Family memories 'weave themes of community' in new sound installation

Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

Willesden Jewish Cemetery. - Credit: Michael Eleftheriades

An immersive audio art experience has been introduced at Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

Until the end of January, visitors can engage with the free sound installation Invisible City by artist group FOR NOW.

The work was commissioned by the cemetery as part of the first Brent Biennial, part of Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture.

Using a smartphone or, from January 3, a sanitised headset and MP3 player provided, visitors can walk the cemetery paths or find a bench in the heart of the site and lose themselves in a world of reminiscence and stories. 

FOR NOW’s Susanna Grant and Joey Morris, who produced the 24-minute listening experience said they were inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities to build a sonic city, full of life and stories that will wash over the cemetery as the listener. Invisible City transports you to a land of memory, as Arthur, the cemetery foreman, with a chorus of relatives and people from around Willesden, draw you in.

FOR NOW’s Joey Morris said: “There are always so many layers held within landscapes. Memories from different generations within families recorded in the cemetery weave themes of community, home and the connections that hold us all together.”

READ MORE: Willesden Jewish Cemetery opens to the public with trails to explore and free events

Hester Abrams, House of Life project leader at Willesden Jewish Cemetery, said: “Invisible City adds a welcome layer of love and felt experience to the cemetery’s physical landscape. Everyone can relate to its themes. We really hope people from Brent and around London will follow their curiosity and come share in this enveloping experience.”

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A three-year conservation project, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, United Synagogue and other donors, has culminated in the House of Life heritage experience at Willesden Jewish Cemetery. Open to the public since September, visitors can learn about the history of London’s Jewish community.

It is the only Jewish cemetery on England’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest and is the final resting place of scientist Rosalind Franklin, jeweller Harriet Samuel and zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild.

The cemetery grounds are open Sunday to Thursday 8am to 4pm and Friday 8am to 3pm. The only days Invisible City will not be available are when the cemetery is closed (on Saturdays; from December 25-28 and on January 1).