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28 October 2014
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Architecture Week 2004
Trans Mittere
Words: Bren O'Callaghan
The Bell Chamber

Taking as its theme the notion of 'broadcast', a new art installation in the bell tower of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral allows the public to explore formerly off-limits areas. Those at home can tune into a unique radio transmitter which permits the building to speak for itself.

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Stairwell
Look up, but don't look down

Artists Ewan Forster and Christopher Heighes set out to reveal the sights, sounds and voices that have contributed to the make-up of this imposing structure.

"Visitors to the cathedral will have the opportunity to go through three spaces which they don't usually see", explains Christopher Heighes.

"One is the ringing chamber, which is a sort of circular arena space where the bell ringers ring the bells.

Bell rope chandelier
Bell rope chandelier

"The second space is a rather unusual one, which was designed to dampen the sound so the poor bell ringers weren't deafened.

"The last space is the monumental, double-cube space of the bell chamber itself, where visitors will have the opportunity to get up close to the massive set of bells - the biggest and heaviest in Europe."

Visitors will be encouraged to pause between the two lift journeys prior to the tower summit and investigate these cavernous chambers for themselves.

Wireless
A wireless broadcasts voices from the past...

Scores of old-time wireless radios leak whispered conversations or crackling piano recitals that linger amidst the giant struts and a staggering clutch of bells - including Great George himself.

"We have a maritime side with audio from a compass adjustor, who speaks about the more practical side [of the building], " describes Ewan Forster of just one of the many different conversations that echo from the rafters.

Trans Mittere installation
Trans Mittere installation

"We're trying to 'tune in' with our strange transmitter to all of these different signals that help people to understand how this building has come about."

On the day that we ascended the tower the sun was at full force and illuminated the walkways with shafts of piercing white light.

An excited school group babbled about 'being at Hogwarts', entirely oblivious of the vertiginous drops while their teachers clutched the railings for dear life.

View from the top of the bell tower
View from the top of the bell tower

Emerging from the viewing platform Liverpool lay below like a quilted brick blanket, the sounds of the exhibition dribbling upwards and out toward the clouds.

The voices, disembodied and drawn from the past century of those who have lived, worked, preached and worshipped upon this site, float somewhere between this world and the next.


Broadcasts from the bell tower can be accessed on an AM frequency for the duration of the transmission on 1413KHZ.

The exhibition will run until the 10th of July.

Tower open Mon-Sat, 11-5pm (last ticked 4.30), closed Sundays. Entrance charge £3.50 adults, £1.50 concessions. For safety reasons, it is closed in bad weather. To avoid disappointment, please contact the Cathedral on the day of your visit: 0151 702 7217.

 

 

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