Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 14:39 UK

Belfast's secret rivers revealed

River Farset
The Farset river pictured here in 1830, is now buried underneath Belfast's streets

Hidden rivers flowing under Belfast's streets will soon be heard above ground with the launch of a new arts project.

Resounding Rivers will draw attention to historically important Belfast rivers, which now flow underground.

Six city centre installations will be placed above or near to the rivers' previous routes, and project the sound of water sources onto the streets.

Sonic artist Matt Green said this represents "the past flowing through the present".

The artist told BBC News, "each of the installations is surrounded by a different body of noise - some loud and some quiet.

"All of the sound is supposed to mingle with what is around, never assert itself.

"I expect that some people will pass by the works and not notice them, for others they will hear the sound and be intrigued by it, perhaps becoming aware of it as an artwork or just experiencing it on their own terms for themselves."

'Tamed and buried'

The sound projections will highlight the routes of the Blackstaff and Farset rivers, now constricted to large pipes running beneath Belfast, some big enough to take a bus.

The projections will also reveal the changed shape of the Lagan, which is still a prominent feature of the city, but used to be much wider.

Locations in Northern Ireland with similar water features to those previously found in Belfast were visited and recorded by Mr Green, an artist based at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast.

The installations will feature these recordings, revealing what the city's buried rivers and waterways might once have sounded like.

The artist first learnt of the Blackstaff River when he was researching for another project at Ormeau Baths.

He said, "I found the idea that a force such as a river can be tamed and buried quite intriguing.

"Once I started to look around Ormeau Avenue and the Gasworks, aware of the Blackstaff, I started to notice remains of the river such as the red bridge at the end of the gasworks that is filled in underneath but once passed over the Blackstaff."

The artist thinks that the buried rivers demonstrate "what must be lost in order to 'advance' our cities".

He explained how the Blackstaff was originally culverted in the late 1800s because it was polluted by the industries that utilised it and because it was "preventing the creation of an ordered, systematic town", getting in the way of straight street design and the movement of the town southwards.

The Blackstaff and the Farset historically determined much of the Belfast's layout, and the city grew up around the narrowest bridging point of the Farset river, where High Street is today.

Resounding Rivers will be launched on Thursday 6 May, and the six installations will remain at their city centre sites until 5 June.

A map of the six locations is available from PLACE, the Architecture and Built Environment Centre for Northern Ireland, who commissioned the project.



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