Sound and vision blog

16 posts from September 2016

21 September 2016

‘It’s in the detail of a handrail… it’s in how the building is put together.’

Last weekend, thousands of people visited London buildings as part of Open House 2016. In this blog, oral history project interviewer Niamh Dillon shares the stories of two architects who designed some of these iconic buildings. 

‘It’s in the detail of a handrail… it’s in how the building is put together.’

This was Denys Lasdun’s response in the late 1960s to criticism that his recently designed National Theatre on London’s south bank lacked detail and decoration.

 National Theatre, photo by Bill Knight

Lasdun on the National Theatre

The National Theatre and south bank are part of Open House 2016.  The continued popularity of this event indicates the growing public interest in the often private spaces of public buildings.  Open House allows members of the public the opportunity to experience buildings first hand, and it is wonderful to hear from those living and working in these spaces.  We visited Stoneleigh Terrace, now part of the Whittington Estate, designed by Peter Tabori, then a young architect working in the architects department at Camden Council.  The owner delighted in the light and space, and the attention to detail which made living there such a pleasure.  Working alongside Peter Tabori at Camden Council was Neave Brown, and we are fortunate to have a recording with him as part of Architects’ Lives. This ongoing project features key architects working in Britain over the last century and many of the buildings featured in Open House this year are discussed in Architects Lives.   In his recording, Sir Jeremy Dixon describes working on Kings Place in the Kings Cross area of London when it was in transition from an underused part of the city to one featuring new and refurbished educational, office and residential buildings.  Jeremy Dixon explains how he wanted the façade of Kings Place to work with the surrounding area.

Jeremy Dixon on Kings Place

Kings Place Jeremy Dixon

Kings Place by Dixon Jones (photo by Niamh Dillon)

Unlike Denys Lasdun, Dixon Jones enjoyed acclaim rather then criticism for Kings Place, but these recordings explain the context and evolution of each building. Hear more at

Niamh Dillon

19 September 2016

A Reputation Restored – Mark Hambourg live recording discovered

In the last two months I have pursued and acquired five collections of rare classical audio material for the British Library one of which held a rare treasure.  When I received a call from a gentleman aged 82 offering his collection of off-air broadcasts I was interested.  When he told me that it was his father’s collection I was excited.  It transpired that Frank Hardingham had bought a reel to reel tape recorder in Christmas 1950 - very early for this type of technology in the home.

The donated collection of tapes is small, but most important is the fact that Mr Hardingham did not over-record his earlier existing recordings with later broadcasts by more modern performers.  One of the recordings is of great historical importance because it rewrites the history of a career of one of the great pianists of the twentieth century.

Mark Hambourg was born in Russia in 1879, went to Vienna at the age of twelve to study with the great Theodore Leschetizky (teacher of Paderewski, Moiseiwitsch, Friedman etc.) and gave his adult debut with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Hans Richter in 1895 at the age of fifteen.  During these years he spent time with Brahms, Anton Rubinstein, Busoni and Mark Twain.  At his London adult debut the following year he played three concertos in one concert under Henry Wood.  Hambourg’s popularity meant he was one of the first pianists to record for the Gramophone Company/His Master’s Voice in 1909 and one of the first to appear on television in 1937.  He was known to the man in the street and popular enough to appear as himself in the film The Common Touch


Mark Hambourg (seated) at his 25th Celebration lunch at the Savoy given by HMV in November 1934 listening to his first recording.  Standing behind him are his daughter Michal and wife Dorothea.  Photo courtesy of Allan Evans

His youngest of four daughters, Michal Hambourg, was a professional pianist herself who toured with the great African American singer Paul Robeson and performed at eleven Prom concerts.  I was fortunate enough to study piano with her for the last ten years of her life.  She told me that when producer Walter Legge took over at HMV he cancelled her father’s contract because Legge saw him as representing an old fashioned way of playing and that Artur Schnabel was the future.  Hambourg made no more commercial recordings after December 1935 but lived until 1960.  His reputation during this last chapter of his life is of an artist who had seen better days, who played in a slap-dash fashion often in small venues.  The few surviving short films from this period to some extent bear this out and certainly do not show him at his best. 

Now we have evidence that Hambourg retained his technical and artistic abilities to the end of his career because Mr Hardingham recorded the Henry Wood Birthday Concert from the Albert Hall on the 2nd March 1955.  Wood died in 1944, but due to the reverence for his personality and musicianship, concerts were still being held eleven years later to celebrate his birthday. 

RT clipping

Mr Hardingham's clipping from the Radio Times inserted into the tape box

So, now we have Hambourg, aged seventy-five, playing the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Tchaikovsky with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Malcolm Sargent, live, complete and in excellent sound on tape from sixty years ago.  I listened to it with trepidation because the previous year the BBC had broadcast on both radio and television a performance of Hambourg in Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasia of which only the last few minutes survive.  That excerpt is disappointing.  However, this recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto shows a great artist in full possession of his faculties.  It is very similar in conception to his 1926 commercial recording (although in 1955 he had better support from Malcolm Sargent) and contains the same unusual features – the echo effect in the cadenza to the first movement, and the slowing of the waltz section of the Prestissimo in the second movement.  The 1955 performance is far superior and, thanks to Mr Hardingham and his family’s donation, it restores Hambourg’s reputation as one of the great pianists of the first half of the twentieth century.

The conclusion of the performance can be heard below.

Hambourg Tchaikovsky Concerto


14 September 2016

Paralympics Memories


As the focus in Rio shifts from the Olympics to the Paralympics this blog reflects on what we can learn from the British Library oral history collections about the history of the Paralympics, changing opportunities for participation in disability sport and shifting attitudes to them.  These collections provide perspectives from within the disabled community as well as from those outside it.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Retirement Association Oral History Project is an extensive collection that includes recollections of the Stoke Mandeville Games, the predecessors of the Paralympics. Gill McCay recalls watching the games, which were for athletes with spinal injuries, while Ida Bromley remembers the involvement of physiotherapists in the early years and their need to engage specialist help as the range of sports expanded.

Ida Bromley on the early days of physiotherapist's involvement

By the time Tanni Grey-Thompson and Danny Crates were competing and winning gold medals in the Paralympics in the late 20th and early 21st century the scale and scope of the event had expanded significantly to include many thousands of athletes from around the globe.  For them competition was intense and success required many hours of training, foregoing the company of family and friends to focus on their athletic ambitions.

Training on Christmas day

Learning to think like an athlete

Listening Project interviews with teenage amputees Kieran Maxwell and Ryan Cinnamond reveal how the achievements of Paralympic athletes fuelled their sporting ambitions and raised their own expectations as they learned to walk again with prosthetic legs after life-threatening illnesses.

Kieran Maxwell:  ‘Doing cartwheels with a prosthetic leg’

Ryan Cinnamond: ‘On learning to run again’ (29:53 to 32.20)

These hopes and expectations seem a long way from many of the experiences recounted by older interviewees in the collection’ “How Was School?” Interviews with Disabled People about their experience of Education over the last 100 years. Here interviewees such as Joanne Akallo Wacha recall the difficulties they experienced in getting involved in sport, usually the result of the lack of facilities or relevant expertise and absence of any encouragement.

Disappointing PE lessons

This collection also reveals a range of views on the Paralympics themselves, with some contributors expressing the view that the event does a good job or raising awareness and promoting inclusion, while others remained sceptical about its positive outcomes. 

Spectators are also represented in the collection, including William Burn, charity administrator, who attended the Stoke Mandeville Games in the 1950s (C984/14/01). As the collections continue to grow it is likely that they will also include more recollections on the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics such as those of architect Rab Bennetts (C467/103) who reflects on changing attitudes towards disability as well as the architectural legacy of the events.

By Dr Sally Horrocks

13 September 2016

Restoring the first recording of computer music

Jack Copeland and Jason Long
Fig. 1: Jack Copeland and Jason Long

Jack Copeland FRS NZ and Jason Long write: 

A key problem facing audio archivists is how to establish the correct pitch of a historical recording. Without some independent means of knowing how the original sounded, it can be very difficult—or even impossible—to tell whether an archived recording is playing at the right pitch. An important case in point is the earliest known recording of computer-generated music. In 1951, a BBC outside broadcast unit in Manchester used a portable acetate disc cutter to capture three melodies played by a primeval computer. This gigantic computer filled much of the ground floor of Alan Turing's Computing Machine Laboratory.

Today, all that remains of the recording session is a 12-inch single-sided acetate disc, cut by the BBC's technician while the computer played. The computer itself was scrapped long ago, so the archived recording is our only window on that historic soundscape. What a disappointment it was, therefore, to discover that the pitches were not accurate: the recording gave at best only a rough impression of how the computer sounded. But with some electronic detective work it proved possible to restore the recording—with the result that the true sound of this ancestral computer can be heard once again, for the first time in more than half a century.

Frank Cooper's original 'acetate' disc (Photo courtesy of Chris Burton)
Fig. 2: The original 'acetate' disc was saved by Manchester University engineer Frank Cooper (Photo courtesy of Chris Burton)

Alan Turing's pioneering work, in the late 1940s, on transforming the computer into a musical instrument has largely been overlooked: it's an urban myth of the music world that the first computer-generated musical notes were heard in 1957, at Bell Labs in America.1 The recent Oxford Handbook of Computer Music staked out a counterclaim, saying that the first computer to play notes was located in Sydney, Australia.2  However, the Sydney computer was not operational until the end of 1950, whereas computer-generated notes were emerging from a loudspeaker in Turing's computing lab as early as the autumn of 1948.

The Manchester computer had a special instruction that caused the loudspeaker—Turing called it the 'hooter'—to emit a short pulse of sound, lasting a tiny fraction of a second. Turing said this sounded like 'something between a tap, a click, and a thump'. Executing the instruction over and over again resulted in this 'click' being produced repeatedly, on every fourth tick of the computer's internal clock: tick tick tick click, tick tick tick click. Repeating the instruction enough times like this caused the human ear to hear not discrete clicks but a steady note, in fact the note C6, two octaves above middle C.

Turing realized that if the 'hoot' instruction were repeated not simply over and over again, but in different patterns, then the ear would hear different musical notes: for example, the repeated pattern tick tick tick click, tick tick tick tick, tick tick tick click, tick tick tick tick produced the note of C5 (an octave above middle C), while repeating the different pattern tick tick tick click, tick tick tick click, tick tick tick tick, tick tick tick click, tick tick tick click, tick tick tick tick produced the note of F4, four notes above above middle C—and so on. It was a wonderful discovery.

Turing was not very interested in programming the computer to play conventional pieces of music: he used the different notes to indicate what was going on in the computer—one note for 'job finished', others for 'digits overflowing in memory', 'error when transferring data from the magnetic drum', and so on. Running one of Turing's programs must have been a noisy business, with different musical notes and rhythms of clicks enabling the user to 'listen in' (as he put it) to what the computer was doing. He left it to someone else, though, to program the first complete piece of music.

A young schoolteacher named Christopher Strachey got hold of a copy of Turing's Programmers' Handbook for Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II (the Mark II computer had replaced the prototype Mark I, which also played notes, early in 1951).3 This was in fact the world’s first computer programming manual. Strachey, a talented pianist, studied the Handbook and appreciated the potential of Turing's terse directions on how to program musical notes. Soon to become one of Britain's top computer scientists, Strachey turned up at Turing's Manchester lab with what was at the time the longest computer program ever to be attempted. Turing knew the precocious Strachey well enough to let him use the computer for a night. 'Turing came in and gave me a typical high-speed, high-pitched description of how to use the machine', Strachey recounted; and then Turing departed, leaving him alone at the computer's console until the following morning.4

Christopher Strachey, 1973
Fig. 3: Christopher Strachey sunbathing in the garden of his cottage 'The Mud House' in 1973, two years before his untimely death. (Photo courtesy of the Bodleian Library and Camphill Village Trust)

'I sat in front of this enormous machine', Strachey said, 'with four or five rows of twenty switches and things, in a room that felt like the control room of a battle-ship.'5 It was the first of a lifetime of all-night programming sessions. In the morning, to onlookers' astonishment the computer raucously hooted out the National Anthem. Turing, his usual monosyllabic self, said enthusiastically 'Good show'. Strachey could hardly have thought of a better way to get attention: a few weeks later he received a letter offering him a job at the computing lab.6

The BBC recording, made some time later the same year, included not only the National Anthem but also an endearing, if rather brash, rendition of the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep as well as a reedy and wooden performance of Glenn Miller’s famous hit In the Mood. There are unsettled questions about the authorship of the three routines that played these recorded melodies. In the wake of Strachey's tour de force a number of people in the lab started writing music programs: even the routine that played the National Anthem in the recording may have been a retouched version of Strachey's original.

It was a challenge to write routines that would keep the computer tolerably in tune, since the Mark II could only approximate the true pitch of many notes: for instance the true pitch of G3 is 196 Hertz but the closest frequency that the Mark II could generate was well off the note at 198.41 Hertz. We found there was enough information in Turing's wonderfully pithy Programmers' Handbook to enable us to calculate all the audible frequencies that the Mark II could produce. However, when we ran a frequency analysis of the 1951 BBC recording (using the British Library's digital preservation copy, tape ref. H3942) we found that the frequencies were shifted. The effect of these shifts is so severe that the sounds in the recording often bear only a very loose relationship to the sounds that the computer would have actually produced. So distant was the recording from the original that many of the recorded frequencies were actually ones that it was impossible for the Mark II to play.

Alan Turing (right) at the console of the Mark II computer
Fig. 4: Turing (right) at the console of the Mark II computer (Courtesy of the University of Manchester School of Computer Science)

Naturally we wished to uncover the true sound of the computer. These 'impossible pitches' in the recording proved to be the key to doing so: our computer-assisted analysis of the differences in frequency—between the impossible pitches and the actual pitches that the computer would have played—revealed that the recorded music was in fact playing at an incorrect speed. This was most likely the result of the mobile recorder's turntable running too fast while the acetate disc was being cut: achieving speed constancy was always a problem with the BBC's standard mobile recording equipment at that time.7 So when the disc was played back at the standard speed of 78 rpm, the frequencies were systematically shifted.

We were able to calculate exactly how much the recording had to be speeded up in order to reproduce the original sound of the computer.8 We also filtered out extraneous noise from the recording; and using pitch-correction software we removed the effects of a troublesome wobble in the speed of the recording (most likely introduced by the disc-cutting process). It was a beautiful moment when we first heard the true sound of Turing's computer.

Here is the complete recording of our restoration:


1 See, for example, Chadabe, J. 'The Electronic Century, Part III: Computers and Analog Synthesizers', Electronic Musician, 2001,

2 Australian composer Paul Doornbusch writing in R. T. Dean, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music, Oxford University Press, 2009; see pp. 558, 584.

3 A. M. Turing, Programmers' Handbook for Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II, Computing Machine Laboratory, University of Manchester (no date, circa 1950); a digital facsimile is in The Turing Archive for the History of Computing, Turing's Mark I/Mark II terminology was eventually superseded when the engineering company that was contracted to build and market the Mark II, Ferranti, called it the Ferranti Mark I.

4 Christopher Strachey interviewed by Nancy Foy in 'The Word Games of the Night Bird', Computing Europe, 15 August 1974, pp. 10-11.

5 Strachey in 'The Word Games of the Night Bird', p. 11.

6 Letter from M. H. A. Newman to Strachey, 2 October 1951 (in the Christopher Strachey Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford, folder A39).

7 BBC Recording Training Manual, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1950.

8 We describe in detail how we did this in our article 'Turing and the history of computer music', in J. Floyd and A. Bokulich, eds, Philosophical Explorations of the Legacy of Alan Turing, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, Springer Verlag, 2017.


Jack CopelandJack Copeland is Distinguished Professor in Arts at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. His recent biography Turing, Pioneer of the Information Age contains more information about Strachey and the Manchester computer music (Oxford University Press, paperback edn. 2014).

Jason Long

Jason Long is a New Zealand composer and performer, focusing on musical robotics and electro-acoustic music. He has carried out musical research at the University of Canterbury, the Victoria University of Wellington, Tokyo University of the Arts, and the Utrecht Higher School of the Arts.


09 September 2016

Sheffield dialect in pop music

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator for Spoken English writes:

During the recent international cricket series between England and Pakistan I was amused to hear an exchange between former England cricketers Graeme Swann and Michael Vaughan while commentating on BBC Radio 5 Live. In response to Graeme Swann’s appearance the previous week on BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics, Michael Vaughan claimed his top five musical moments would all involve Sheffield artists like Jarvis Cocker. The understandable affection in which the Pulp lead singer is held locally (and, I sense, nationally) was underlined earlier this year when he was invited to record the travel announcements on board Sheffield trams. It probably came as an even greater surprise to visitors at the British Library to hear Jarvis’s voice over the British Library’s public address system following his live radio broadcast here at St Pancras this time last year:

The building will close in ten minutes

There’s clearly something about Sheffield that inspires such pride in local speech and ten years ago the Steel City’s other great contemporary musical icons, Arctic Monkeys, released their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, to widespread acclaim. Arctic MonkeysThe album title is inspired by a line from Allan Sillitoe’s portrayal of working-class life in Nottingham in the 1950s, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Transported some forty miles north and fifty years later, Alex Turner’s lyrics explore the same theme and echo Sillitoe’s celebration of vernacular speech. The use of dialect is well-established in literature, but is curiously absent from mainstream popular music (though often central to traditional and/or folk music). Pop lyricists make liberal use of slang, but dialect is comparatively rare, so Arctic Monkey’s 2004 single, Mardy Bum, immediately stood out. The word mardy crops up regularly in Sillitoe’s novel and was also supplied by several contributors to the British Library’s WordBank from an area extending roughly from Leicestershire via Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to South Yorkshire, including this example:

C1442X1283 MARDY

Captured in dictionaries from 1874 mardy [= ‘moody, sullen, spoilt (esp. of child)’] is characterised by the OED as ‘regional (chiefly north)’. What’s perhaps more remarkable than Turner’s use of dialect words and grammar here is that he also sings in a Sheffield accent as illustrated by the line:

remember cuddles in the kitchen yeah to get things off the ground and it was up up and away oh but it’s right hard to remember that on a day like today when you’re all argumentative and you’ve got the face on

Arctic Monkeys Mardy Bum

Turner, A. 2006. Mardy Bum. Arctic Monkeys. Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not. [CD]. UK: Domino, WIGCD 162. BL Shelfmark: 1CD0256061

His use of the intensifier right [= ‘very, really’] and his pronunciation (rhyming with ‘eight’) is typical of Sheffield dialect, but arguably extremely unusual for a commercial pop/rock singer.

The most striking and consistent use of Sheffield dialect on the album occurs in From the Ritz to the Rubble:

well last night these two bouncers and one of them’s all right the other one’s a scary one his way or no way totalitarian he’s got no time for you looking or breathing how he doesn’t want you to so step out the queue he makes examples of you and there’s nowt you can say behind they go through to the bit where you pay and you realise then that it’s finally the time to walk back past ten thousand eyes in the line and you can swap jumpers and make another move instilled in your brain you’ve got something to prove

Arctic Monkeys From the Ritz to the Rubble

Turner, A. 2006. From The Ritz To The Rubble. Arctic Monkeys. Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not. [CD]. UK: Domino, WIGCD 162. BL Shelfmark: 1CD0256061

In this opening verse, for instance, Turner rhymes totalitarian with scary one (pronounced ‘scary ’un’), reduces doesn’t to ‘dunt’ – a process, known as secondary contraction, that’s typical of negative marking in Sheffield – and sings you can swap jumpers and make (pronounced ‘meck’) another move. He also uses the northern dialect form nowt [= ‘nothing’] and, crucially, pronounces it to rhyme with ‘oat’ not ‘out’. As noted in a previous blog, research carried out in the 1950s established the northern pair owt [= ‘anything’] and nowt [= ‘nothing’] invariably rhymed with ‘oat’ in much of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire (despite a nationwide tendency to assume it rhymes with ‘out’). This recording clearly confirms this historic local pronunciation persists in present-day Sheffield dialect.

The British Library has several wonderful recordings of Sheffield dialect created for linguistic research, but our popular music collections also represent a rich repository of vernacular speech. Sadly, Turner no longer sounds quite so Sheffield when he sings (he now lives in LA after all), but I assume Michael Vaughan would wholeheartedly approve of his promotion of all things Sheffield.

The Field has Ears

Interviews with Wildlife Sound Recordists is an oral history project, run by the British Library's Wildlife Section, which examines the world of wildlife sound recording from the perspective of the recordist. Usually absent from their recordings, this growing collection of interviews sheds light on the experiences, motivations and personal approaches of the people behind the microphone.  In this special report, the project's interviewer, Dr Mark Peter Wright, digs down into the collection and examines the subject of encounters.

A reoccurring theme to emerge from Interviews with Wildlife Sound Recordists involves vivid descriptions of memorable encounters between interviewees and animals.

From close up examples to more remote forms of recorded interaction, these recollections amplify a complex ethico-aesthetic territory within the discipline's own asymmetrical relations of capture. They also produce affective commentary on how failure, humour and the unknown are aspects inevitably bound into the process of wildlife and environmental sound recording.

Throughout my interviews with scientists, artists, hobbyists and bioacousticians, remarkable moments in the field have repeatedly been aired. Geoff Sample describes one close encounter with a long-eared owl as entering into a ‘special community’.

Geoff Sample's Long-eared Owl encounter


(Martin Mecnarowski)

Simon Elliott, known for his macro recording style, shares his rationale both technically and conceptually. Elliott’s motivation stems from his ‘intended recipient’ concept, a strategy that attempts to place emphasis on what the species hears within its own place-making process rather than the perspectival ears of a distant recordist.

Simon Elliott's changing recording methods

Many others including Dorothy Ireland’s recollections of recording Deer vocalisations add to an archive of human-animal encounters. Focusing on the dynamics of such interspecies negotiation must be an essential part of any examination of wildlife sound recording practice. Re-hearing such moments can, I believe, help to deconstruct perspectival focus and provocatively ask: what does the animal hear? There is no answer or hard reconciliation to this question, more an ongoing negotiation of agency and difference between recordists and wildlife. Scientific accuracy becomes grafted into an imaginary and unknown exploration of radical non-human alterity.

Dorothy Ireland's Sika Deer encounter


Perhaps a re-working of anthropomorphism is needed if we are to go beyond the human? Not one in which human centered attributes are transposed onto animals but where imaginary and uncertain subjectivities and differences can be harnessed. The field in this sense can move beyond its emphasis on extraction and instead become a site of plural possibility that includes its human, non-human and technological agents.

The field has ears.

07 September 2016

Olympic memories

Are you missing the Olympic Games? At the British Library, as part of our Broadcast News service of current television and radio recordings, we recorded the Rio Games every day. We didn't have the capacity to record all of the estimated 3,000 hours or more that the BBC broadcast, but we did record the main summary programmes, including each day's Olympic Breakfast (BBC One), Olympic Sportsday (BBC News), 5 live Olympic Breakfast and 5 live Olympic Download (BBC 5 live), plus round-up coverage from the main broadcast across the three channels employed by the BBC. We also recorded the entirety of one day's coverage (Day 11, 16 August 2016) across BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and 5 live, to illustrate how the full broadcast operation worked. And of course we recorded the opening and closing ceremonies.


Usain Bolt winning the Men's 100m

All of these programmes are now available view at our London and Boston Spa sites, and can be found on the Explore catalogue. Simply type in the title of the programme from the list below, select Moving Images or Audio under Material Type if necessary, then click on the Details tab to find the link to the playable programme. Or if you are onsite you can go to a terminal in any Reading Room and find them through the Broadcast News service itself (choose Sound and Moving Image services from the welcome page and then follow the links). For copyright reasons we are unable to make the programmes available outside our reading rooms.

Programmes recorded:

  • 5 live Olympic Breakfast [series] (BBC Radio 5 live)
  • 5 live Olympic Download [series] (BBC Radio 5 live)
  • Mo Farah: Race of His Life (BBC One)
  • Olympic Breakfast [series] (BBC One)
  • Olympic Sportsday [series] (BBC News]
  • Olympics 2016 [series] (BBC One, Two or Four)
  • Olympics 2016: Countdown to Rio (BBC One)
  • Olympics 2016: Opening Ceremony (BBC One)
  • Olympics 2016: Closing Ceremony (BBC One)
  • Tom Daley: Diving for Gold (BBC One)


The cauldron from the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony

Broadcast News started record back in 2010, so we were there for London 2012. Again, we weren't able to record everything of the huge amount of video broadcast by the BBC, but we recorded the round-up programmes and the opening and closing ceremonies. All of these are also available on Broadcast news and are discoverable via Explore.

Programmes recorded:

  • Olympics Countdown (BBC One)
  • Olympics Opening Ceremony (BBC One)
  • Olympics 2012 [series] (BBC One)
  • Olympics Tonight [series] (BBC One)
  • Olympic Sportsday [series] (BBC News)
  • Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremony (BBC One)

Of course, we recorded the Paralympic Games in 2012 and are geared up to document the Paralympics in Rio from today. Once that archive has been amassed, another blog post will follow.

One Hundred Singles


One of the more popular features of the current Punk 1976-78 exhibition is the wall of vinyl singles. This consists of 100 records from the period chosen from the BL’s sound archive. The selection includes the obvious hits as well as obscurities and curiosities and is not intended to be a ‘best of’, rather a selection of musicians and labels that in one way or another were associated with punk.

The rationale for inclusion varies - not many people might instantly recognise the single by Metal Urbain but appreciate its inclusion when they learn it was the first release on the Rough Trade label. In a similar vein, ‘Shadow’ by the Lurkers was the first release on the Beggars Banquet record label which is now the internationally-successful Beggars Group, releasing recordings by acts as diverse as the White Stripes, the Prodigy and Adele. The selection also includes first releases on Cherry Red Records and on the Factory label.


Other releases involve people who went on to explore different musical directions – Birmingham punk band the Killjoys featured vocals by Kevin Rowland, later of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and bassist Gil Weston who went on to play in Girlschool. Liverpool punk band Spitfire Boys featured future Frankie Goes To Hollywood member Paul Rutherford and Nipple Erectors, formed by Shanne Bradley who was subsequently a member of The Men They Couldn’t Hang, included vocalist Shane MacGowan, later of the Pogues.


There is an audio loop playing in the area but visitors can use headphone points to choose any of the 100 titles to listen to dubbed from the original vinyl. Visitors to the exhibition can often be seen counting off how many of the singles they have in their own (or recognise from their parents’) collections and arguing as to why certain records are not in the selection. Those that are not on display are available through the British Library’s Listening and Viewing Service together with hundreds of thousands of other recordings. Further details on the Sound page.

The exhibition ‘Punk 1976-78’ is at the British Library until 2 October.