The value of silence
Modern life trains us to be constantly distracted, pulled in different directions by media, communications and a seemingly relentless list of demands. This distraction limits our freedom to make wise choices and take appropriate action by preventing us from listening deeply to ourselves and those around us. Approached in the right way, quiet and stillness can act as an antidote, giving us the space to be ourselves, connect with what is important in our lives and take action.
Small Silence is a quietly creative organisation, set up to foster positive experiences of silence, by providing environments and practices that nurture wellbeing. We do this through both protecting and promoting quiet spaces and engaging people with their own noisy silence.
What we do
Initiatives that promote quiet time for wellbeing often approach the task from distinct disciplines, such as environmental management, acoustics, public health, psychology or the arts. In contrast, Small Silence takes a multidisciplinary approach, finding innovative, workable ways to bring moments of quiet into people’s lives. We base our work on feedback from clients, our own quiet space research and studies from the disciplines mentioned above. This more holistic approach enables us to effectively create, promote and protect tranquil environments and help cultivate moments of calm through arts and health initiatives.
While we are always exploring new ways to support wellbeing through positive experiences of silence, our current portfolio of projects include:
Wellbeing: providing workshops, walks and wellbeing days for a host of groups and organisations, incorporating quiet and the contemplative arts.
E-health: working with partners to develop tranquillity trails, oral history projects and provide quiet spaces online, connecting us with ourselves, others and the world around us.
Education: delivering workshops in schools, colleges, universities and non-formal educational settings exploring the arts, soundscape and positive experiences of silence for better mental health.
Quiet Space: working with local people and partner organisations to encourage access to quiet spaces through walks, creativity, mapping, workshops and quiet space certification.
The Small Silence team is managed by our board of directors and supported by a dynamic group of artists, musicians, educators and technologists. We 'custom build' the team, to suit the project, drawing on this range of experience and expertise to deliver innovative and workable intiatives that meet objectives.
Richard Bentley (Creative Director)
The Small Silence team is managed by Richard. A lover of quiet spaces and the contemplative arts, Richard is currently completing doctoral research at the Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University exploring the soundscape and its influence on our experience of positive silence.
He is a qualified lecturer with twenty years experience of teaching in Higher and Further education. Having completed a Masters Degree in Community Arts at Goldsmith's University of London, he has spent the last seven years working as a sound artist and musician for clients such as The Woodland Trust, Intelligent Health, Nature Nurture, The Roald Dahl Museum, Crisis and a host of community arts organisations. Richard is currently an ambassador for Hush City App, Silent Space and is the UK representative for Quiet Parks International. He is also an Associate Artist with the Jelly arts organisation based in Reading. In what spare time is left, Richard enjoys making electronic music, reading, running, drinking tea and spending time 'on the cushion'.
Japke Wanrooij (Director)
Japke is a Dutch mother of two young adults, and a yoga teacher. Working for Bracknell and Wokingham College's "Wellbeing in Mind", she has learnt how exercise and arts sessions can help manage mental health, by providing opportunities for movement, creative activity, and/or calming sensory experiences, which are shared but not expressly social.
Following a BSc in Psychology, Japke is now a counsellor in training, with a growing understanding of the multifaceted nature of mental health, and the importance of reconnection, purpose, and creativity, alongside the traditional therapeutic approaches of medication and talk-therapy.
As a flute player, Japke has personally experienced the benefits of art on her health, through its aesthetic, physical (respiratory), and mind-focusing aspects. While mindfulness and meditation has been recommended to help overcome mood disturbances, sitting in silence facing one's thoughts and feelings may prove counterproductive for many. Instead, the participatory sound art practices Small Silence delivers, can be a more low-threshold route to reawakening people's sense of belonging, direction, and curiosity. Japke's contribution to the organisation is, amongst other things, to advise on matters relating to mental health and wellbeing.
James Townsend (Director)
James has 15 years' director-level experience in marketing communications functions at international IT, engineering / design and consulting firms and can also draw upon 4 years' experience as a school governor.
Having personally suffered with stress and anxiety, James can vouch for the transformative power of mindfulness practice and is an active long term member of the Two Rivers Zen Buddhist Sangha. The arts is James' passion, hosting and playing at local music events and whether as an employee, member of the community or family man, James thrives on inspiring people to co-create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Matthew Foster (Director)
Matt is a musician, educator and music producer who has been working in the south of England for over 20 years. He is Head of Academy for local music charity The Rock Academy Foundation and regularly works with young people on creative sound-based projects.
Matt studied popular music at Bretton Hall College and, following a move to Berkshire, he taught music and music technology at Reading College for 14 years. He continues to teach at Newbury College alongside his work with The Rock Academy and Readipop and his national performance and recording work with Ma Bessie and her Pig Foot band.
Natalie Ganpatsingh (Ambassador)
Natalie believes that connecting people with the wild spaces within our towns and cities is crucial to building strong, happy, healthy communities who care about each other and the environment. Her award-winning social enterprise, Nature Nurture CIC collaborates withthe conservation, heritage, health and education sectors to achieve positive outcomes for people and the planet.
She also works as ‘Nature Lead’ for Dr. William Bird’s company, Intelligent Health, helping to re-wild communities across the UK. In 2016 Nature Nurture achieved a achieved a Pride of Reading Award in recognition of their success in engaging people with nature and in 2017 we were selected as one of the 50 Gamechangers in the Thames Valley design
and technology community. In 2019 we won the Institute of Outdoor Learning's 'Community Development Award'.
Her work has taken her to Belize (Raleigh International Expedition Artist, 1998), Ghana (Oxfam On the Line project, 2000), Kenya (Media Development Education Project, 2008) and Palestine (United Nations ‘Participate’ project, with ‘Real Time Video’; film-making with Palestinian women, 2013). Natalie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and a trustee of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.
Nino Auricchio (Ambassador)
Nino has worked for Sony Music, BMG and numerous dance and soul labels. Nino has had success as part of the funk act Funkshone, releasing records globally through Skyline Records, P-Vine in Japan with work remixed by Kenny Dope Gonzalez.
Nino composes library music and has work licensed by Red Bull for the World BBoy Championships and the US film, Growing Reason. Nino is a senior lecturer in sound engineering at the University of West London and is undertaking a PhD in electronic music composition.
Liz Ware (Ambassador)
Liz is the founder of not for profit Silent Space - a project encouraging beautiful parks and gardens open to the public to reserve an area for silent visiting. Taking time out to stroll quietly or to sit and reflect, we can engage more deeply with the sights and sounds of nature. At the same time and in a very gentle way, we also engage with ourselves.
Liz is a freelance garden writer and historian, writing on all aspects of gardens but with a particular interest in their relationship to health. Plants, gardens and landscapes have taken her to every corner of the globe but she is equally happy on her Oxfordshire allotment.