‘Conversations We Wish We’d Had’ a sound commission by Ailís Ní Ríain

As recognisable as the double-decker bus, as traditional as fish and chips, a familiar presence from Lands End to John o’ Groats, the red telephone box is a national treasure. In 2006 it was ranked amongst the British public’s top ten 20th century design icons, yet there are only five k6 telephone kiosks in City Centre Manchester.

In May 2010 the Manchester Modernist Society (MMS) premiered a newly commissioned sound installation specifically created for the Manchester Modernist Society and FutureEverything Festival by acclaimed Irish composer and sound artist Ailis Ni Riain, funded by Arts Council England. 

Ailis Ni Riain, the Irish classical composer and writer,combines her interests as a composer, sound-artist, producer and writer to produce works which challenge, provoke and engage. She is particularly interested in cross-discipline collaboration, public sound art, opera, music-theatre and presenting contemporary music in diverse spaces. She is a Composition graduate of University College Cork, with postgraduate degrees from the University of York, the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, where she also became the college’s first Junior Fellow in Education. Her Carnegie Hall debut took place in October 2008.

On the MMS Kiosk commission, she says,

‘I am fascinated by the idea of the old fashioned K6 telephone booths. I find them iconic, poignant, inspiring and intriguing. They are stunning in their own special way and I want to reflect them, their history, heritage and meaning through a new sound installation - a type of paean to a by-gone era. The concept for my work will be Conversations We Wished We Had. It will take the form of a sound installation combining spoken stories, cello, piano to form an electroacoustic sound-scape. The phone booths would have been, for many, a way of communicating those things we wished we had said. The listener will step inside the phone booth in the Courtyard of the Museum of Science and Industry and experience the piece. There are just four other remaining phone booths in central Manchester.’

The Manchester Modernist Society is an artist led project which aims to raise awareness and appreciation of Modern architecture & the urban environment, and related Modern art and design, in Manchester and the surrounding region. Their Manchester Kiosks project is an opportunity to highlight some of these issues through an event which will temporarily return the K6 to its heyday as a hub of communication, a fitting metaphor for our changing relationship with the public realm, our notions of shared space and sense of community

The MMS also commissioned a special poster to promote the commission, from Sheffield based designer The poster was sited beside the 2 kiosks at Library Walk, throughout the duration of the FutureEverything Festival.