Bermagui Talks & The Seagull

This surprising, innovative, community-led project was developed by internationally recognised, award-winning Melbourne sound designers Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey. They collaborated with the Bermagui community on a series of sound walks that informed the creation of a public art installation, The Seagull. It is a complex and exciting project. The sound installation was unveiled at the official launch of the 2012 Four Winds in November 2011.

The sound walks were fun and helped locals identify what it is they hear that makes Bermagui and the Far South Coast such a special place to live. Maddie and Tim created and directed the sound installation, the Megaphone Project, which toured nationally in 2009/10 and will tour internationally this year.

An online library of recorded sounds is available on our Bermi talks page, along with links to a composition by local composer Graeme Gerard which features many of the sounds. The library was also put together by Graeme.

As of May, 2012 a vodcast of the Bermagui Talks and Seagull projects is available from the Four Winds podcast channel. To find out how to subscribe, or to simply download the video, go to the Four Winds podcast page within the Media section of this website.


Genevieve Lacey responds to the Seagull Experience

genevieve, maddie, tim, ashley, sheena, prue and Jamiewith the seagull
genevieve, maddie, tim, ashley, sheena, prue and Jamie with the seagull

We met each day at dawn and dusk, hauling ourselves and the boat down to the jetty. Sometimes The Seagull and its passengers wore burnished halos like something out of fourteenth century Italy, other times, the silvery mist of classic fairytales. Sometimes we were baked by the heat, trailing hands and toes in the water, other times, zipped up, crisp and cool, grateful for extra layers.

A sea eagle graced our first outing, black swans, pelicans, cormorants all called past, seagulls of course, the mullet were literally jumping, the daily garbage truck provided fine counterpoint, other boats came and went, children swam and squawked, dogs barked, the sea roared, everyone's ears became softer, more attuned to the nuances around them as they sat and listened.

There were chairs on the jetty, waiting for the boat. The most beautiful foyer I've entered, with Wallaga Lake and Gulaga laid out before us. Making it easy to understand that for centuries, Gulaga mountain has been a sacred place of teaching and healing for the Yuin people. Her presence shaped the rhythm and experience of our days.

seagull skiff afloat alone
The seagull on Wallaga Lake
Jamie adjusts the megaphone
The seagull on Wallaga Lake and Jamie adjusts the megaphone

Maddie and Tim, with Jamie, Prue and Ashley, turned a boat into an instrument. It is a skiff of stories, painted pacific blue and fleet red, with its whimsical megaphone ear cocked for listening. Jamie choreographs each journey not just after the tides, not just in beautifully sensitive response to the rhythms of Maddie and Tim's piece, but also in response to his four passengers, whose stories and interests he inevitably knows. The water plays its part too, and the density of the air, both changing the acoustics, determining which sounds carry furthest across the lake at which point on the journey.

There were land sessions too, the boat proud on its trailer, life jackets still part of the experience, and umbrellas for rain or sun, passengers sitting up tall on the headland in town, by Murrah Hall, and in the bush, listening.

Often, the work seemed to sneak up on people. They left it quiet, reflective. Especially in the mornings, there was a kind of still reverence about it. In the evenings, it was a way to unwind, to let the day float away, as people gave themselves over to the sounds.

At the picnic table by the lake, just along from the jetty, people sat for a while afterwards. Often the conversations about what it meant to them, or the memories and thoughts it spurred emerged slowly. Evenings, we gathered for BBQs and picnics and it felt like a spontaneous, informal Seagull party. People came back for second sittings. The ripples spread further.

Was it art or life, music or sound, composed or improvised, local or global, history or fiction, personal or archetypal? Partly all these things, the conversations seemed to say.

People came for many reasons. They'd been walking their dog, and wondered what was happening. They'd been night fishing, and seen and heard us testing the boat. They'd seen Jamie working on it out the front of his house for months. They'd taken part in the sound walks. They'd collected sounds and were curious to hear what emerged from all the recordings. They knew someone who'd shared a story. They were supporters of Four Winds. They read about it in the paper or heard it on the radio. They lived across the lake, and were drawn to the sounds. Their granddad was telling stories as part of it, so they came to hear him.

I've thought a lot about ripples since. About all the music in the world around us and what it is to listen intently to a place and people. But more, I have been thinking about all the stories I'll never know, all the ripples that silently and imperceptibly continue to multiply around The Seagull.

innocent in the seagull
innocent in the seagull

I didn't know what to expect …

I'd never thought about what it sounds like here …

Being on the boat was like a meditation …

I felt like the people telling the stories were talking to me …

I'd never thought of voices as music …

It's changed the way I see where I live …


— Genevieve Lacey, February 2012


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