Jennifer Lucy Allan

PhD Student

2015 - current

Jennifer Lucy Allan is a writer, curator and journalist living and working in Southend On Sea. She is writing a PhD on the social and cultural history of the foghorn, looking at its significance as a massive sonic sound marker along our coasts and at sea. 

She also runs the record label Arc Light Editions, and previously worked as online editor for The Wire magazine. She has hosted radio shows on Resonance FM, and held artist Q&As and discussion panels at festivals and events including Unsound, Mutek, CTM, and others, with artists including Underground Resistance, Robert Hood, Phill Niblock, Yasunao Tone, Laurel Halo, Heatsick, Karen Gwyer, and others. 

She has also contributed to The Guardian, Wired UK, and others, and teaches a six week journalism course with The Hackney Citizen/East End Review. She was Writer in Residence for John Richards’s Ugly Weekender at Nottingham Primary, and has played DJ sets at festivals and venues in the UK and Europe, including Wysing Festival, Ohm in Berlin, Apiary Studios, and 20/44 in Belgrade.     

She is also a qualified bench joiner.


Fog Tropes: The social and cultural history of the foghorn 1853 to the present day


“...Like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door... a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it” (Ray Bradbury, 1953, p3). 

“The source of one of the most enduring minimal musics around us”. (Alvin Curran, 2004, p2) 

The foghorn can be understood as one of the few sonic markers of the scale of technological advancement wrought by the industrial revolution on coastal areas, and is used as a powerful trope in composition, film, fiction and poetry. It sounds when visual information is eliminated or reduced, giving primacy to the auditory, and as such has been used to signify complex emotional reactions and represent mental states. I am exploring these relationships via the Trinity House and Northern Lighthouse Board archives, and 20th century lighthouse keeper memoirs. Foghorns first appeared as a result of a shipping boom during the industrial revolution, but how does its use in popular culture relate to its history around that time, and beyond? What is its commemorative significance now that industry is in decline and coastal landscapes are changing? Does the foghorn have different associations in North American ports like San Francisco and Vancouver? What about the sound of the foghorn – should it be classified as noise?

Taking the foghorn as a starting point, I will examine these sound markers of our recent past, to explore questions of nostalgia, safety and danger, power and melancholy inherent to the call of the foghorn, and crucial to our understanding of our changing sonic environment.


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