If you've been down to Irvine Beach recently you might have looked around you at the speakers on poles that have been erected and wondered what was going on.

Yesterday evening beachgoers got even more of a surprise as siren songs began emerging from them.

It was the preview event of Signal-on-Sea, a sound art installation brought to the area by Glasgow-based art producers, Cryptic, and the work's creators, Dutch duo, Strijbos and Van Rijswijk.

Irvine Times:

Connecting the land with the sea, this major free event, supported by EventScotland through the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund, will run from today (July 16) until Sunday, July 25 from 12-10.30pm each day. 

There are 22 long-throw speakers all playing a different track, interweaving operatic all-female voices with an enchanting soundscape amplified across a stretch of the beach overlooking the Isle of Arran.

And it really is quite special when the weather is as good as it has been lately.

Last night, the beach was busy with people making the most of the late evening sunshine and these lucky souls got to enjoy a preview of the event before it goes live today.

Irvine Times:

We spoke to folk sitting on the beach to ask them what they thought.

Friends Becca and Megan had no idea what was going on when they arrived at the beach. They'd popped down just to enjoy their chippy, but they described the experience as a good one.

Megan said: "At first I found it all a bit jarring, I wasn't sure where the sounds were coming from and if I was maybe hearing voices. But I soon settled down and I find it quite peaceful now, it's quite calming."

Another pair, sat on the beach with their kids, said: "We had no idea what was going on when we came down, we thought there might be an event or something, it's lovely.

"We were saying for a little while you know, because nobody was acknowledging it, maybe it's only us that can hear it and we're like the chosen ones.

"It's made me feel very zen, very calm."

Alan Hughes from the Irvine Clean-up Crew was there, too. The group had been invited to attend the preview, he said: "I'm really enjoying it, I've got my good ear to the speaker to enjoy it. I'll be coming down again tomorrow because I think I'd like to sit down and really immerse myself in it.

"I think you'll find there'll be quite a few people here tomorrow night who wouldn't normally come down."

The organisers and creators of the installation were keen to stress that the beach will remain open to all throughout. They want it to live in symbiosis with the people of Irvine.

Irvine Times: Rob Van Rijswijk and Jeroen StrijbosRob Van Rijswijk and Jeroen Strijbos

Rob Van Rijswijk, one half of the creative team, said: "It's not something you can just come and do (install it), you need collaboration and partnership, from Cryptic, and also Irvine, with the community and with the council as well.

"We come from the concert hall, from the theatre, but we really like to go more into public space and use technology, to research how we can use technology in an artictic way and that's how we come up with new concepts to present music.

"Of course you need to be aware this is not our stage only, it's everyone's stage, so when you create the piece you need to think about this. We're not trying to be intrusive, we're just there as part of the landscape and acoustics.

"We thought about a beach place and then we thought about Irvine because we want to connect with the people here.

"We've tried to bring something, not tell our own stories, but to facilitate something and let the people, because it's the people who create the piece, it's not about us, of course we bring something, but it's the people with the landscape and how they react and listen to their own thoughts and feelings and memories, that's what this piece is about."

Cathie Boyd, Artistic Director of Cryptic said: “Cryptic is thrilled to present this UK premiere of Dutch Duo, Strijbos & Van Rijswijk’s, stunning Signal-on-Sea at Irvine beach in summer 2021.

"This will be a welcome opportunity for the public to experience one of Scotland's most beautiful beaches as never before.

"From early afternoon through to sunset, dog walkers, joggers, families and picnicers can take a moment to bask in an epic soundscape of beautiful operatic voices through 24 speakers.

"We thank EventScotland and North Ayrshire Council for their continued support of what is set to be one of Scotland's cultural highlights this summer. Once experienced, never forgotten.”

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: “We are pleased to be supporting Cryptic’s Signal-on-Sea as part of Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21. Scotland offers the perfect stage to enjoy events in dramatic surroundings and Cryptic’s innovative sound installation on Irvine Beach will provide a unique experience for audiences.”

As this is a free outdoor event, spanning a considerable distance, there will be no need to book in advance, however, all visitors are encouraged to wear face coverings and remain socially distanced from others.

Signage and visual aids, plus front of house staff will be in attendance to guide and assist throughout. Details of full safety measures and FAQs are available here: http://www.cryptic.org.uk/signal