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May 10th 2016

Skippering, a colloquial British term for rough sleeping, is a 30-minute ‘sonic meditation on homelessness’ that features sounds collected by a homeless group in Glasgow. In 2014 they and radio producer Steve Urquhart began to record and edit the audio stories that punctuate the piece and guide the listener.

The result is an incredibly powerful and evocative journey that blends fragments of sound and speech from a world where Glasgow’s homeless population live and sometimes die.

The typical sounds experienced by those living on the streets and in the hostels of Glasgow is punctuated by blunt street wisdom, creating a feeling of hope one minute and pitching you bluntly into despair the next. It weaves a mood - the cold, the isolation and the chinks of light that appear through the hustle and bustle of life.

It begins at the start of a day with the sound of a sleeping bag zip and the chirping of birds, before cutting to a death check in a hostel, which involves staff knocking on doors to check that the occupants are still alive: “If they don’t get a response they kick the door in”, someone informs in a casual voice.

The starting point for the piece was the fact that “When you’re skipping on the floor, you are actually down on your knees. You get more attuned to things, things you wouldn’t normally hear. “

Sound functions in different ways to signpost moods and issue warnings. “Even before you go down an alleyway, you’re just listening to hear if there’s anyone already down there. You don’t use your eyes a lot; you’re listening. You make yourself small and quiet, so you’re not noticed. It’s all in your hearing - you get in touch with your animal instincts, and your senses adapt.’

For those who have never been homeless, skippering uses sound to illuminate the fragments of life on the streets and in hostels. For those who have, it offers catharsis, evoking powerful emotional memories through sounds such as the chatter and clatter of soup kitchens and of course that hard ‘death check’ knock of the hostels. For those still out there it represents their daily life: the hope and the grind.

“You’re seen and not heard... hoping, sometimes, for somebody just to turn round and give you a smile, just to ask you how you’re doing. Just that slight human contact to feel human again. ’Cos 90 per cent of the time, you do feel like a ghost with a heartbeat... just floating around.”




New arrivals hit the streets

Soup Run Forum

Web only: Emergency Islington shelter remains open during sub-zero temperatures

Chairman of the board

Rest in peace - in memory of lost friends

Prince poses

Starter pack boost

Wearing a jacket to beg?

Teens found guilty of killing Ralph Millward

The Passage withdraws service "as a last resort"

New learning centre for Glasgow

iHobo game causes controversy

Auckland extends ban on rough sleepers

Homeless interrogation

Affordable housing development opens in Edinburgh

Who decides?

Credit unions

New counts are optional

Nobby on stage

I will never forget you, my people

London homeless services in limbo over £3.28m cuts

Disused night shelter re-opened for winter months

Coventry Cyrenians forced to cut services

London hub success for new rough sleepers

Crisis Skylight in Birmingham - a year on

Residents look ahead to staff upheaval

Midland Heart report

Labour call for hefty council tax levy on empty homes

Stik pic for the American Church

Lottery grant means new opportunities

Mungo's launches women's campaign

Homeless people forced into slavery

Homeless couple marry in Australia

Number of homeless in Southend underestimated

Basic banking for all

NSNO expands into west London

Scottish homeless applications drop by 19 per cent

Miami cannibal

Invisible People film UK homeless

The demilitarised zone in North America’s drug war

2012 - the year of the right to permanent accommodation in Scotland?

Crisis at Christmas

The Pavement is recruiting

Rough sleeper donates $250 to charity

Food voucher scheme scrapped

Commemorating friends and companions

Human rights for all

First person: Gemskii on regaining control of her life

The shades come off

Upfront: spikes

Comment: Spikes are the least of your worries

Opinion: All up in smoke?

Heartbreak Hotel, episode 4.

The Pied Piper of Housing

March for the Homeless

Being homeless doesn't mean you can't vote on May 7

The vulnerability ruling

The Queen’s speech

Criminalising homelessness

116-bed hostel for young homeless to close in Southwark

Sponsor a bed and rebuild a life

Hipsters neutralise anti-homeless spikes

What the Brexit will happen now?

Anti-homelessness protesters threatened with eviction, jail by Manchester city council

Showing our impact


The birth of the North Gower Action Group

A pianist, an artist, a dog called George and a new homeless app

Living water

Midwinter blues?

Councils back change in law to tackle rising homelessness

Having problems with your JSA?

Mayoral hustings on homelessness


A major step in reducing homelessness?

Liverpool Police homeless curb beggars belief

Charity begins at home?

Legal aid charade

Surviving the streets – by those who've done it

Stop the scandal

Glasgow homeless services at risk

Bill gives councils legal duty to stop homelessness

Homeless Grenfell survivors afraid of deportation

Remembering those who have died in the past year

Safer injection action update

Alexander Withers

Kevin Headley

Changes to Glasgow’s Out-of-Hours Homeless Service


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© Copyright 2009-2014 The Pavement. Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656 Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760 ISSN (online) 1757-0484