The Dark

The DARK was a haptic experience set in the 18th century, when Britain had a thriving shipping industry and created vast profits from the slave trade.

The DARK used ghosts and 'ghostliness' as metaphors - for both the dark and hidden aspects of our past, as well as for the difficulty that we experience when we need to respond to things that we can hear, but cannot see.

The DARK existed in two forms - experiential as a touring installation and online as a web audio experience.

The installation took place in a completely dark space that groups of up to fifteen people could enter and experience simultaneously. Using a 20.4 surround system, visitors were immersed into an emotionally charged story taking place on a slaveship and were encouraged to follow the point of view of the characters by physically following the character’s voice in the darkness - an unnerving and hyper stimulating experience.

The DARK experience - the combination of being in a completely dark space, a highly immersive 3D sound environment and being engaged in a very emotional story - resulted in a wide range of responses in visitors. Some could ‘see’ the structure of the ship through the sonic architecture created by 3D sound, some hallucinated random visualisations, some laughed and some cried and everything in between!

The DARK online is a surround sound experience, listened to through headphones with navigation via arrow keys and other keyboard shortcuts to further control your passage through the story.

The ghosts of The DARK are based on the following real people and events from the 18th century:

  • Edward Rushton - a Liverpudlian crewman on slave ships, who went blind and became a notable abolitionist;
  • John Newton - a slave ship captain who became an Anglican clergyman and an abolitionist following an epiphany at sea;
  • Quamina (named ‘Kunle’ in The DARK) - a freed slave working as a crewman on ships who was taught to read and write by Edward Rushton

The DARK was a Braunarts production, funded by the DCMS project, Culture Online. The DARK toured 7 locations across the UK. A further round of financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled The DARK to tour new locations in the UK as ‘Dark Heritage’ with a rich portfolio of educational and participatory opportunities.

The structure of the dark

Ghosts and 'ghostliness' are used as metaphors for both the dark and hidden aspects of our past.

The Dark in Liverpool

The DARK was available as an experience in the Albert Dock in Liverpool among many great UK locations.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind, but now I see

Extract from ‘Amazing Grace’ by John Newton
How can you, who have felt the oppressor's hard hand,

Who for freedom, all perils would brave,

How can you enjoy peace, while one foot of your land

Is disgraced by the toil of a slave!

Extract from American Independency by Edward Rushton - 1797
Executive Producer
Terry Braun

Gabi Braun

Maria Oshodi

Sound designer
Rob Godman

Sound studio