Suffolk Libraries welcomes new Environmentalist in Residence

May 24, 2024
May 24, 2024
James Powell
Martin leading a soundwalk

Suffolk Libraries has welcomed Martin Scaiff as its new Environmentalist in Residence.

Martin is the latest to join the Suffolk Libraries ‘In Residence’ project which offers artists the opportunity to explore and make work in collaboration with libraries over a six- month period. As an organisation funded by Arts Council England, Suffolk Libraries regularly works with artists to establish new projects and initiatives, as well as offering experience and training for emerging artists looking to further their community arts practice.

Martin is a field recordist and teacher. Inspired by his work with young people, particularly those in care, Martin established HomeSounds in 2016. This research-informed project invites everyone, particularly young people in vulnerable circumstances, to become active environmental listeners for the benefit of their creativity, education, health, and wellbeing.

During his residency Martin will be working on the development of a project called Seconds of Sound (S.O.S), inviting the public to take part in weekly sound walks that connect all 45 of our branches (plus some of our local prison libraries too!).

Seconds of Sound (S.O.S) is inspired by a campaign set up through the HomeSounds project, that encourages people to take just a few seconds of their day to listen. As each walk will have a number of seconds associated with it, this will hopefully demonstrate the scope there is for listening in a day, getting people to reflect on what they spend their seconds doing.

Martin is using both image and sound to record libraries and their surrounding environments, and every walking route will generate a bespoke collection of sounds and associated images for people to view and listen to in our libraries.

People can interact with these unique collections through a device called the Museum in a Box - a small, internet connected, Raspberry Pi-powered device which has speakers inside. When you place an ‘object’ on it – 3D prints, postcards, documents, maps and the like; anything you can pick up and touch - an associated audio response will play.

As well as walking activity, Martin will deliver creative workshops and events across our library sites while he’s on the residency. Martin and the Arts Team are currently experimenting with a nature silent disco event which we hope to pilot in one of our libraries in the Autumn.

Through his six-month residency, Martin hopes to share his love of listening with the public and his fascination with the natural world. The purpose of the environmental residency is to use creativity as an instrument to provide environmental education and awareness to the public in ways that are engaging, accessible and fun.

Martin says:

“The modern public library is arguably a noisier place than ever before. Just like the modern world, with acoustic habitats unencumbered by human generated sound becoming few, and getting farther between. As environmental sound is commonly an aspect of our lives that is borderless and beyond our control (think of traffic or industrial noise) we often take back control by creating individual acoustic habitats, increasingly through technology but also by isolating ourselves in other ways. This isolation has consequences for the natural world. As our encounters with the infinite richness and complexity of natural sound decrease, the appreciation of its influence and importance declines in equal measure. Through technology we can listen to environmental sound from all over the world like never before, but in a search for meaning, the basis of caring, nothing beats actively listening for a few seconds to wherever you are, right now.”

“The countless opportunities for active listening presented by my residency at Suffolk Libraries fills me with an almost overwhelming excitement! I’m delighted to be invited to take up this role, not least because I imagine I’m going to be pretty fit by the end of it!”

Martin began walking as soon as his residency started on the 15 April. Martin has already visited Lavenham, Hadleigh, Capel, Chantry, Stoke, Gainsborough, Ipswich, Rosehill and Broomhill libraries and led a dawn chorus walk from Chantry Library.

The walks are open to everyone and people can walk for as little or as long as they like. The walks vary in distance and terrain so please do check the routes before setting out and remember to wear appropriate footwear and clothing. The detailed routes are published online here the day before the walks take place on a Monday or Tuesday.

There will be weeks where the walks are themed and/or targeted at specific groups, but the walking routes remain open access for anyone to join unless advertised otherwise.

Here is the full SOS Walk Itinerary:

Week 1 – Lavenham to Hadleigh on Tuesday 16 April

Week 2 – Hadleigh to Capel to Chantry on Tuesday 22 April

Week 3 – Chantry to Broomhill to Ipswich to Stoke to Gainsborough to Rosehill on Monday 29 April

Week 4 – Rosehill To Felixstowe on Tuesday 7 May

Week 5 – Felixstowe to Hollesley Bay on Monday 13 May

Week 6 – Hollesley Bay/Warren Hill to Woodbridge on Monday 20 May

Week 7 – Woodbridge to Wickham Market on Tuesday 28 May

Week 8 – Wickham Market to Aldeburgh on Monday 3 June

Week 9 – Aldeburgh to Leiston to Saxmundham on Monday 10 June

Week 10 – Saxmundham to Southwold on Monday 17 June

Week 11 – Southwold to Kessingland on Monday 24 June

Week 12 – Kessingland to Lowestoft to Oulton Broad on Monday 1 July

Week 13 – Oulton Broad to Beccles to Bungay on Monday 8 July

Week 14 – Bungay to Halesworth on Monday 15 July

Week 15 – Halesworth to Framlingham on Monday 29 July

Week 16 – Framlingham to Stradbroke on Monday on Tuesday 6 August

Week 17 – Stradbroke to Eye on Monday 12 August

Week 18 – Eye to Needham Market on Monday 19 August

Week 19 – Needham Market to Stowmarket to Elmswell to Thurston on Monday 2 September

Week 20 – Thurston to Ixworth to Moreton Hall to Bury St Edmunds on Monday 9 September

Week 21 – Bury St Edmunds to Brandon on Monday 16 September

Week 22 – Brandon to Lakenheath to Mildenhall on Monday 23 September

Week 23 – Mildenhall to Newmarket on Monday 30 September

Week 24 – Newmarket to Haverhill on Monday 7 October

Week 25 – Haverhill to Kedington to Clare to Glemsford on Monday 14 October

Week 26 – Glemsford to Long Melford to Sudbury to Lavenham on Monday 21 October

There will also be other ways people can engage with the project including contributing their own sounds.

If you would like to find out more, please contact Suffolk Libraries Arts team at

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