Irish Rail - Best Creativity in Workplace

Sound artist Christopher Steenson recording sounds from an Irish Rail platform.

From 16 to 29 November 2020, every morning between 8am and 9am, the sounds of the spring dawn chorus were broadcast via Iarnród Éireann’s public address system in over 65 train stations across Ireland. Called On Chorus, the concept was a direct response to the pandemic from sound artist Christopher Steenson, quickly embraced by Iarnród Éireann and with input from Birdwatch Ireland. It was this innovative take that made the judges take notice for the Best Creativity in the Workplace Award supported by ESB.

“The recordings of birdsong that I made during the first lockdown were extremely unique to that period of time when there was very little noise pollution in and around inner-city Dublin,” Steenson explains.

“By presenting sounds of the recent past, I was hoping to remind the public of how different things were back then and to think of an alternative future – one where we make changes that allow more space for the natural environment.”

For Steenson, what makes this artwork special is the fact that it was able to utilise existing public infrastructure for the new purpose of presenting art in public spaces. “If it weren’t for the pandemic, making this kind of artwork, and presenting it in this way, would never have occurred to me before,” he says.

A clear winner in its category, On Chorus resonated with the Business to Arts Awards judges for several reasons, according to Chief Executive of Business to Arts Andrew Hetherington.

“We often think of the typical workplace as an office or enclosed space, and don’t necessarily associate it with the open air, a train station or a train. This project challenged the traditional perception of a workplace and helped the public to understand that a workplace can be mobile,” he says.

“Many of the frontline workers travelling by train during Level 5 restrictions may have been apprehensive and this project was an example of how art can be therapeutic and calming. Being agile and considering new ways to use existing infrastructure was at the heart of this project. Knowing that a speaker system can be used to bring wildlife to urban and industrial areas will inspire others to think about using their tech this way.”

On Chorus also engaged Iarnród Eireann employees in new ways, he adds. “As well as experiencing the artwork as audience members, they were involved in its manifestation and engagement with employees. The communications team delivered audio and video content on the project to other employees and Iarnród Eireann’s biodiversity officer informed the project and made valuable new connections with Birdwatch Ireland.”

Design by New Graphic.