University of Nottingham

Carrlands: mediated manifestations of site-specific performance in the Ancholme valley, North Lincolnshire

Project outline

'Carrlands' aimed to create a series of related site-specific performances over a period of twelve months, for three locations in the agricultural valley of the river Ancholme in North Lincolnshire. Such performances represent both an innovative mode of enquiry and a research output, within the field of Performance Studies.

North Lincolnshire is a quiet corner of England, far from the tourist trail. The 'carrs' are lands close to the river that once flooded regularly and were used primarily as seasonal pasture. This was long a water-world. After Enclosure and concerned attempts at drainage, the carrs were turned over to arable agriculture.

Hibaldstow Carrs, North Lincolnshire Photograph of Hibaldstow Carrs, North Lincolnshire


The main output of the research project is three audio works (each 60 minutes duration) for the valley of the River Ancholme, North Lincolnshire, conceived and written by Mike Pearson, composed by John Hardy and co-composed by Hugh Fowler. The audio works form a series of original sound compositions – combining spoken word, music and effects – inspired by, and set at, three locations in the agricultural landscape of North Lincolnshire: Snitterby Carrs, Hibaldstow Carrs, and Horkstow Carrs. The project's achievements also include the development of a methodology for the examination of landscape, as well as the presentation of research findings at meetings of local history groups and academic conferences.

is available from the project website as twelve separate MP3 files for download: to access at home, or take to the study site where you become both listener and participant in a new form of site-specific performance. The works have also been distributed on CD and iPod for use by local people and groups.

The research has developed a methodology for the examination and explication of the complexities of landscape, as it is variously and diversely defined and studied. The texts are in the form of creative writing for solo voice. They draw together, and integrate, insights from archaeology, geography, natural history and folklore with the detailed and first-hand experiences, opinions and memories of local scholars and inhabitants. The musical compositions provide a dramatic matrix for the texts, whilst evoking the unique nature and atmosphere of these seemingly empty lands. They include elements of orchestral and electronic music, sampling from archival sources and effects that recall former sound-worlds in these places. Echoing the even-bedded geology of North Lincolnshire the music is laid down and constructed as a series of strata or layers. The overall effect of text and music is to suggest depth and complexities in a landscape that can at first appear flat and commonplace.

The research process included:

  • library and archive research
  • day-long investigative field trips to North Lincolnshire – including interviews - with geographers Steven Daniels and David Matless (University of Nottingham) and archaeologist John Barrett (University of Sheffield)
  • interviews with older local inhabitants who remember the nature of the landscape prior to the Second World War
  • collaboration with local history groups
  • long-term collaboration with professional composer John Hardy and sound engineer Hugh Fowler.

The project has been presented both at meetings of local history groups and academic conferences, where it has revealed the potential of site-specific performance as both innovative investigative mode and tangible research output.


Ongoing influence

The audio works available from the project website will continue to enhance and stimulate public appreciation and understanding of a particular landscape: by encouraging visits to out of the way places, by guiding and informing presence, and by illuminating aspects that do not immediately or easily reveal themselves. Carrlands offers an opportunity to participate actively in an engagement with landscape and to contribute personal perceptions of places lacking conventional scenic heritage.

Mike Pearson has been commissioned to create a new performance work as part of the Landscape and Environment Programme's Impact Fellowship. The new work titled Warplands builds directly on the experiences gained in Carrlands.

Award details

Duration: 2006-2007 (12 months)

Principal Investigator:
Professor Mike Pearson

Higher Education Institution:
Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University

Selected publications

Pearson, M. (2011) 'Deserted places, remote voices: performing landscape' in Envisioning Landscapes: Geography and the Humanities ed. S. Daniels et al, Abingdon & New York, Routledge/Association of American Geographers, 280-6.

Pearson, M. (2010). Site-Specific Performance. Palgrave Macmillan.

Related links


Landscape and Environment Programme

School of Geography
University Park
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 84 66071