Fari Bradley

Broadcaster, Sonic Artist, Researcher

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That Illiterate Woman

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Freedom Democratic Party delegate, leads the singing of freedom songs at Democratic Party convention.

Profound Sound Festival featured an exhibition called Sight and Sound at the Brewery Tap UCA art-space, for Folkestone Fringe. After taking part in Sight and Sound previously during the Folkestone Fringe, I was invited to create a work and felt it an opportunity to continue with what I had begun previously, to engage with headphone pieces in a constructive way, after many years railing against sound works being arbitrarily presented on headphones. For this work I researched the life story of Fanny Lou Hamer of which ample records exist.

What appealed to me about Fanny was her humble background, which epitomised the life of the sharecroppers, who were basically still slaves in all but name in the Southern States in the 1960s. This, despite Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act the same year as Hamer delivered her live TV address to the Democratic Party. This, in contrast with what she became through her own sheer will power and faith, put paid to the status given her by the then president Lyndon Johnson of “that illiterate woman.”

Fanny’s singing voice and her power of address carried her through an incredible series of hurdles in order to register to vote, and then inspire a movement. She became so powerful that Johnson had to make a fool of himself by calling an emergency press conference, in which he flummoxed the press by announcing nothing if importance live on TV. I became engaged with the stark difference of the crowds that listened and cheered Fanny as she spoke, and worked around her powerful voice with the nature of the ambience in the outtakes after the speeches of both. As per my previous headphone pieces, the stereo headphones create a crucible in the mind of the listener, where opinions are formed as contrasting words on the same topic meet.

Install shot of the piece at the Brewery Tap UCA

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