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The sounds of Brexit

Today is Brexit day – the day that the UK leaves the European Union, much to the sadness and regret of a significant part of the British people, myself included.

Over the past three years, Brexit has been part of the fabric of British life, bringing in more rancour, ill feeling and division than anything else in our lifetime.

As such, it’s necessarily overlapped with Cities and Memory and our work over recent years – so from time to time we’ve found ourselves on a protest march, or inspired by the political situation to reimagine a sound with the notion of Brexit at its core.

On this day, then – which half the country celebrates and the other half laments – here are some of the sounds of Brexit.

First up is a piece called “Brexit Means Brexit”, a sonic representation of how we experience the debate about Britain leaving the EU.

Voices of people who voted Leave on the grounds of immigration issues are interspersed with meaningless soundbites from the former Prime Minister Theresa May, “Brexit means Brexit” and “red, white and blue Brexit” among others, while clips from the pro-EU Unite for Europe march in London in June provide a counterpart.

The piece is designed to illustrate the tension and the void opening up in British society between those looking outward to the world openly, and those who wish to close down and are closed to other cultures, other races and other nationalities.

Next in our catalogue of Brexit sounds is a reimagined sound from the Unite for Europe March in 2017. Taking the bagpipes playing the EU anthem “Ode to Joy” as a starting point, we’ve built up a crescendo of loops from that piece, interspersed with commentary from Theresa May’s address to the UK in March 2019, in which she held members of parliament to blame for a failure to bring about the UK’s exit from the EU.

This is cut with samples from the People’s Vote march, symbolising the schisms caused in the UK by the Brexit issue.

Here, you can here the original field recording upon which this is based:

Next up, a live drumming troupe in the midst of protesters on the People’s Vote march in London, 23 March 2019 – more than a million people were reported to have been on the march, making it the largest political protest in modern British history.

And finally, appropriately, all you need is love. A beautiful but tremendously sad moment from a pro-EU march in London as The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” blasts from a top floor flat on Whitehall as the march passes by, provoking a mass singalong.