A Stuttering

chinese whispers on the balcony

Translation Zone: A Stuttering

This live performance is one of the outcomes of Heather’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Cultural Engagement Fellowship with Birmingham City University (BCU) and the Library of Birmingham.

It is the first live work produced and devised by Heather Connelly, under the direction of vocalist and composer Soul Zisso and arranger Daniel Galbreath (both currently PhD candidates at the Conservatoire – BCU). This work marks a significant shift in Heather’s practice as she moves away from creating surround sound works with pre-recorded vocals, to layering and mixing voices in real time, working with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures. This work includes performers speaking Arabic, English, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, traditional Taiwanese and Thai.

The performance has been developed during a series of three workshops enabling the performer/participants (non professional) to become comfortable performing with each other. The process of making and devising the work is an important part of Heather’s research, the work has evolved over a period of months as she interviewed, recorded, edited and listened intently to the sounds of each language, their alphabet, tones and trying to understand how the particular sounds were being made, being voiced. One of the more unexpected challenges was translating and communicating ideas and working experimentally across disciplinary and linguistic boundaries – to guide and navigate and articulate effectively with a large and enthusiastic international team without whom this project could not have been realised.

*The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more.  This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk
logos for web combined


Documentation of the performance 

Photographs and film stills by Lauren Hall, Heather Connelly, Tom Kilby and Johrah Abdul Rahman Al-Homied.

Location 1:

rotunder & library

Location 2: 

all facing library on rooftop

Location 3: 

long view of balcony


Location 4: 

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Location 5:

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* more photographs of the event and the process of making the work can be seen by scrolling down below.


The participants:

workshop 1 sm

The team included photographers, film makers and graphic designer who worked closely with me to capture the nature of the project into a single image and logo. The performers are all bi- or multi-lingual speakers – none of whom are trained performers. See participant profiles for further details.

The process

The research began with each speaker spending 1-2 hours articulating and analysing the sounds of their first language (for most) in and through English with an monolingual English inquirer (artist-researcher). During this time the participants became more and more conscious of their (usually first) language as they recited and analysed the sounds that they had been using instinctively since infancy. Each participant was interrupted and questioned, by Heather, about where the sounds were made, where they came from as she tried to emulate, to emit the same sound from her mouth, from her body.

anqi mouth 2
Heather ‘collected’ the building blocks – the alphabet, the sounds and tones – of each language listening for similarities and disparities, its rhythm, texture and pitch. These sound files of each were the material that Heather began to work with, making sound sketches, layering, combining and repeating groups of letters, sounds and tones.

Workshop 1:

Photographs by Tom Kilby

Yume and bruno sm

soul, chutima & chan sm

mandarin duet sm

IMG_5673 sm

Workshop 2:

Photographs and film stills by Tom Kilby and Johrah Abdul Rahman Al-Homied.

yume and chutima workshop 2

lulu and anna

chan tripdych

anna listening (PS)

anqi teaching

anna maria bruno and me



Workshop 3:

Photographs and film stills by Tom Kilby and Johrah Abdul Rahman Al-Homied

yume sm
johrah and soul
soul conducting abstract

Rehearsal at the Library:

5 out to city horizontal best

outside library rehearsal


We met at the library to prepare and transcribe the score:

gathered to transcribe

transcribing sm



hands collage sm


The warm up continued inside the Beat Box …

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Anna on roof

performing on the roof

garden sm

long view of balcony

balcony head on



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TZposter for performance HIRES 15cm




A Stuttering