Greater Manchester, what do you dream of?

“I’ve been dreaming so much recently”, Danielle Swindells says. “I’ve been dreaming about people who used to be in my life who have passed away”.

She pauses. 

“I dream that one day, we all meet again. Something like that”.  

Brit Seaton smiles. The two artists are old friends who met whilst at different universities in Manchester, drawn together by their love of the city’s music and nightclub scene.

They’ve just launched Dream FM, a collaborative audio project in which people from across Greater Manchester can call a hotline and leave a voicemail answering a simple question: ‘what do you dream of?’

“We’re really interested in people’s poetic translation of the question”, Swindells explains. “There’s going to be a real broad range of responses and tones and I think you need that”.

The voice recordings will be collected together and paired with a soundscape created by Josh Inyang from the experimental ambient duo Space Afrika. It will then be broadcast every night for a month, in a homage to DIY late-night radio.

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“I guess the conversation started back in March or April 2020”, Swindells says. “We were interested in creating a socially engaged, crowd-sourced artwork and posing a universal question to the public”.

They toyed with the idea of having people write in or creating some form of collage, but radio seemed the most natural option. By day, Swindells is an assistant producer at BBC 6 Music and Seaton is a freelance arts producer and long-time DIY radio fan. 

“We felt really inspired by the way that people respond to late-night talk shows and the topics of conversation which go from the mundane to the existential”, Seaton explains. “It’s a very introspective time, in the lonely hours”.

The audio recording callers will hear before leaving their voicemail

Whilst the project has a distinct hopefulness and joy to it, the artists are keen to capture the reality of dreaming which can often be frightening or upsetting. “Some people have called in with things they’ve been really disturbed by in the night”, Seaton says. “It’s not intended to be pleasant – that would be naïve, and it wouldn’t be honest to how people feel, and the way feelings do play out in dreams”.

The project aims to connect people across Greater Manchester and there will be a live viewer counter accompanying the broadcast to encourage this sense of a shared experience. 

“In a digital age of endless choice where people are doing things separately – watching TV alone on demand – live radio is special because it joins the dots of strangers”, Swindells says. 

She believes that when people are alone in a room with their ear to the receiver, you can get an authenticity and intimacy that couldn’t be achieved if they just went out and interviewed people with a microphone. 

Seaton agrees: “I think that’s also something that we’re able to achieve with the anonymity of it […] listening to that isolated voice revealing innermost thoughts, personal aspirations or visions for a better society”.  

Space Afrika | Photo: Timon Benson and Chloé Magdelaine

Something would be lost if the audio is too clean. There is a warmth and crackle to phone calls which Seaton is keen to retain. “At times, you can’t quite make out what somebody is saying, but it all just adds to it”, she says.

When the phone lines close on Sunday, the voicemail recordings will be handed over to Space Afrika’s Josh Inyang who is creating an accompanying dreamscape soundtrack. 

Seaton remembers going to see the duo at The White Hotel and deciding that there wouldn’t be anyone more perfect to collaborate with on the project. “I’ve been a massive fan of Space Afrika’s music for a long time”, she says. “They’re just so sensitive to the material they work with. Josh was saying how much time he spends digging for these samples or found sounds”.

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I ask about dreams they’ve had recently.

“I had a dream about you last night, Danielle” Seaton laughs. “I heard some rustling outside, opened the door and you ran in with a gun!”

“Jesus! What does that say about me?” Swindells responds, feigning offence. 

“I can’t remember what happened after. I think I woke up at that point because I was so disturbed”, Seaton says. “Like what have I done? Who have I forgotten to email?”

If you would like to call Dream FM, the phone lines are open and will close on Sunday 19 September. Visit dream-fm.com to find out more information or call 0161 464 4975 to leave your voicemail.

If you’re unable to call or would like to take part in another way, the artists are accepting written responses which can be emailed to 0161dreamfm@gmail.com.