THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

12 April 2012

The Listening Project

Melissa Byrd, Marketing Manager, writes

The Listening Project on BBC Radio 4 is now in full swing; you may have seen the ads on BBC TV. Here at the Library we were excited to see them and listen to the programmes for the first time, because they represent the culmination of a great deal of work behind the scenes over the last few months.

The Project aims to capture the nation in conversation: to record intimate conversations between loved ones and broadcast them to the nation. It’s oral history, but with a twist; the interviewer is a close friend or family member, and the emphasis is on relationships, on conversations rather than storytelling. Our curator Jonnie Robinson talks about this in more detail on the BBC Radio 4 blog.

There’s been a lot of press coverage of the Project. One of my favourites was an article in the Guardian on ‘the art of eavesdropping’ which sparked an entertaining discussion in the comments section about overheard conversations. But, of course, these conversations aren’t overheard; they are recorded in a local BBC Radio studio, or uploaded by listeners. So rather than the often unintentional humour of everyday chitchat, the subject matter is rather serious; conversations cover loss, aging, illness and terrorism. What is refreshing is that, despite the subject matter, the speakers are largely optimistic. The emphasis is on getting on with life despite their difficulties.

The Library will receive the first batch of recordings for archiving this month, and we’ll be posting some comments on the material that has been collected, and some thoughts about how it could be used by researchers, teachers and writers.

The first few programmes have now been broadcast and there are lots of recordings on the BBC website to listen to, or you can download the podcast.

Find out more about our involvement in the project

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