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Simon Fenoulhet


Glamorgan Archives 2016

In 2016 I spent three months working at the Glamorgan archives as artist in residence. The Glamorgan Archives is a repository of administrative records for the whole of the historic county of Glamorgan and is located on the outskirts of Cardiff. The archive also stores a host or fascinating history such as diaries, recipe books, architectural plans, mining records and personal letters. In the temperature controlled vaults, the civic records rub shoulders with the personal and the historical giving the researcher a rich resource.

From the outset I was attracted to idea of sensory information that is stored in the archives as a way of accessing the past in a non verbal way. I started by looking for drawings, recipes, photos and musical notation to see what I could find. I made cakes and biscuits from the 18th and 19th centuries to experience tastes from the past and transcribed notation from a composer’s notebooks to enable previously unheard works for strings to be experienced for the first time. The item that really caught my attention was a box of documents and a commemorative brochure to celebrate the town of Barry being awarded its Municipal Charter, including a specially written ‘Festal Song’, an anthem celebrating the town. Sadly this event coincided with the outbreak of the second World War and so all the public celebrations were cancelled, including a public performance of Festal Song.

After the residency finished I decided to form a choir with the help of conductor Dorothy Connell to perform the song and record it for posterity, placing a copy in the archives along with the music for four part harmony and a short film of the performance.