Ling received: fishermen of the far haaf – a sound walk at Stenness in Shetland

Welcome to Satsymph

Ling received: fishermen of the far haaf – a sound walk around Stenness

SATSYMPH are excited to work with Janette Kerr and Jo Millett to create a soundscape as part of their touring work, Confusing Shadow with Substance

This sound walk invites listeners to explore Stenness beach as it once was – an important fishing station until the late 19th century. A unique, yet elusive, part of Shetland’s heritage. The soundscape encourages listeners to re-imagine the beach as a hive of activity, where communities of fishermen and traders made temporary homes over the summer months.

Placed in the landscape are audio fragments of sounds and voices. The readings are taken from observations of early travellers visiting Stenness, and archival documents directly relating to the deep sea, or ‘haaf’ fishing: agreements binding men to the summer fishing, indebtedness, accounts of storms and loss of life, and even what the fishermen bought for their tea – so the listener will encounter many different voices. This is history you can walk inside!

The work brings 21st century GPS technology to an ancient Shetland beach. It is accessed by downloading the SatsymphQR app to your personal smart phone. For those without a smartphone, there is an MP3 to download (see below).


The map of the beach indicates the area containing twenty soundpools. Use your ears – it’s up to you to discover them. Take your time; slow down, and absorb the place and sounds as you meander around the beach. Your entrance into a sound pool will be heralded by changes in the background sound – you might hear the crash of a wave, a bell ringing, a seabird calling, or even a ludder horn. The sounds will get louder and change as you walk in and out of the soundpools – play with this!

How to access the soundscape

To access Stenness sound walk is a 2-stage process. You need a smartphone and headphones or earbuds. The app contains everything needed. You do not need a network or phone signal: the GPS signal on your phone will trigger the sounds.

Stage 1: Search & download ‘SatsymphQR‘ from the Appstore or GooglePlay (it’s free). It’s best to download the app from a fast wifi connection before setting off for the beach.

Stage 2: Once you have downloaded this app, open it. Point your phone camera at the QR here on the left and allow to download. Make sure that access to location and camera is allowed.

How to navigate

Go to Stenness beach, Northmavine (Map: Landranger Sheet 3 Shetland – North Mainland, or use Google maps). Put on your headphones, open the Stenness app on your phone and it will start immediately. Put your phone in your pocket and wander.

Take care – watch out for the tides.

For those without a smartphone, there is an MP3 to download here.

Credits and creators

Stenness sound-walk has been made collaboratively by artists Jo Millett, Janette Kerr, assisted by artist Rob Gawthrop. It merges recordings of sounds and spoken word, and uses technology developed by artists’ collective Satsymph (Marc Yeats, Ralph Hoyte, Phill Phelps)


Margaret Anderson, Ewan Balfour, Gilbert Fraser, Dave Hammond, John N Hunter, Barbara Ridland, Peter Rutherford, John Shaw, Brian Smith, Jim Tait, Valerie Watt. Fiddle-player: Catriona Macdonald – Shingly Beach, written by her grandfather Tom Anderson for Stenness.

Readings taken from:

Dr Edward Charlton’s journals, 1832 and 1852; Guide to Shetland by Robert Cowie MA MD, 1879 3rd edition; An account of The New Method of Fishing on the coast of Shetland, by James Fea, surgeon, 1775; A Description of the Shetland Islands by Samuel Hibbert MD FRSE, 1822; Ployen’s Reminscences of a voyage to Shetland, Orkney and Scotland by Christain Ployen, 1839; Art Rambles in Shetland by J T Reid, 1869. Archival documents from Shetland Museum Archives, Tangwick Haa Museum

Archival photographs reproduced with kind permission of Shetland Museum & Archives