Listening to Voices: Creative Disruptions with
the Hearing Voices Network


Listening to Voices: Creative Disruptions with the Hearing Voices Network is a research project that tries to understand how we can listen to voices that we find difficult, disruptive or challenging, whether these seem to come from inside or outside ourselves. It has been created by voice-hearers, academics and independent artists who are interested in asking why and how we silence voices in ourselves or others and how we might help increase understanding about the experience of hearing voices. Together we have created a companion to voice-hearing - Listen (If you Dare) - an interactive web version of the companion and a sound piece.
These works are challenging and are intended to raise awareness, empathy and understanding about the nature of voice-hearing experiences among support providers, families, friends and the wider public. They create space not only for voice-hearers, but for the voices they hear to be made visible and audible. These works seek to subvert and disrupt traditional ways of thinking about voice-hearing experiences and the silencing strategies that stop us from listening. We have begun creatively applying what we have learnt through co-producing these works to different forms of research (see Further Research section). By doing this we hope to encourage the practice and develop the skill of listening to voices that often go unheard.

Companion to voice-hearing

Listen (If You Dare): An Unlikely Companion to Voice-Hearing is a radical new text about voice-hearing experiences. It explores what it is like to hear voices and attempts to help the reader experience something of that too. It also tries to understand how we can listen better to those voices that we find difficult, disruptive or challenging, whether these seem to come from inside or outside ourselves.
Listen (If You Dare) was co-authored by members of Time and Space Hearing Voices group, Hearing Voices Belfast, Hearing Voices Ireland, the project researchers, sound artist Pedro Rebelo and designer Sara Nevay. They met together at a weekend retreat to reflect on, share and broaden their experiences of listening and being listened to. This retreat and the follow up discussions resulted in the production of this booklet in November 2015.
Warning: Some of the text and voices in the Listen (If You Dare) may be disturbing. They reflect real experience and contain explicit content. For anyone who hears voices (particularly if this is a new experience) or loves someone who hears voices, reading it may be difficult or triggering.

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Interactive Companion

To accompany the printed and downloadable version of Listen (If You Dare): An Unlikely Companion to Voice-Hearing we have created an interactive text.
Warning: This online version of Listen (If You Dare) contains audio and text from the outset that you or others in your environment may find disturbing.
This interactive companion works on desktop only and it is recommended that you use headphones. You can explore it here

Sound Piece

Created by Pedro Rebelo and research participants, the Listening to Voices sound piece is an immersive audio work employing three dimensional binaural audio techniques and is to be experienced with headphones. The piece aims to delve into the experiential phenomenon of hearing voices.
All vocal materials for the piece were gathered during a retreat with voice-hearers in 2015 during which activities focusing on listening were conducted, as well as interviews and field recording sessions. The work takes the listener through different sound environments and introduces the experience of listening to voices through short narrative fragments, descriptions articulating how the voices relate to the acoustic world and enacted performances.
The work is structured in four sections. A long introduction presents the experience of voice-hearing through short personal stories and ends with an enactment of the experience of hearing negative voices. The remaining two sections are episodes (“Lab” and “Restaurant”) which focus on the relationship between voices and the acoustic environment. “Lab” features accounts which attempt to describe the phenomenon of hearing voices and reflects on the challenges the medical profession has in understanding this condition. “Restaurant” explores how voices are triggered by everyday sound environments and often arise out of saturated listening experiences. The piece ends with a third episode “Night” which is based on an enacted performance exploring the role of positive voices and thoughts.
The enacted performances were fully improvised and featured only members of the voice-hearing community. We would like to thank the extreme generosity, sincerity and positive energy of all participants. This piece would have not been possible without their contribution and guidance.
Warning: The piece includes explicit content and adult language. Some listeners may find the voices featured in the piece disturbing.

Project Team

Debbie Maxwell

Dr Gail McConnell

Principal Investigator
Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Gail McConnell is Lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast. She is the author of Northern Irish Poetry and Theology (Palgrave, 2014) and is one of the editors of The Irish Review. Gail’s research interests are in modern Irish and British poetry, in particular the politics of literary form. Her work on lyric disintegration, violence, revision and repetition underpins her interest in voice-hearing experience and disrupted form. She has enjoyed the opportunity to work with voice-hearers from Scotland and Ireland in co-producing the many facets of Listening to Voices.

Debbie Maxwell

Dr Jo Collinson Scott

University of the West of Scotland

Dr Jo Collinson Scott is a Lecturer in Commercial Music at the University of the West of Scotland. She is a practice-led researcher in the field of popular music songwriting (performing and touring internationally under the name Jo Mango) and also researches creative approaches to writing non-fiction text. Past research includes her doctoral thesis which explored what can be learnt from the lived experience of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia about the music that is present (but hidden) in different texts, and the AHRC funded 'Fields of Green Project' looking at addressing climate change through music festival communities.

Debbie Maxwell

Dr Debbie Maxwell

University of Edinburgh

Dr Deborah Maxwell is a lecturer in Interactive Media at University of York. Her research interests are around the ways that people interact with and reshape technology and the roles that storytelling can play across media. Past research includes her doctoral research working with traditional storytellers in Scotland, mobile digital interpretation projects in rural Northumberland, and the design of digital tools to facilitate and encourage serendipitous encounters in research.

Sara Nevay

Sara Nevay

University of Dundee

Sara Nevay is a designer currently undertaking an EPSRC funded PhD with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at University of Dundee. With a focus upon co-design methodologies Sara’s research explores how objects, interactions and experiences can be designed to mediate and enable communication. Sara feels privileged to have worked alongside the voice-hearers, groups and researchers for ‘Listening to Voices’ and enjoyed co-designing and developing the visual language of the project.

Perdo Rebelo

Professor Pedro Rebelo

Queen’s University Belfast

Pedro is a composer, sound artist and performer working primarily in chamber music, improvisation and sound installation. In 2002, he was awarded a PhD by the University of Edinburgh where he conducted research in both music and architecture. Pedro has recently led participatory projects involving communities in Belfast and favelas in Maré, Rio de Janeiro. This work has resulted in sound art exhibitions at venues such as the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, Espaço Ecco in Brasilia and Parque Lage and Museu da Maré in Rio and MAC Nitéroi. He is currently Director of Research for the School of Creative Arts, including the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast. In 2012 he was appointed Professor at Queen's and awarded the Northern Bank's "Building Tomorrow's Belfast"

Sara Nevay

Hadi Mehrpouya

Designer & Developer
University of Edinburgh

Hadi Mehrpouya is a PhD candidate and digital artist based at Edinburgh College of Art. He's currently researching the relationship between individuals and the financial sector (banks, insurance, pensions and individual investments) and their social/evironmental damage. His wider academic research interests are around ideas of the Network Society, affective networks and technology. Hadi’s collaborative works has been exhibited in the Edinburgh's International festival (Glitch'd, Thinking Machine), Edinburgh Sicence Festival (Learning Energy Systems) and V&A Digital Futures meets Eva London 2015. Hadi's collaborative data visualisation of British Library Reading Rooms was awarded the 'Best Demo of the Year 2013' at EVA Conference, London.

Time and Space

Time and Space

Time and Space is a unique client-led service in Glasgow for those who are troubled by voices and/or self-harm.

Time and Space website
Perdo Rebelo

Hearing Voices Ireland

Hearing Voices Ireland (HVI) was founded by voice hearer Brian Hartnett in 2006 to 'promote and foster acceptance of voice hearing as a valid human experience'. The HVI website acts as an information point for all matters voice hearing related in Ireland and abroad.

Hearing Voices Ireland website
Perdo Rebelo

Hearing Voices Group Belfast

Hearing Voices Belfast is a group of voice-hearers who meet to share common experiences and to listen and support one another.

Email Hearing Voices Belfast

Further Research

Many projects focused on mental health and wellbeing and have used creative writing or other forms of art-making as a method for members of community partnership groups to document and explore their experiences. While innovative in their attention to artistic medium, such projects can still struggle not to employ a top-down model in which the academic researcher gives the ‘subject’ communities of healthcare clients an opportunity for creative expression, without availing of the same opportunity in reverse. In other words, the outputs created by community partners are not often allowed to offer appropriate challenge to the academics inviting such stories that would enable a non-hierarchical critical collaboration.
This project intervenes in this field of activity by showing that the value of art-making and creative practice can be disruptive as well as therapeutic; that the arts can challenge and provoke, as well as document and soothe. It seeks to break down traditional boundaries between practice-led or practice-based research and other forms of investigation. For this reason, further research will focus on the creation of academic (and other) outputs that allow themselves to be creatively disrupted.
These further research outputs will be listed below as they are published.


To request the companion in print format, to give feedback, or for more information about the project please get in touch: