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Migration Sounds on the BBC

Our Migration Sounds project is featured across the BBC today, as we call for recordings of migration, settlement, home and diaspora communities from all over the world.

You can read the lead BBC feature here, and listen to a clip from this morning’s Today Programme on BBC Radio 4:

More about Migration Sounds

Migration Sounds is the first large-scale public exploration of the sounds of migration. The project is a partnership between the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford and Cities and Memory, one of the world’s largest sound projects, which covers more than 120 countries and territories. The recorded sounds will be presented in a unique online exhibition and searchable on a global
map. They will also be reimagined into brand new compositions by artists all over the world, taking inspiration from the original recordings, and reflecting what migration means to them.

So, what does global migration sound like?

For each of us these sounds are fundamentally different. The sounds can be so mundane that others around you hardly notice them: but you do. People may notice a sound because it clearly indicates that they are far from where they grew up; because they are the sounds of travelling somewhere new; or even because they are the sounds that signal someone is being made welcome (or unwelcome).

Jacqueline Broadhead, Director of COMPAS at the University of Oxford, said:
“We often think about migration in terms of numbers and news articles, or in political debate, but the reality of the process and experience of migration is fundamentally human – by recording these ordinary or extraordinary sounds, we can capture and share a bit of that human experience.

“A huge array of sounds – from accents and sirens to birdsong or train doors closing – can all capture a sense of place and share how it feels to be somewhere that is not where you originally come from. We’re looking for sounds that can capture tiny parts of people’s stories.”

A wealth of recordings – and their stories – have already been received. Examples of the types of sounds already collected include:

  • Sounds of a hometown recorded after moving back from years lived abroad
  • Conversations between friends from different countries all living in a multicultural modern city
  • Novel sounds experienced when first moving to a new country that are different from home: for example, a market, a pedestrian crossing or a metro system
  • Sounds of public protests led by diaspora groups
  • Sounds of security forces breaking up an informal migrant camp
  • Sounds of immigrant workers doing their jobs, or of shops and restaurants established by immigrants in a town or city

Stuart Fowkes, a sound artist and the founder of Cities and Memory, said:

“The project is the first large-scale public exploration of the sounds of migration and settlement, and we think it’s going to be a really valuable way to use sound to help reframe conversations and public discourse around migration.

“It’s really important to say that this is not just about the sounds of migration in the “traditional” sense of travelling to a new place – we’re looking for the sounds of settlement and home (both new homes and old homes) from wherever you are.

“By getting people from around the world to make recordings on a single day, we also get to capture a specific moment in time from a multitude of perspectives – but all dealing with migration in one way or another.”

Sounds can be submitted from anywhere around the world until the deadline on 31 March via

Broadhead added: “We’re excited by this great partnership to literally put Migration Sounds on the map.”

Longer term, the partnership seeks to connect social sciences and the arts through migration research at Oxford. Phase II of the project will launch in April 2024, where the project will see musicians and sound artists reimagine the incredible bank of sound recordings into a suite of brand-new compositions.