Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place

A two-year AHRC-funded network exploring some writings of Wirral-born Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957) in relation to increased care for our oceans through a series of podcasts recorded during sailings between Liverpool and Isle of Man, 2021-22.

This research emerges from work on Lowry co-ordinated by Bluecoat, including The Lighthouse Invites The Storm, and our title comes from Lowry's collection of short stories named after a Manx hymn, Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place.

We will invite artists, poets, retired sea captains, academics, musicians and maritime curators to sail, chat, observe, mingle with the public and unpack Lowry’s short stories in relation to increased care of our oceans. Our 20-minute podcasts below offer comment, strange sounds, beach cleaning, poetry, children's voices and moments of calm as we try to find a new sonic language for thinking about the amount of plastic in our seas (and in us).

Some of the contributors you'll hear include Alan Dunn (Lead Investigator, Leeds Beckett University), Helen Tookey (Co-Investigator, Liverpool John Moores University), Bryan Biggs (Bluecoat), The Art Doctors (Liz Stirling and Alison McIntyre), Roger Cliffe-Thompson (Mariner's Park), Rob Keith (former Shell sea captain), Cian Quayle (University of Chester / Isle of Man), Louise K. Wilson (University of Leeds), Chris Watson, BAD PUNK / Band of Holy Joy (James Stephen Finn & Johny Brown), Ian Murphy (Merseyside Maritime Museum), Jessica Van Horssen (Leeds Beckett University), Sarah Hymas, Paul Ratcliff, Olga Munroe (The Retail Institute), Rob Burroughs and more.

We'd like to thank both Isle of Man Advertising & PR and The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for their huge support, especially during challening times. Further thanks to many of our university colleagues, especially Lucy Scott, Sandra Staniforth and Justin Burns.

Hear Us - the visits

Trip 1 (Sept 2021) Trip 2 (April 2022)Trip 3 (Sept 2022)

Hear Us - the podcasts

Podcast number 1 is based on a longer mix that was first broadcast during COP26 in Glasgow as part of the AIR radio project. You'll hear recordings from sailings between Liverpool and Isle of Man in September 2021, beginning with naively trying to explain the problem to a five-year-old whilst playing Lego, before floating through orcas recorded in Telegraph Cove near Vancouver, the Isle of Man Beach Buddies, readings from Lowry’s texts and his use of Frere Jacques as a refrain that echoes the ship’s engine, visions of impending capitalist ruination of the oceans, instructions for emergencies, Maccy-D’s litter, Fluxus Drip Music, Traa-dy-liooar (Manx for ‘time enough’) and the concept of salvage – what can or cannot be saved. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 2 introduces us to Malcolm Lowry, born on the Wirral in 1909. As a young man he sets sails around the globe, informing much of his later writing including 'Under the Volcano' and his 'Hear Us O Lord...' collection of short stories that very presciently alerts us, already in the late 1940s, to the encroachment of industrial development into our seas and fields. We conclude the second podcast trying to read Lowry excerpts into the raw winds on board the Liverpool to Isle of Man ferry. We use Lowry's romanticising of the Isle - he only visited as a child - as one basis of our consideration of smaller eco systems, a subject to which we shall return in a later episode. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 3 salvages only the voices from Podcast number 2 and gently layers them over a soundbed created from the track 'Hiss and Unwind' by Michael Ridge. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 4 starts again chatting with a 5-year old about where all the plastic - including our Lego - ends up. We sail and think and meet The Beach Buddies on the Isle of Man who have prompted 16,000 of the 85,000 residents to start picking plastic from their beaches. We let references to the extraordinary @LegoLostAtSea project on Twitter drift in, along with recordings made from the banks of the Mersey using VHF receivers (more of those later!) and snippets and from the Isle's BAAD ACID. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 5 strips away all our voices and invites you to speak over this, debate, reflect, argue, dismiss or suggest. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 6 listens to our oceans and waterways and listens to those for whom we are the trespassers. We think about escape - from sea, to sea, from the situation - and about noise pollution; plastic and noise pollution under and over the water. Oh, and eXXpedition and orcas and widening our listening. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 7 picks up on Lowry's 'Through the Panama' (on board the S.S. Diderot) in the company of Rob Keith, former Shell sea captain who sailed through the Panama only 19 years after Lowry and joined us to the Isle of Man. We think about the commercial routes our plastics take and the Suez Canal blocking in 2021, soundtracked by treated excerpts from 'Panama' by Lecuona Cuban Boys (1930) and the same-titled by Basin Street Six (1952) - listen closely as Rob almost 'becomes' Malcolm during his journey. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 8 reflects on some possible solutions. We chat with Dr Richard Selman, Head of Ecosystem Policy in the Environment Directorate of the Isle of Man Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. He talks us through the Island's Biosphere status, their issues with nurdles and the experimental TT Zero electric-motorbike race. Of course, we also hear about the many hurdles the Island's authorities need to overcome, but with the distinct advantage of having the majority of the 80,000 residents behind positive changes. MP3 version here.

Podcast number 9 (Traa-Dy-Liooar?) gives us some much needed time to breathe and think. Traa-Dy-Liooar is a popular Manx saying, a literal time enough or manyana but by adding the question mark, we invite you to ponder what we need to postpone and what we need to do. The podcast is spacious, featuring 10 minutes of high tide at Douglas recorded with a hydrophone during our April 2022 visit by Chris Watson, fading into 10 minutes of shallow tide. Enter the underwater world of limpets and shrimps existing in different timescales, and only in the middle do we hear a quiet voice, that of Dr Olga Munroe from Leeds Beckett University’s Retail Institute (working with retail consumers and industries on sustainable solutions), reflecting on the sailing, the island and Lowry himself. Image of marble found on Douglas beach - a planet in one marble - by Helen Tookey MP3 version here.

Podcast number 10 brings together ideas around life-changes, partly inspired by Lowry’s 14 years as a proto-hippy spent living in a Dollarton shack between 1940-54. In 1975, the first episode of ‘The Good Life’ aired on BBC (audio excerpts included here to contextualise our message within Fair Use and Educational contexts) and introduces us to Tom Good who designs the little plastic toys for cereal packs, the very type of toys that are washing up for real on our beaches, as logged by @LegoLostAtSea on Twitter. He craves a better quality of life and gives up his job for something more sustainable at home. On the Isle of Man, we met the remarkable Clara Isaac who, in similar mode, left her banking job to make more of a difference, establishing the kerbside recyclecollect business. She explains how the process works and how she’s used technology to make recycling personal and sociable on the island. As we chat in the hotel bar, we hear bundles of glass bottles being binned, making us think of Lowry’s own problems and what his glass recycle bin may have sounded like. Musical excerpts courtesy of Isle of Man's BAAD ACID. MP3 version here.

Hear Us - the extra sounds and images
Lowry Lounge - Rob's Panama Canal presentation, October 2021.
The Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry - Band of Holy Joy + BAD PUNK's Lowry collage part 1, Resonance FM, 8 April 2022.
Hear Us O Lord - Band of Holy Joy + BAD PUNK's Lowry playlist from Bryan Biggs, Resonance FM, 15 April 2022.
Merseyside Maritime Museum - installation of project display in foyer, May 2022.