Creative Writing Interpretation of a High Street Sound Walk in Grantham

Tracing Echoes

A traditional British police siren

with two notes in quick succession

starts off small and far away

but gets closer…


Location 1: Edith Smith Way.

[Time stamp: 00:09]

The original siren is replaced by a dancing, looping three-note siren

that is much, much closer. About to pass, it stops

and the final note hangs...

[Young people]

Yeah, she was a police officer.

Oh, wow. (Echoes)

Wasn’t she the first female police officer?


[Man] Warranted policewoman – a vehicle engine starts and ticks over – who was employed by the borough of Grantham from 1915 – a siren blares and echoes – through to 1918. (Overlaps) ..employed specifically (crackly) because during the First World War there were two very large camps for soldiers who went off, did their training in the Grantham area – siren repeats and echoes – and then went off, through to France particularly.

(Crackly, with the same voice echoing in the background) Sadly… She was very successful but – crackles intensify – she left her job, returned to a nursing career. But sadly, she took her own life in the 1920s. So it was a very sad end for somebody that we have celebrated and… (Echoes)

[Young people]

Yeah, she was a police officer.

Oh, wow. (Echoes)

Wasn’t she the first female police officer?


She went to KG. (Echoes)

Yeah. Margaret Thatcher was born in Grantham, that’s all I know.

(Echo) Oh, wow.

I know Isaac Newton was born in Grantham...

He got hit by an apple!

He went to King’s and...

His name’s been put into, I think, the library.

He was bad at school, though. He couldn’t, he couldn’t do anything.

He got hit by an apple!

And then he got hit… Shall we go over there to see where the apple is?

He was bad at school.

He was bad at school.

He was bad at school.

And then he got hit… Shall we go?

And then he got hit… Shall we go?

And then he got hit… Shall we go?

And then he got hit…


Now walk to location 2: St Peter's Hill Gardens.


Under the above and now in the foreground, footsteps resound on hard surfaces. A bicycle tick-tick-ticks by and a young person calls out. In less of a hurry, a succession of footsteps and voices come and go. Individual voices and conversations rise above the others, only to sink back again. An organ plays in the background. Repeated cascades of the same faint notes weave in and out of all the footsteps and voices. Plastic wheels roll. Shoes shuffle and scuff.

[Young people]

Do you know that thing with the clock on it? Near… The town clock.



Oh, no.

The clock with the lights.

Where Jesus is on the…

Yeah, that thing.

Sir Isaac Newton.

Yeah, that thing.

[Woman] Kate...


[Woman] How did you not know that was Sir Isaac Newton?

Because I don’t look at the names.

Well, when they do…

(Overlaps) All I do is look at the statues.

And the statue of where Maggie Thatcher’s gonna be.

(A child laughs in the distance)


The green on St Peter’s Hill has always been a popular area. It was… (Wash of traffic) Traditionally it had sort of carol services externally at Christmas time with the Salvation Army band playing. And…

[Young person] Taking my gran to the doctor’s.

[Woman] Hello.

[Young person] In a wheelchair.

(Same cascade of organ notes)

[Young person] Christmas time and New Year’s, they’d always have firework displays.

[Young man] Yeah, Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. It was based around that, that… In the 1960s, it was.

(Footsteps and voices pass)

[Woman] Yeah, it was the 60s, yeah.

[Young man] And that… And that play got based around what Margaret Thatcher done, where they shut down all the factory work. And then you had a working class and a middle class…

(Footsteps and voices continue to pass)

[Young person] New Year’s, they’d always have firework displays and stuff like that. And a shed of the Jesus characters.

(Young person sings)

Bringing up Jesus and his…

Echoing voices fade.


Location 3: Make your way across the road to Prezzo, High Street.


A film projector whirrs and clicks. The clicking speeds up until it cuts out. The whirring winds down. Male and female voices titter and mutter in the rustling silence.

[Man] He’s off again.

Laughter comes and goes in waves. Other members of the audience comment in hushed voices. The laughter almost peters out at one point but a woman takes advantage of a resurgence of laughter to clear her throat.

[Same man] He’s off again.

The whirring resumes, as does the tittering and muttering, before stopping altogether.

[Myrna Loy] (Sighs) Nicky, can you reach the water?

(William Powell grunts)

‘Can you reach the water?’ and the grunt echo alternately and fade, to be replaced by a rhythmic shuttling and clacking.

[Myrna Loy] Oh, no, I just…

Oh, no, I just…

Oh, no, I just…

(Overlaps) I just wanted to be sure you could reach it.

I just wanted to be sure you could reach it.

I just wanted to be sure you could reach it. (Fades)

[Older people]

[First man] Well, Glenn Miller came to the picture house, didn’t he?

[Myrna Loy] Oh, no, I just…

[Second man] Yeah.

(Overlaps) Oh, no, I just…

I just wanted to be sure you could reach it. (Fades)

[Second man] State.

[First man] So they say. I mean, I don’t remember it.

[Woman] Oh.

[First man] But I do remember going to see an actual…a live show there with…which included military personnel, but I can’t remember for the life of me the name of it. (Foregrounded) At the State Cinema, yeah, and the…

[Woman] Fleapit.

[First man] State of the picture house for the Exchange cinema, which was called the EH.

[Myrna Loy] Can you reach the water?

Can you reach the water?

Can you reach the water? (Fades)

[First man] But also, I mean, there was lots of hotels in the town as well.

(Shuttling and clacking)

[Woman] What was the Granada called before…?

[First man] State.

[Second man] State, was it?

[First man] State Cinema.

[Woman] Oh, I can’t remember that. But I can remember it live.

[Second man] (Foregrounded) But I’m into cinemas. I’m also interested in them. Always have been.

[First man] That’s right, yeah.

[Second man] Not necessarily just films. The machinery of cinemas. I remember…

(Myrna Loy sighs)

[Second man] I do remember it quite well. Soon after I came to Grantham, we used to go to…

[Myrna Loy] Can you reach the water? (Echoes and fades)

[First man] (Foregrounded) Bingo hall plus entertainment, and it was full. (Shuttling and clacking) It was full, making money.

[Woman] But Grenadiers on a Saturday morning for the kids, yeah, you know.

[Second man] (Overlaps) On a Saturday morning for the kids.

[First man] Yeah, but that again, that was…when it was the Grenada.

[Second man] (Overlaps) And then television came…

[Woman] (Overlaps) When it... Yeah.

[Second man] (Overlaps) You don’t go out.

[Woman] (Overlaps) You know, and… (Foregrounded) Harry Sanders?

[First man] (Overlaps) Harry Sanders. Well, yeah. Everybody did.

[Woman] (Overlaps) Yeah, he run the Granada.

[First man] Yeah.

[Woman] Yeah.

[First man] He was the manager there.

[Woman] Yeah.

[First man] He started the Grantham Grenadiers and…

[Woman] Yeah.

[First man] ..encouraged kids to go to the cinema and...

[Woman] Yeah.

[First man] Yeah, he was a good bloke.

[Woman] Used to go for sixpence. Wasn’t it sixpence to go to…?

[First man] I don’t know. I never went. I was too busy.

[Woman] Well, you was older, weren’t you? You was after that age group.

[Second man] (Foregrounded) I do remember, because I went to the Granada when I came here, regularly.

[First man] Yeah.

[Second man] And I do remember the projectionist. I think he was probably about the last one. I just knew him as Mr Girdlestone.

[Woman] (Titters)

[Second man] Does that ring a bell?

[Woman] Was he a projectionist? (Foregrounded) If there was, like, a film that was going to be on that was… (Echoes) And I vaguely remember something like that, a parade. (Echoes) Coming through the town. Very vaguely.

[Second man] Circuses used to be…

[First man] Circuses used to happen regular.

[Woman] There probably was a circus in the area and he borrowed the…borrowed the elephants.

[Second man] He’d bring the elephants in the front row.

[First man] Billy Smart’s. (Foregrounded) The films that was on show then. Most of them were black and white, I suppose, but they did eventually come to colour. (Echoes)

A buzzing intensifies and then fades, to reveal a pure tone,

which in turn gives way to voices.


Location 4: Walk slowly through the High Street until you reach Guildhall Street.


A woman talks in the background as if on the phone

in among the disparate voices of adults and children.

[Older woman] (Brightly, as if to a child) Hello!

Light but stampy footsteps emerge from among the voices

and get closer. Although in a hurry,

it takes them a while to cover the distance.

Finally, they pass and start to recede,

to be replaced by other footsteps, other voices.

A song plays in the background.

[Young people]

(Voices overlap)

Where what?

(The beat kicks in)

Is it still there?

What? There’s a new one where it’s got like Peacocks and that in it and I got my shorts from there.

Peacocks is shut down now.

Yeah, I know. If I want anything ever, I go shopping out at Newark.

I go shopping in JD but it’s not Grantham.

Oh, no, don’t. I went out to Sports Direct.

No, I think they should build one.

What, build a JD? 

In my opinion, I think that’s where…

Do you know where Peacocks was?
I think JD should go there.

I think JD…

Do you know how they…?

You turn right where McDonald’s is.

Near Dysart Park.

(Overlaps) Listen, listen, the best place in Grantham is Maccy’s.

I think I’ve sliced every part of my leg up now.


Whose is this Mr. Sting?

At the moment there’s charity shops, there’s food shops…

Well, you’ve got a Poundland…

(Overlaps) ..and charity shops.’ve got a Lidl, you’ve got an Aldi.

[Woman] There’s not many shops left in the town, so it’s charity shops, cafés…

Or corner shops. Corner shops.

My favourite shops are…

(Overlaps) Them corner shops are well sick.

Go on, sing.

No, no. No.

I know, I’ve seen them all.

Oi, Deon, Deon, do you want me to go and fetch your guitar for you?

I bet there’s not going to be many shops. I think

there’s just going to be one massive shopping centre.

The fair, I go there all the time when it comes up from

the first day till the last. And I sneak there, jokes aside.

[Older men and women]

The Rainbow Café.

Oh, yeah.

The Long Bar. The Long Bar.

The Rainbow caff was on the High Street.

The Long Bar was on London Road.

Yes, the Rainbow Café on the High Street.

Yeah, yeah.

Next door to the picture house.

Yeah. Used to go in there, yeah.

It was a big… It was a big… It was a big supermarket before Lidl took it on.

(Traffic passes)

Yes, yes.

No, it was… It was a lot of shops.

There used to be a vegetable shop as well on the high street.

Sterne Austin’s.

Sterne Austin’s. And then it went to Darmons, didn’t it?

Well, one of them streets up there, anyway – car horn – on the corner, on the corner…

What, Darmons was?

Darmons… Darmons started selling potatoes and all that stuff down Wharf Road.

(A motorbike rumbles past)

Did they?

Yes, yes.

I didn’t know that.

With a small shop.

And then, eventually, when Mr Darmon died and David took it on…

Yeah, David took it on.

He moved down to the bottom of Welby Street with flowers.

(Overlaps) I walked straight into a job at Timothy Whites.

Mind you, looking back, I said to my kids

when they go, ‘Oh, you know, it’s so long, so long,’

I said, ‘I worked 42 hours a week…’

vehicle passes – ‘..when I left school.’

I think everybody did.

(Chilled piano music plays in the background)

Well, you did.

After the war. That was after the war.

You know, it was 4-… You were… 15 years old and they used to do 42 hours a week.

You see, it’s a recent thing. The Newton is a recent…

There was Catlins, which is still there, isn’t it?

Yeah. Well, the shops are there.

And there was Chambers.


Which was a big…

You see, it’s a recent thing.

(Overlaps) ..ladies’ store.

The Newton is a recent…

There was Catlins, which is still there, isn’t it?

Yeah. Well, the shops are there.

And there was Chambers.


Which was a big…ladies’ store.

(Overlaps) Graham’s. And then there was Timothy Whites and there was Boots.

(Overlaps) And there was a furniture shop between Catlins and Graham’s,

it was called. Can you remember?

Yeah. Yeah, I can.

Graham’s. And then there was Timothy Whites and there was Boots.

(Chilled piano music continues)


Now move towards location 5: Blue Court on Guildhall Street.


Faint voices and footsteps punctuate the gentle swells of the music. A young child whimpers and adult voices, conversing in Portuguese, attempt to hush and distract the child, including with single and double claps. Despite their efforts, the child cries. A woman imitates the child’s baseless distress and the others laugh. She talks to and shushes the child, which seems to work for a bit, but the child whimpers again and she chuckles. A brief lull ensues before conversation resumes, with unchecked laughter.

The woman imitates the child’s baseless distress and the others laugh. She talks to and shushes the child, which works for a bit, but the child whimpers again and she chuckles. A new piece of chilled music starts and conversation resumes, with unchecked laughter.

[Portuguese woman] I worked in a factory first. After, I start to work in…and I have a coffee shop for ten years.

[Young person] There was one… To Café 7. I shall go down towards… (Repeats and fades)

[Portuguese woman] I have, really I have, a lot of Portuguese but I have Lithuanian, Polish, really, and I am not going to say it is a very bad business because I have a little bit everywhere, you know. I have a customer sometimes who comes to me and talk…talks Polish and…‘I’m sorry, I’m no understanding.’

(Another woman laughs)

I have a customer sometimes who comes to me and talk…talks Polish and…‘I’m sorry, I’m no understanding.’

(Another woman laughs)

(Voices converse in Portuguese)

[Woman] Mwah!


[Young people]

Café 7…

But there’s a Portugal flag in there… (Repeats)

(Voices continue in Portuguese)

[Portuguese woman] At home, yeah, where I live, my life, where I live, it is coffee shop, home, coffee shop. If I am out is Monday because I am closed on Mondays… (Echoes and fades)

[Young people]

I don’t know what it’s called now but I used to go there as a kid with my dad and my mum.

It’s still called Café 7.

I don’t know what it’s called now but I used to go there as a kid with my dad and my mum.

It’s still called Café 7.

You know, I used to go there. I used… There’s so many people that…

[Portuguese woman] You can see more shops open. Discos. I remember, for example, in 97 is…one disco here, named Krystals…

[Young person] Yeah, we used to go there. I used… There’s so many people that we used to know don’t go there any more because the company’s changed. The people in there have changed over time. Lots of the old people there have died as well. My gran used to know someone who used to go there as well.

[Portuguese woman] Really, there’s too many discos where you can go dancing and enjoy your night till three o’clock without ever stopping.

..where you can go dancing and enjoy your night till three o’clock without ever stopping…

..three o’clock…

The chilled music continues. Voices converse in the background.


Now move towards and walk around location 6, the George Shopping Centre.


The chilled music is gradually drowned out by the whine of drilling work. The grinding rises and falls. A pause in the drilling discloses the footsteps and voices of passing people. Piped music plays. The drilling resumes in the background, then the foreground, finally letting up to uncover the footsteps, voices and piped music once more. The piped music fades to leave just the footsteps and voices.

[Older people]

You know, the… They… I mean, them… The three that… The…Red Lion and the…


..and the George…



..and the Angel were really three of the…


[Young people]

..there’s nothing there.

Yeah, there’s not much in there.

There’s only eyela… Look, there’s nail stuff and there is eyebrow stuff.

There’s ones we can’t go in now we’ve been kicked out of. (Giggles)

[Older people]

[Woman] I can remember going in there one night and having a meal but not as a regular… I can remember the shoe factory had their Christmas do there one night.

[Young people]

It was a hotel.



Back in the day.

Back in the day.

When my grandad was a kid.

When he was a kid.

Back in the day.

My grandad.


[Older people]

Well… Yeah, but it’s a nice area to… They did have shops in there to start with.

Well, they was all nice shops but they just didn’t suit one, did they?

There was a good shoe shop in there. I mean, that’s another thing…

[Young people]

There’s a gaming place there as well.

There’s driving test shop things up there. The theory test centre.

If it’s true, right, what I read…

[Older people]

There was a shoe shop. There was a ladies’ clothes shop.

(Overlaps) There’s still an optician’s now, isn’t there?


I can’t think what they’re called.


[Woman] Oh, it was magnificent. I had my first job there when I left school. Chambermaid. It was the most amazing hotel.

[Man] Landlord’s ball. And things like… Licensee’s balls, a hunt ball and all that went on there and everybody’s there in finery…

[Young people]

(Overlaps) It was the Journal, actually. (Foregrounded) They’re looking to turn the George Centre back into the hotel…to what it was. There you are.

Oh, that’d be sick.

[Older people]

(Overlaps) What was it…? When you go there now, is all that open to the public, the courtyard in the middle?



With the shops.



[Young people]

(Overlaps) Gucci. There was Gucci.

Yeah, I know.

[Woman] In the George Centre?

Yeah, there was.

There was Gucci.


Gucci. Gucci…

[Older people]

(Overlaps) There was another bar down there, wasn’t there, called the George Tap.

Yeah, the George Tap.

Which was part of it. It covered a big area, the George Hotel did. (Crackles of interference) It was an impressive building, the George Hotel.


(Waves of drilling)

For what sort of high-society type thing it…

[Young people]

Back in the day…

Back in the day…

Back in the day…

Back in the day…

Back in the day…

Back in the day… (Fades)


Waves of drilling and interference give way to the pure tones of chilled music.


Now walk towards and take a seat by location 7, Market Cross.


The undulations of chilled music lead us on to where footsteps and voices congregate. Someone whistles. Voices chatter in the background and a man calls out the price of goods. Someone whistles again. A hubbub of exchanges takes place. A cash register opens and coins drop. Nearer now, multiple animated conversations run into each other. ‘Well, you see, then, you see, every...’ says an older woman. ‘You see, Gill and Alan had a...' A man whistles a tune as a throaty vehicle passes. Breathily, as if from running, or excitement, a child says, 'Mum, there's so much...' Voices continue to overlap amid the bustle. Coins clatter. 'Well, we were watching, you know,’ says a woman, ‘and I think they must have shown every ship except that one, you know.' Plastic wheels roll and the voices recede as footsteps separate out from the crowd.

[Women and young adult]

That… That’s the Market Place.


Yeah, Wat…

Yeah. No, that… I don’t… I’m not sure whereabouts that is. But this is what they call Wide Westgate.



So, Watkins, the Watkins shop…

Watkins shop…

..would be here somewhere, yeah. Yeah? This… Can… Find that…

It’s changed a lot, hasn’t it?


But it’s definitely buzzing there. It’s buzzing there and…

That’s it.

[Young people]

(Overlaps) I remember the woman selling the strawberries for, like, two for one pound.

And the burgers.

And when she shouts out…

They’re mad! see all the people just, like…

They’re only one pound.

..stood at the stall buying loads of fruit and buying loads of other stuff.

[Older people]

One particular stall I can always remember coming… ‘Oh, the tomato stall’s here!’ Can you remember the tomato stall?

Yeah, Mr Gray’s.

I don’t know who it was but they used to come and they used to sell tomatoes.

[Women and young adults]

Yeah, yeah. New. New.

But this is cool. There’s like an old car here.

That’s us…doing Woolworths.


Did you write it?


[Older people]





There was everything.

There was everything. There were tool stalls. Fish mar… Fish stalls.

I mean…

Egg stalls.

Bakers. Everything. Anything you wanted.

(Overlaps) Fabric. You know, fabric. I can remember when my kids was little…

[Young people]

(Overlaps) Everyone’s always…

(Overlaps) It’s dead. It’s going dead.

It wasn’t.

Oh, the fair’s the best.



[Women and young adults]

It looks like a chemist’s.

Does it?

Or like the mill thingy, I don’t know.

That’s Gravity, isn’t it?

Yeah, Gravity, yeah.

That one. That one is the big one.





Oh, chemist’s. Oh, that must be the chemist’s, then.

(Overlaps) You know where Watkins is? Watkins is just here somewhere. That’s Wide Westgate.

[Older people]

It was great. It was like a show, wasn’t it?

Yeah, yeah.

It was like a showmanship, you know.

You don’t get so much of that now.

They’d be so close together.

[Young people]

Yeah, cos I go busking, with my guitar.

(Someone giggles and mutters)

(Overlaps) I’ve got a busking licence. And I used to get about 20 quid for about an hour.

[Older people]


Help yourself.

Help yourself, yeah. Well, there weren’t many cars on the road, was there?


But, I mean, the market, again, in another thing, when…I was a child... (A child calls out) I can remember my mum… Because there used to be a livestock market. (Echoes) Oh, Dysart Road end. I think it was because it was near the…whatsit.

[Women and young adults]

We used to go to a place called Jasper’s.

Yeah. Where was that, though?

That was – shuffles pages – in the Market Place, right? So you’re looking there and you’re sort of up here.

Yeah, so I think that is the old one opposite Genes hairdresser’s.

That’s it, yeah.



That is the Westgate Hall.

Where the ladies do the dancing, that used to be like a sports bar there. Crocodile Rock or Strikers.

[Older people]

On a Saturday, there used to be…Goldings used to have its own market actually in the Market Place.

There used to be two auctions.


[Young adult]

I think it’s Westgate. That used to be used as…for the coal and things.

[Older people]

There was always a pigpen there…


..with a couple or three pigs.

And sheep and…

There used to be bags of big potatoes.


That you all go and pay more money today for little potatoes like that and they were sold on the market.

[Woman and young adult]

(Overlaps) And that’s Woolworths, where Woolworths used to be, isn’t it? And then I think at some point it was Jonathan James as well, a shoe shop.


Isn’t it? And the cars, the old-fashioned cars that were parked up.

[Young people]

Where’d you go again?

Near Market Place. This is when it was busy.

I wanna go.

What did you do?


It used to be an old ironmonger’s shop. That’s why it’s there, and it’s been there ever since. And it’s been up for hun… (A drum solo clatters and fades) I’m sure it was a very, very long time.



There’s supposed to be a tunnel under Grantham, isn’t there? There’s

supposed to be walkways from, like, where the Angel and Royal is.

[Older people]

Saturday the Market Place was the hub of the town.

Full. It was full.

It was full. It was a place where you went down and you… Everybody chatted to everybody. (Echoes) You know, you met people. It… It was a social thing, really.

Yeah, it was, yeah.

(Overlaps) It was packed, wasn’t it?

Yeah, you know…

You know, you’d be walking side by side.

(Overlaps) Absolutely, yeah.


The drum solo resurfaces with a clash of cymbals.

The clatter-and-crash reverberates and fades.


Voices break through but staccato pounding intensifies

to a frenetic pace, drowning them out.

The drummer throws everything at it

before switching to a rough rhythm.

Drumbeats and cymbals alternate rapidly

and fade.






between the silence.


Walk towards the final location: St Wulfram’s Church.


Birdsong continues to saturate the silence

as traffic passes at enough of a distance

for individual engines to be subsumed

into the general background whoosh.


A piano plays with enough space between notes
to claim the liquid birdsong and sleepy traffic

as part of the piece.


Wings whistle, a wood pigeon coos, as refrain.


The birdsong, traffic and piano

all take their turn

centre stage.


Wings flap as if in response to harsher runs of notes,

as easily abandoned as picked up.


The piano starts to fade

but mounts a return with flurries of repeated notes.


A latch clicks, keys jangle. Footsteps tramp

and traverse the space with thumps and bumps.


The footsteps approach. Keys rattle faintly

with each firm tread. The footfalls pass

and recede, to thud in the background

amid the free-style tinkling of the piano.


Church bells ring amid more shuffling.


Footsteps approach once more.

A man’s question hangs in the air.


The footsteps thud and flap, close now,

before tramping off. A latch scrapes,

a door creaks. Voices, thuds,
distract from the piano.


Outside, a vehicle passes. Above,

behind it all, the birdsong. The piano’s final notes
possess a bell-like clearness.


Footsteps tap and crunch.


Distant voices cannot disturb.


Birdsong abounds.

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