At the end of June, South Downs National Park Authority and Alinah Azadeh, inaugural writer-in-residence for the Seven Sisters Country Park & Sussex Heritage Coast, announced We Hear You Now: a new spoken word audio commission embedded in the landscape – and online – presenting contemporary speculative fiction, poetry and new myths by nine Sussex-based writers of colour.
The new works – created by artist, writer, performer and cultural activist Azadeh, together with Georgina Aboud, Jenny Arach, Razia Aziz, Joyoti Grech Cato, Oluwafemi Hughes, Dulani Kulasinghe, Georgina Parke and Akila Richards reframe the traditional English pastoral image of this coastal fringe of the South Downs through a personal, poetic and quietly radical lens. The nine creative practitioners include award-winning, established and emerging writers, poets, artists, performers and activists. Alongside her own commissioned work, Azadeh curated invited 8 fellow writers to develop work responding to the landscape’s history and topography in the context of climate change, global migration and their own sense of belonging and connection to it.
Alinah Azadeh said “My intention is that our stories and poems act as a welcome, a creative spark – and a marker of radical hope in these precarious times. I wanted to make space both for my own work as resident writer and to amplify other creative voices missing from this pastoral coastal landscape; older women’s voices, Black voices, voices of colour, migrant voices, queer and non-binary voices, working class voices, disabled voices. Many of us have centred the most crucial voice of all; the voice of the land, and its challenge to us to reciprocate the care, protection, spaces for rest and joy it has always given us. Thank you to the close partnership and unswerving support of the South Downs National Park, and all the writers and spectrum of partners in making this possible”.
Starting from the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre near Seaford, We Hear You Now leads the visitor around the meanders and river of Cuckmere Valley and along the chalk coast from Seaford to Eastbourne via Belle Tout Lighthouse and Beachy Head, stopping at 14 listening points to sit and hear stories, or walk with them: an encounter between a traveller and the chalk cliff in 2053 brings unexpected changes; a biologist examines Cuckmere’s history and speculative future under the shadow of climate change; a new myth on the origins of the Cuckmere Valley in Urdu, Hindi and English; a Neolithic ancestor inspired by Whitehawk Woman watches over the land and the People; a grandmother and granddaughter walk through a twilight portal, transforming them and the landscape forever; a night walk along the chalkland coast into more-than-human worlds; a bus and life journey with an English working class and African heritage poet, along the coast; an African and Asian daughter of the earth explores loss and reclamation inspired by the Seven Sisters cliffs; past, present and future as seen through an archaeologist’s deep time lenses, following a major cliff-fall; Belle Tout Lighthouse tells of its many lives as it contemplates its last days on land; rest, recovery, resistance and renewal as medieval history repeats itself near an abandoned village; a walk to the middle of the Seven Sisters sparks reflections on star constellations, land, climate and kinship; expectation and experience collide when a young man and his friends travel from St Lucia to Seaford to fight for Britain in World War I.
We Hear You Now has grown out of the We See You Now creative programme (2019-2022) for writers of colour, aimed at creating a legacy for minoritised voices, connections and perspectives on the Sussex coastal landscape. Devised and developed as part of her role as writer-in-residence, and produced by Writing Our Legacy, Azadeh led two years of outdoor and online writing and walking retreats, including one with acclaimed novelist Leone Ross. We Hear You Now also follows her podcast The Colour of Chalk, which takes listeners out into the landscape with guest writers from the network, exploring how their relationship to the coastal landscape has been shaped by their intersectional identities, upbringing and sense of belonging. We Hear You Now is Azadeh’s most ambitious project since Burning the Books (2011-2015), which involved the co-writing, performing and burning of a Book of Debts, a UK touring project and collaboration with over 1000 people across nine cities.
We Hear You Now is funded by South Downs National Park Authority and Arts Council England. Partners and supporters include Brighton Festival, WritersMosaic, (a division of the Royal Literary Fund), New Writing South, Writing Our Legacy, Towner Eastbourne, Charleston Trust, University of Chichester, Brighton Dome, University of Brighton, and Julie’s Bicycle (Colour Green). Editorial support by novelist Umi Sinha.
We Hear You Now is open from now until 2028, and is hosted in full online at www.sevensisters.org.uk and across South Downs National Park channels including a full playlist on SoundCloud and captioned versions on YouTube.
Find more information here.