enhance the presentation of meaning as not ‘inherent in one shot but created by the juxtaposition of shots.’ [8] I chose the form of a poem to reflect the poetic nature of some of the overheard sayings and also in order to exaggerate the fragmentary nature of the quotes through the often ambiguous form of poetry. In particular, ‘my brain feels too big for my head, and my lungs feel like lead’ felt as though it lent itself to the poetic form.


Its lads who say
‘Put your money away,’
Giving sweaty cuddles when their brain feels too big for their head
And their lung feels like lead

A man inside is singing about
Nursing a bird to death,
Gathering dust instead of paying his rent

A fancy women in too-high-for-a-monday-night heels
Skips waiting for the green light,
‘I can’t look anywhere for fear of a good view,’
But the bouncers inside broke a girls foot
So she has more important places to look
And she’s already mad about the red wine and her husband said ‘stay put’

Bar staff have no trouble sleeping
Bar this woman left alone,
And by now the lads are screamin’ ‘lost me money and me keys’
Stealing a cig after lying, ‘have my money PLEASE’
Then running away belting ‘COME AND CATCH ME’


[1] Ken Knabb, Situationist International Anthology (Berkley: Bureau of Public Secret, 1995)

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Tacita Dean, and Travis A. Diehl, “Unconscious Journey”, Aperture, 222 (2016), 25-31

[5] Ibid

[6] Shields, David, “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, Salmagundi, 164 (2010)

[7] Ibid