by Judith Merritt

Head of Learning


Firstsite is a visual arts organisation based in Colchester, Essex. Our mission is to make contemporary art relevant to everyone. Our integrated programme of work includes projects, exhibitions and publications by established and emerging artists, as well as extensive learning opportunities and artists’ support initiatives. Over the last nineteen years Firstsite has gained a strong reputation by presenting ambitious work to new audiences in the East of England and beyond.

Firstsite was delighted to be involved with The Moot Hall Organ Restoration Project and commissioned three professional artists to work with school children, families and adults in a variety of ways to create music, soundscapes and artworks. A diverse range of events was developed to explore the musical, tonal, material and creative qualities of the Moot Hall Organ using contemporary art and sound. This exciting programme of participatory and learning activities involved families, school pupils and the local community. A series of events including exhibitions, screenings of films from the East Anglian Film Archive, talks, hands-on family art activities and schools sessions were held at Firstsite to link with (and raise the profile of) the restoration project with local people.

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Over 450 primary school pupils and their teachers have visited Firstsite to experience hands on sessions inspired by sound and art. The collaboration and individual enquiry which took place began to uncover how mark and sound making are connected, playfully exploring the quality and character of the organ’s sound. The artists, participants and volunteers asked themselves what sound could look like and worked with tone, movement and colour to layer a response to the sounds.

The exhibition Organs and Oysters was the culmination of this work, showcasing soundscapes, photographs, a working organ and interactive artwork produced by the participants. The exhibition attracted families and visitors from across the region, promoting awareness and understanding of the Moot Hall Organ Restoration Project through contemporary art.


Firstsite would like to thank:

  • Artists: Willow Mitchell and Rachel McGivern, Sound Artist Duncan Chapman, Musician: Tim Phillips and the volunteers
  •  Firstsite staff: Laura Davison, Judith Merritt and Sue Hogan.