(Audio-)describing the Maze/Long Kesh
Conference name
Arsad 2019
Recent social, legal and technical advances have significantly increased the availability of access services in a range of different cultural settings and formats. In the UK, a growing recognition of the importance of access has been a catalyst for many institutions to rethink their policies and approaches to inclusion. This has led to an increased uptake in access services- that includes audio description – which in turn have created new opportunities and challenges for audio description research and practice. Digital heritage, in the form of online archives, represents one of these new formats that is gradually opening to more diverse audiences. Ensuring that digital information is accessible to current and future generations is one of the most pressing challenges in the sector.

With this in mind, this paper presents the preliminary findings of a new application of audio description for a digital audiovisual archive, the Prisons Memory Archive (PMA), based in Northern Ireland. With critical attention paid to the methods of recording the experiences of others who lived through the civil conflict, colloquially known as ‘the Troubles,’ the PMA raises important questions about whose stories are told, how they are told and to whom (Side, 2016, p. 59). Moreover, the PMA video tours reveal the complexity attached to a place which divides historical interpretation. For some, the prison represents a place of great significance in the wake of the 1981 Hunger Strikes, while others have come to view it as a shrine to terrorists. Working within this context, the PMA video tours provoke a critical re-thinking about the use(s) of audio description in the shaping of the story and stories of the Maze and Long Kesh prison.

Taking this as its starting point, this paper will reflect on the act of audio describing a place which divides political interpretation, questioning the applicability of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to audio description. Instead, it proposes a more dynamic, context driven audio description which takes on board contrasting political opinions and interpretations of the past. It questions the role of the audio describer as an impartial mediator arguing the need for more transparency with audiences in the context of Northern Ireland where political sensitivities remain tender. Finally, it explores the inherent tension between description and interpretation, delving into the complexity of contextualising a contested place.
Submitted by Irene Tor on Mon, 15/04/2019 - 06:48