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  • Writer's pictureBecky Horne

Hugs and Audio Hugs

There have been numerous articles written recently about experiencing less touch. The physical distancing ‘social distancing’ creates. What touch-starvation causes.

It feels like a big deal, and so I’m unsurprised that we are not alone in using this as a stimulus. But still; here are some of the thoughts (from my perspective our course) behind Audio Hugs, a series of short audio guides for when there isn’t a hugger around, created in collaboration with Anna Dighero.

We had conversations about missing hugs.

Anna spoke about how absurd the question ‘are we doing hugs?’ is. If you ‘do a hug’, was it worth it? Or was it just disappointing rushed patting? And when did ‘doing a hug’ become a thing? You don’t ‘do a hug’, you hug.

Suddenly there is discussion before every hug. Is not the nature of a hug one of spontaneity and non-verbal communication? The decision had more significance than the experience. There was less simplicity and less physicality. Dancers tend to be 'into' physicality.

We questioned what happens in a hug, what are the component parts?

Giving and receiving, huggers, huggees, intimacy, types of hugs, strategies…

We wrote lots of lists.

So what do they give us?

You get a lot of feedback instantly, so for me it is immediate consolidation. You can gage, well, most things. And the grounding and embodiment achieved is quite organic and probably universal.

We discussed when hugs happen and I thought about scenarios with people who my relationships with are more dependent on touch.

Could we create a substitute? Maybe it isn’t possible to recreate the experience of a hug, there are many elements, and after all another body is necessary. Our aim became facilitating ways to experience some of those elements and provide something that is physically grounding.


One of the places you’ll find me most often is in the kitchen, cooking with the radio on. You listen to the music, feel the texture of, smell and taste the food, decorate or present it in a visually aesthetic way. I find it extremely comforting; it is an ultimately sensorial activity.

Audio Hugs became brief participatory audio guides, focusing on the sensory experience of hugs. The act of listening, especially through headphones, is hopefully an intimate place to start. Although kitchens feature, the guides encourage listeners to journey through their homes to other spaces too, interacting with items that are nearby. This feels representative as hugs are in relation to closeness or proximity and often linked to familiarity.

We have only completed and released the first Audio Hug, but more are on their way…

Evaluations can be useful. Things that came up that I should try and remember include:

Some people will never want to participate in a proposed activity – some people just want to witness, or listen, or leave and that is their right.

You can learn lots from making something that you don’t necessarily have the skills to make yet. And as obvious as it sounds, collaborating with people who balance your skill set is helpful (thanks Anna).

People live under and in drastically different circumstances and spaces.

I enjoy making things. And it is sometimes worth sharing things that are not extremely refined – I don’t enjoy doing that much. But I also don’t much like shiny things, so I should let it bother me less.

When people ask what it is about, the answers come in the form of questions.

Expression is important: Yesterday my flatmate and dear friend messaged me: ‘it’s hard to read your tone over message’. Comedy isn’t the goal, but I hope that if you don’t know me you can tell that there is humour involved.

To listen to Audio Hugs click here

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