Whitstable Sounding 51° 21’ 45″ N, 1° 01’ 13″ E:

Rockets and Blue lights Close at Hand to Warn Steam Boats of Shoal Water


by Richard Wilson and Zatorski + Zatorski

A Cultureship project for the Whitstable Biennale 2014



Based on the paintings of Turner, Whitstable Sounding is a site-specific, live, moving, symphonic maritime performance with ships, ships whistles, horns, sirens, search lights and flares for Whistable.

A brace of magnificent historic steam ships paint the sea scape with plumes of steam and coal smoke and illuminate with the flash of flare. The Turner-esque stage reverberates with the calls of the voices of long dead ships. A balletic dance and dialogue with the shore ensues. The vessels themselves are not carrying the instruments, they are the instruments:  each with the collected vocal cords or whistles of ships of provenance. The performance is entirely analogue and all elements employed are apposite to the marine, from the huge suez canel search lights to the 1 tonne Trinity House Corporation omnidirectional fog horn.

Whitstable Sounding began in the last hour of light on the longest day of the year, 21st June, 2014, set against the stunning backdrop of the famous Whitstable sunset. It involved collaboration between marine steam and diesel engineers, musicians, sailors, watermen, light scientists, historic ship trusts, pyrotechnicians and artists, celebrating British maritime heritage through contemporary art. With the support of Rowland Humble, collector and owner of the world’s largest and most important collection of rare historic maritime steam whistles/ sirens, air horns and bells.