Locating culture, making soundscapes and activating critical social relations: A case study from Limerick SoundScapes

Aileen Dillane, Martin J. Power, Eoin Devereux


LimerickSoundscapes is a sound-mapping project that seeks to critically engage citizens of the multicultural, socially and economically divided post-industrial City of Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. Facilitated by an interdisciplinary team at the local university, citizens from all walks of life are encouraged to traverse the city, using hand-held recorders to capture a vast array of sounds and create soundscapes. Initially, we locate the project within the context of a city currently experiencing a state-sponsored programme of urban regeneration. The project is also understood in terms of top-down and bottom-up cultural initiatives, particularly in relation to Limerick’s designation as National City of Culture 2014. In addition to looking at how LimerickSoundscapes was conceived and realized through a pilot programme in 2013, we focus specifically on two members of two local participating organizations as an example of how the project operates. Through the activities and experiences of these two volunteer recordists, we illustrate how the project is as much (if not more) focused on engagement and building social relations as it is on producing a finished product that seeks to sonically and culturally represent the city. Such projects have the capacity to promote real diversity and a critical and participatory citizenship through shared, creative goals and a dialogic of doing. However, we also show that culture is often understood in a particular way in Limerick, which we argue is to the detriment of investing in bottom-up projects that can potentially build ‘institutional capacity’ and boost ‘civic creativity’.


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