Sound and vision blog

6 posts from December 2022

20 December 2022

'Jiune Rahara' / Desire to live

Rahul Giri was one of our Resonations artists-in-residence during 2022. The Resonations artist residency programme is generously supported by the British Council. 

Also known as _RHL, Rahul Giri is a producer and DJ based in Bangalore, India. While studying broadcast journalism, Rahul became one half of the duo Sulk Station, whose work has been described as ‘hypnotic, downtempo electronica with Hindustani musical influences’. For years, he has been an active developer of Bangalore’s alternative scene and musical identity, running Consolidate – an independent collective-turned-record-label. 

In his last blog as artist-in-residence, Rahul gives us some insight into what he has done during the six months of his online residency:

Over the last six months working with the British Library’s sound archive as a Resonations artist-in-residence, I have engaged with various forms of Nepali music that cut across language, culture and geography. My primary focus within this vast archive has been the recordings of the Gandharva community - a wandering musician caste from Nepal.

Photo of Lurey Gandharva taken by Doctor Carol Tingey  in Tarkughat Village  Lamjung  1992
Photo of Lurey Gandharva taken by Doctor Carol Tingey, in Tarkughat Village, Lamjung, 1992

Some of the Gandharva recordings I have closely listened to were written against the backdrop of war.

Jiune Rahara’, performed by Lurey Gandharva on voice and sarangi, and recorded by Carol Tingey in Tarkughat Village, Lamjung, in 1992, is one such example. The song was most likely written over 200 years ago. It references the time when the Gorkha Kingdom (a hill state in central Nepal) was at war with its neighbouring states. This war was part of an expansion campaign (also known as unification of Nepal) that took place in the 18th and 19th century. It ultimately led to the formation of present-day Nepal.

The song ‘Jiune Rahara’ explores the complex psyche of men preparing to leave for the battlefield. Sung from the perspective of the soldiers, the text juxtaposes themes of faith and fate. The song lyrics narrate how men going to war rely on various practices that are considered auspicious in Nepali culture.

The refrain ‘Jiune Rahara’ which literally translates as ‘the desire to live’ puts things into perspective. It poignantly describes the mindset of the soldiers who are well aware of the realities of war - how the fear of death and the desire to live simultaneously manifest themselves through these rituals and acts of faith.

Reading the lyrics of the song, makes this clear:

Find the auspicious hour, brother, [for us to leave]
We have as blessings the curd and the banana
The desire to live

Consecrated grains of the shali rice
And curd from the mali cow
Give us the tika mark
The desire to live
Brother - we head off to the fields of war

In how many places, brother, were you hit
By musket balls?
How many places, the cut of the khukuri [machete]?
The desire to live
Will you ever come home again?

[Translated into english by Prawin Adhikari]

One of the first thoughts that came to my mind while listening to ‘Jiune Rahara’ was how the song could be applied to the lives of present day Nepali migrant workers.

Every year thousands of Nepali men and women travel abroad for employment. They especially travel to Gulf countries (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and others) and Malaysia. Like the soldiers in the song ‘Jiune Rahara’, they are well aware of the trials and tribulations that await them, including the possibility of death. Most of them make this journey out of necessity - out of a desire to live - to escape poverty, to provide for their family or to simply look for a better life.

‘Jiune Rahara’ is part of a larger body of Gandharva songs that explore themes of war through an individual’s perspective. The song is an intersection of art and reportage where loss and longing, hope and fear make way for grander narratives of valour and bravado.

Inspired by ‘Jiune Rahara’s’ approach to dealing with complex themes in such a poetic and effective way, I started thinking about creating a body of work that was based on the experiences of Nepali migrant workers'.

In the early stages of this residency while researching the Gandharva tradition I was also listening to recordings of sarangi with sampling and sound design in mind. Sarangi is the primary instrument of Gandharvas. It is a four stringed fiddle played vertically with a bow. The music producer in me was drawn to the melancholia, granularity and vulnerability in these sound recordings. I was also interested in the dissonance, grit and scrappiness which crept into them every once in a while but was especially audible when musicians tuned their instruments in between songs and conversations.

I asked Rajan Shrestha, a musician and ethnomusicologist from Kathmandu, to send me very basic recordings of sarangi - long drawn notes with no direct connection to the Gandharva compositions.

My initial goal was to create a body of work that used the sound of the sarangi as a building block - to create a varied sonic palette based on the textures, timbres and tonalities of these archival recordings. To do this, I would use various sound design and sampling techniques.

The decision to work with newly made recordings of sarangi was partly out of respect for the Gandharva tradition. It also gave me a lot more freedom as a producer as I was starting from scratch and could manipulate these recordings to match my inclinations.

Over the last few months I have been working towards reimagining and re-contextualizing these recordings - extracting and exploring elements of noise, drone and dissonance to soundtrack aspects of Nepali migrant workers journey. Most of my work with these recordings has coincided with the build up and the culmination of the World Cup in Qatar.

The majority of my work in progress is a response to the reportage around the plight of South Asian migrant workers involved in building the stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup.

You can listen to some snippets of my work in progress on Soundcloud.

Some of these sketches include sound design ideas that replicate construction sites - claustrophobic walls of sound that represent the harsh working and living conditions, meditative musical passages that reflect muted optimism and hope that some of the workers have shown in interviews.

As of now these are just fragments, a collection of sketches, audio notes that I hope to build on in the coming months.

19 December 2022

Recording of the week: ‘Rooms above pubs: a nexus of free improvisation’

This week’s post comes from Tom Jackson, Workflow Support Officer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage.

Rooms above pubs have played a prominent role in the development of the UK’s free improvisation scene. The Horse Improvised Music Club began organising events above the Horse pub in Waterloo, before moving to the Dog House in Kennington and several other pubs in South East London until they established a concert series at Iklectik Art Lab. Between 2013 and 2016, Daniel Thompson ran Foley Street Improvised Music Concert Series above the King And Queen in Fitzrovia. While not technically rooms above pubs, special mentions should go to Flim Flam and Boat Ting, which have both been running for over twenty years, the former in a room below Ryan’s N16 in Stoke Newington, the latter on the Bar&Co boat at Temple Pier.

Rooms like these provide a vital space for improvisers to perform and develop their practice, offering an unparalleled intimacy between audiences and musicians. Operating alongside venues whose main activities include a platform for concerts (Hundred Years Gallery, for example), there’s always been something very special about these rooms, temporary spaces of activity existing sometimes for a few years, sometimes going on for decades. I think the history of this music would have been very different without these rooms above pubs.

Scan of 'The Cut' flyer

In the 1980s, concerts were organised at the Priory Arms in Stockwell by Alan Tomlinson and at the Roebuck in Central London by Phil Durrant, Steve Moore and Gillian McGregor. The British Library has recordings from both of these concert series. ‘The Cut’ (British Library ref: C138) is a collection of recordings of the latter, featuring the following improvisers and poets: Clive Fencott, Phil Durrant, Mike Hames, Matt Hutchinson, Stuart Jones, Paul Hession, Roger Turner, Peter Cusack, Phil Minton, Gillian McGregor, John Butcher, Steve Moore, Hugh Metcalfe, Allen Fisher, Parny Wallace, Neil Metcalfe, Jim Denley, Philipp Wachsmann, Will Evans, Mark Sanders and Thebe Lipere. It’s a collection that provides ample evidence of the intensity and excitement of the scene at that time.

From 1984, here are three solos recorded at The Cut, from Paul Hession (26 September), Jim Denley (24 October) and Peter Cusack (12 September).

Listen to Paul Hession

Listen to Jim Denley

Listen to Peter Cusack

Special thanks to John Butcher for providing a copy of the flyer.

16 December 2022

BL Sports Word of the Year 2022

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English, writes:

A fortnight ago, I stumbled across BBC football correspondent, Ian Dennis, playing Radio 5 Live's World Cup Bauble Challenge with Breakfast presenters, Rachel Burden and Rick Edwards. While the game itself was mildly diverting, I was more intrigued to hear – in the space of about three minutes airtime – the acronyms VAR [= ‘(football) video assistant referee’], TMO [= ‘(rugby) television match official’] and DRS [= ‘(cricket) decision review system’]. The existence of the terms reflects the increasing reliance of professional sport on technology and additional off-field experts to assist with on-field decisions; their use in this light-hearted exchange shows just how quickly they’ve permeated mainstream discourse. A few days previously I’d read a column in the Guardian in which Adrian Chiles dismissed sporting jargon as baffling and off-putting to the uninitiated, so I assume he'd have found that conversation really annoying. For me, though, it provided another set of entries in my growing list of vernacular English gleaned from the mainstream sporting press and media.

With various dictionaries announcing their 2022 Word of The Year – Collins plumped for permacrisis, while the rather more left field goblin mode emerged from Oxford’s public vote – it also reminded me it was time for an annual review of the linguistic highlights I’ve collected over the last twelve months. Here, then, are the ten nominees for the 8th unofficial British Library Sports Word of The Year (SWOTY 2022):

April (Mary Earps introducing demonstration of technique for executing accurate, long-range, drop-kick clearance, BBC Online): we’re gonna do some zing zingers sidewinders

May (Peter Crouch discussing tactic of player lying down behind defensive wall at free kicks, That Peter Crouch Podcast): I’d be a helluva good draught excluder

June (Michael Atherton of Ollie Pope’s fielding position versus New Zealand, Sky Sports): Pope goes in to boot hill

July (Gabby Logan of Georgia Stanway goal versus Spain, BBC1): absolute blooter of a goal from Georgia Stanway

July (Isa Guha of David Willey hitting boundaries off first two balls of Hardik Pandya over, BBC2): David Willey fancies a little cheeky innings here

July (Rachael Burden interviewing Paul Farbrace about philosophy of new England coach Brendan McCullum, BBC Radio 5 Live): tell us about Bazball

August (Andy Hunter quoting Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, reflecting on the importance of learning from experience, Guardian): I got washed with all kinds of water in my life

September (Simon Burnton of evolution of traditional nightwatchman role, Guardian): Broad […] was padded up and ready if necessary to play the role of free-hitting nighthawk

October (Aaron Bowyer of England’s women’s Rugby League team, Guardian): England aim to replicate the exploits of football’s Lionesses this summer, but they have competition from the Jillaroos

This year’s list perhaps inevitably focuses on three sports that held major international competitions in 2022 – football (women’s Euros and men’s World Cup), cricket (women’s World Cup and men’s T20 World Cup) and Rugby League (men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cups). Two entries – Lionesses [= ‘England women’s football team’] and Jillaroos [= ‘Australia women’s Rugby League team’] – are nicknames for national teams in their respective sports. Both occur frequently in published articles and wider sporting discourse. Indeed some nicknames are so well established that they’re arguably more commonly used than the name of the country they denote – the All Blacks [= ‘New Zealand men’s Rugby Union team’] is probably the most obvious example. I’m not aware of any widely used equivalent for the England (or Scotland, Wales or Ireland) men’s Rugby Union team, although the England women’s team are frequently referred to as the Red Roses. Undisputed world champions in sporting nicknames (and many sports) must surely be Australia, whose particular fondness for the pseudo suffix <-roo> came to my attention this autumn. In a single week in late October/early November, Guardian articles featured the following monikers: Kangaroos [= ‘Australia men’s Rugby League team’]; Socceroos [= ‘Australia men’s football team’]; Jillaroos [= ‘Australia women’s Rugby League team’]; and the wonderfully creative Wheelaroos [= ‘Australia wheelchair Rugby League team’].


Rather disappointingly, there was a match report the same week about the Diamonds [= ‘Australia women’s netball team’] – might I suggest Catcharoos or Springaroos would be more compatible? Of this list, the Kangaroos and Jillaroos both became world champions and the Diamonds won the netball title at the Commonwealth Games or Commie Games as I heard several young hockey players call it – a hypocorism (i.e. affectionate diminutive form), which is a linguistic phenomenon at which Australians might also claim to be world champions.

Even more productive than <-roo> is the suffix <-ball>, captured here in the entry Bazball. The first element, Baz, is the nickname of the current England men’s Test cricket coach, Brendan McCullum. The suffix <-ball> is, I suspect, inspired by Moneyball, the title of a book and film celebrating a methodology devised by Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane, the principle of which was to create a successful baseball team by prioritising statistical analysis over coaching ‘instinct’. The <-ball> suffix is now frequently attached to the name of an innovative coach or player as a convenient shorthand for a specific philosophy or tactical approach.


Although McCullum himself apparently dislikes the term, Bazball refers to what many observers consider a high-risk – and extremely entertaining – attacking approach to the more sedate form of cricket traditionally associated with Test matches. In this year’s Guardian, I’ve noted the following examples of this morphological process on at least one occasion: Pepball, Kloppball, Rangnickball, Farrellball, Wengerball, Bruceball, Viratball, Potterball, Josball. Sports fans will recognise the individual coaches or players referenced in each case; some are used positively (i.e. in praise of the exponent’s philosophy); others more negatively (i.e. criticising their approach). Where Bazball appears to be the implementation of a so-called ‘red-ball reset’ for men’s cricket in England, Josball might be considered the culmination of the equivalent ‘white-ball reset’ instigated by former captain, Eoin Morgan, and now modified by the present incumbent, Jos Buttler.

Another entry in this shortlist captures the essence of Bazball: nighthawk [= ‘batter sent in when a wicket falls shortly before close of play and instructed to make quick runs’]. The term nighthawk is clearly a play on the conventional cricketing wisdom of employing a nightwatchman in such circumstances [= ‘(lower order, i.e. non-specialist) batter sent in when a wicket falls shortly before close of play and instructed to play out time thereby reducing the risk of losing another specialist batter’]. The contrast between viewing the loss of a wicket towards close of play as a potential banana skin requiring a nightwatchman and seeing it as an opportunity to be exploited by a nighthawk somehow epitomises Bazball. Collins defines nighthawk as a synonym for night owl [= ‘someone who works more effectively late at night’]. In a cricketing context, then, the implication is that a nighthawk presumably relishes rather than fears batting in a pressurised situation at close of play. I also suspect the <-hawk> element implies the sense of the US English metaphor, hawks and doves, in that hawks advocate an aggressive response to a perceived threat, while doves favour a conciliatory (i.e. defensive) approach.

Three entries here are sporting jargon (i.e. specialised vocabulary used by, or at least familiar to, players and fans of a given sport, but probably incomprehensible to outsiders). These are zinger (aka sidewinder) [= (of goalkeeper) ‘sideways drop-kick volleyed clearance or pass’]; draught excluder [= ‘footballer who lies down behind defensive wall at free-kick’]; and boot hill [= ‘forward short leg’ (i.e. fielding position extremely close to batter)]. Zinger is defined as ‘something outstanding’ and generally attributed to US English, while Merriam-Webster defines sidewinder as ‘a heavy swinging blow from the side’. Mary Earp’s use here refers to a clearance, kicked from the hand in which the torso and leg of the kicking foot is almost horizontal to the ground at impact. Goalkeepers increasingly use this technique rather than the more ‘traditional’ drop-kick in which the ball is punted vertically in the air. The sidewinder is considered more accurate and thus allows the modern goalkeeper to initiate play rather than simply clear the ball hopefully upfield. A draught excluder placed at the foot of a door to prevent cold air entering a room is something we’re all probably familiar with – especially this winter. Often slightly playful in design, they bear an uncanny resemblance to the bizarre sight of a footballer lying down behind a defensive wall at a free kick. This tactic has emerged in recent years in response to goals occasionally resulting from free kicks intentionally directed beneath a defensive wall on the assumption that players in the wall invariably jump to present a taller barrier.


Oxford records boot hill as a humorous term in US English for ‘a place where people are buried’. Its meaning in cricket captures the gallows humour implicit in a fielding position that carries an increased risk of serious injury. While mainstream dictionaries record the more conventional meanings of all three, their use in sporting contexts is clearly relatively recent as they’re less widely documented: Collins includes draught excluder as a ‘new word suggestion’; sidewinder occurs frequently in online platforms, notably in video clips of the phenomenon; while boot hill merits an entry in Michael Rundell’s Dictionary of Cricket (1995).

Two terms here aren’t exclusive to sporting discourse: blooter [= ‘impressive hit/kick (esp. of ball)’] and cheeky [= ‘enjoyable and unexpected’]. Both occur in other informal contexts, so might be considered slang (i.e. informal forms), although there is an argument to consider the former as dialect (i.e. a localised form) as it’s most commonly associated with Scotland, as confirmed by the Scots Language Centre. It’s a little ironic that Gabby Logan – born in England of Welsh heritage but, crucially perhaps, married to a Scotsman – chose a Scots form, blooter, to describe an England goal. The form cheeky – often, as here, combined with little – is particularly common among younger speakers of British English. It typically implies a spontaneous, slightly self-indulgent act, as demonstrated in common collocations such as a cheeky pint or a cheeky Nandos (compare the older comparable form crafty fag for an illicit cigarette). This sense of cheeky is confirmed by an entry in Macmillan and is also the subject of a wonderful linguistic study.

The final entry simply reflects my own personal fascination, as a former teacher of German, with (i) idioms that are, if not untranslatable, offer no obvious equivalent in English; and (ii) Kloppisms (i.e. the musings of Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp). Reflecting on Liverpool’s uncharacteristically slow start to this season, Klopp translated the German idiom, mit allen Wassern gewaschen, almost verbatim as (to be) washed with all kinds of water [= ‘to know all the tricks in the book’]. Duden simply defines the phrase as ‘clever’, but it conveys something much more along the lines of possessing ‘know-how’, ‘cunning’, ‘experience’ and ‘a trick or two up one’s sleeve’.

As with previous years, most of this year’s entries are captured in the British Library’s Newspaper collections, National Radio Archive and UK Web Archive, demonstrating how the Library’s collections document the diversity and continued evolution of the English language.

And now it’s time to announce the winner. Given the extraordinary events in successive home Tests against New Zealand and India this summer and the remarkable Test series in Pakistan, in any other year Bazball would have been a shoo-in. However, England women’s football triumph this summer at Wembley was even more impressive, so the clear winner, both of the Euros and of SWOTY 2022, is Lionesses.

LIONESSES [GDN 03.08.22]

Follow Spoken English collections at @VoicesofEnglish.

12 December 2022

Recording of the week: ‘Acts of protest: Women and the Indian independence movement’

This week’s post comes from Chandan Mahal, Learning Projects Manager for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.

The figures of Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru are well-known but we should also remember the many women who were active in the struggle to free India from British rule.  The contributions of female political activists, including Sarojini Naidu, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Fatima Jinnah and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, greatly influenced how India’s struggle for freedom was achieved. As leaders, these women significantly changed the course of the independence movement.

When Gandhi encouraged women to join the Satyagraha campaigns, which were campaigns of nonviolent civil disobedience, many responded to his call. Women from all backgrounds, including poorer and rural communities, were mobilised through the Swadeshi movement in particular. This was part of a drive to boycott foreign goods, especially foreign cloth, and encourage the use of domestic products including home spun cloth. The aim was to regenerate India’s textile industry, which had been destroyed by the British during colonial rule.

The spinning of cloth had always been important for village women as a source of income, so thousands were encouraged to take it up along with the wearing of home-made cloth (khadi). Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, twice-president of the Indian National Congress, describes the importance of these defiant acts for mobilising women: in many ways they marked both the beginning of women’s emancipation in India, and an important progression towards independence from British rule.

Listen to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Download Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit transcript

Pandit also highlights in this clip the famous Salt March in 1930. The British government had introduced a salt tax which doubled the price of salt and made it illegal for Indians to make their own salt. The tax levies had made salt unaffordable for the poorest. Sarojini Naidu led a march to the salt works at Dharasana in 1930 and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay organised a mass raid on the salt fields in Wadala. Even though Chattopadhyay was arrested, her seven year old son and other marchers continued to execute her plan. At her trial she tried to sell salt in the courtroom and even asked the magistrate to quit his position and join the Satyagraha movement! Sadly she was given a nine month prison sentence.

In this oral history interview sourced from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay describes how the salt satyagraha was considered a pivotal moment of new mass participation by women in a national movement:

Even though only a few women were chosen officially to take part in the salt satyagraha with which the Indian revolution opened on the morning of April 6 1930, by sunset that first day it had turned into a mass movement and swept the country. On that memorable day thousands of women    strode down to the sea like proud warriors. But instead of weapons they bore pitchers of clay, brass and copper: and instead of uniforms, the simple    cotton saris of village India […] Women young and old, rich and poor, came tumbling out in their thousands, shaking off the traditional shackles that held them so long.  Valiantly they went forward without a trace of fear and embarrassment. They stood at street corners with little packets of salt, crying out: ‘We have broken the Salt Law and we are free! Who will buy the salt of freedom?’

Taken from the book History of Doing by Radha Kumar (Kali for Women, New Delhi, 1993).

In the clip below, Kamaladevi talks about one of the occasions when she was arrested and how she was kept in solitary confinement.

Listen to Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

Download Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay transcript

Thousands of women participated in the movement by breaking free from tradition and taking part in strikes and marches, picketing shops that sold foreign clothes, and wearing khadi, which became a symbol of Indian nationalism. Some of the leading political figures in the women’s movement were members of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), along with other important organisations like the National Council of Women in India (NCWI) and the Women’s Indian Association (WIA). These organisations provided an important platform where the campaigning for women’s rights could be carried out more broadly.

Members of the AIWC, which was established in 1927 by Margaret Cousins, can be seen in the image below taken in 1930. From left to right; Mrs Hamid Ali, Mrs Brijal Nehru, Mrs P.K. Seu, Mrs Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Mrs Sarojini Naidu, Mrs Hinde-Koper, Mrs Paridoonji, Mrs Margaret Cousins and Mrs Hamsa Mehta. Other prominent members of the AIWC included Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandi, and Muthulakshmi Reddi.

Photo of the Standing Committee of the All India Women's Conference  Bombay  1930

Standing Committee of the All India Women's Conference, Bombay, 1930. Photographer unknown. Taken from The Awakening of Indian Women by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and others (Everyman’s Press, Madras, 1939).

To learn more about the role of women you can visit the Voices of Partition website and hear some rare recordings from political activists including Sarojini Naidu, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and Aruna Asif Ali.

09 December 2022

'Exercise for all': Challenging barriers to access for disabled people

This Disability History Month, staff from across the British Library have collaborated on a series of blog posts to highlight stories of disability and disabled people in the Library’s collections. Each week a  member of staff will showcase an item from the collections and present it alongside commentary from a member of the British Library’s staff Disability Support Network. These selections are a snapshot insight into the Library’s holdings of disability stories, and we invite readers to use these as a starting point to explore the collections further and share your findings with us.

This selection has been made by Sarah Kirk-Browne, Cataloguer of Digital Multimedia Collections.

Photo of Radha and SharonPhotograph of Radha Nair-Roberts and Sharon Williams © BBC

A key issue in 'Disability, Health and Well Being' is challenging the obstacles that can prevent people accessing services in their local communities. Reflecting on this concern, I was reminded of friends Sharon and Radha, who recorded an inspirational conversation for The Listening Project in 2018.

In this recording, Sharon and Radha got together in Sharon’s home in Cardiff to discuss how their friendship developed and what healthy living means to them. They are both wheelchair users and first met a couple of years earlier at a conference. They quickly found common ground in their frustration at the lack of accessible exercise opportunities in their community. They both passionately support the rights of disabled people to manage their own health and well being, and decided to join forces to help improve this.

Both Sharon and Radha have life-long conditions, and they described their disappointment at only being offered finite and fragmentary physical and mental health services. After a spinal injury, Sharon spent a year in residential rehabilitation. But once this was completed, she was offered six weeks of Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy support, then left unsure what to do next. Radha has multiple sclerosis, and as her physical health began to deteriorate she became increasingly aware that the opportunities she wanted – and was legally entitled - to access, were not available in reality. In this clip they describe the importance of being able to find and use health services, and how the barriers for disabled people led to them beginning their campaign.

Sharon and Radha discuss the origins of their campaign [BL REF C1500/1730]

Download transcript

Over the years, as their friendship grew, Sharon and Radha shared different personal experiences of being disabled and this helped to inform their work. In the recording they recalled stories of public transport, trying to access help through local politicians and the work of charities connected to specific health conditions. They soon realised that although there may be some good examples of local services, there was often low awareness of them and insufficient funding across the board. Through their discussions and research they also agreed it was particularly important to emphasise services that are cross-condition and named their campaign 'Exercise for All' in response. In this clip they describe the importance of health and well being services for everyone in a community.

Sharon and Radha on health and well being services for all [BL REF C1500/1730]

Download transcript

One of the most moving parts of this conversation is Sharon and Radha’s reflections on how they transitioned from being able-bodied to their lives as wheelchair users. They explained the process of losing and regaining independence and negotiating changed relationships with family, friends, and themselves. The experience of giving up her career was particularly difficult for Radha, however they agreed that leaving work also opened up a new world of activity and friendship which has been essential for their well being. In this clip they describe their experiences of relearning a sense of self, and not being defined by disability.

Sharon and Radha on navigating changing identity and relationships [BL REF C1500/1730]

Download transcript

Together Sharon and Radha have helped each other to re-examine and enjoy their lives. There have been many challenges, but they have also discovered new joys and reassessed what is important to them. In this final clip they describe the deeper meaning, positive energy, and rewarding relationships that they now feel in their daily lives.

Sharon and Radha reflect on their lives and friendships [BL REF C1500/1730]

Download transcript

Sharon and Radha were recorded as part of The Listening Project, which began in 2012 and came to an end in 2022. The project captured personal conversations between people on a subject of their choosing, for broadcast in edited form on a BBC radio programme and archived in full at the British Library. We currently have a collection of over 2,000 recordings, spanning across the decade from around the United Kingdom. They offer an intimate and unparalleled glimpse into people’s lives, and their wide variety of experience. There are many voices of people with disabilities in this collection to explore, covering a huge range of topics.

Reflection from British Library staff Disability and Carer Support Network member Barbara O'Connor:

Sharon and Radha express so well the power of the collective voice. Their sentiment is moving and matter of fact: this the way it is. It shouldn’t be. We’re going to do so something about it. Power in community, strength through constructive group identity. This could be the unofficial mantra of the British Library’s Disability and Carer Support Network.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions. Examples of fragmentary provision are legion. I still flinch when I recall queuing for my 1st Covid jab. The civic-NHS mobilisation was impressive; walkie-talkie wielding high-vis clad volunteers, hot drink stands, even water bowls for the tethered-and-treasured. Nothing was overlooked, except of course, my access. The disabled signage and the ramp were in place. An entrance wide enough for my wheelchair? Oops. Tethered-but-not-so-treasured.

I find the conversation about the transition from able-bodied to less able-bodied uncomfortable. I’m only midway through the process and I struggle: grieving for the body that I had; unsure of how to reconstruct me; wildly flailing between my coping mechanisms, namely those of questionable black humour, shock and awe and raging anger. For one thing I can be sure, consign me to the 'Oh Bless, Oh Brave' brigade and you’ll experience the latter.

05 December 2022

Recording of the week: ‘Raising her father’s grave: An interview with Titanic survivor Eva Hart’

This week's selection comes from George Brierley, Audio Cataloguer at the British Library.

It has been over 110 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic. In that time, there have been numerous attempts to raise the shipwreck from the bottom of the Atlantic. One of the first prominent expeditions to locate Titanic was financed by Texan oil tycoon Jack Grimm, setting sail from Florida on 17 July 1980.

A British Library collection of LBC (London Broadcasting Company) tapes (C1438: LBC/IRN Archive) is currently being digitised and catalogued. It contains an impressive 7,804 items of LBC radio programming, circa 1973-1996. The collection contains an interview with Eva Hart (1905-1996), one of the very few remaining survivors of Titanic at the time of Grimm’s expedition. Her interview was broadcast on 17 August 1980.

At the age of seven, Eva had been a second-class passenger on Titanic alongside her mother and father. The family were emigrating from England to Canada and had all their belongings on board. Eva and her mother were rescued via lifeboat, but she tragically lost her father in the disaster. Before Eva boarded the lifeboat, Benjamin Hart told his daughter to be a good girl and hold her mother’s hand, a scene that was recreated in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film Titanic. These were his last words to Eva. His body was never recovered or identified.

Photo of Benjamin  Eva and Esther Hart

Above: Eva Hart (centre), with her father Benjamin (who perished on board Titanic) and her mother Esther, c. 1910s. Photograph from Wikipedia. Copyright: Public Domain.

Eva was living in East London in 1980. She talks in vivid detail about the night of the disaster to LBC presenter Rodney Bennett. Remembering the event ‘as if it were yesterday’, she describes the sinking of Titanic as ‘the most fantastically dreadful experience’. Interestingly, Eva’s mother had a premonition about the doomed ship in the days before the sinking. Esther Hart had been uneasy throughout the sailing, and had been wide awake and fully dressed when the ship struck the iceberg. This was one of the reasons why they were able to reach the deck in time to board one of the lifeboats. Eva had been conscious of her mother’s fear leading up to the disaster, and this heightened her own fear at the time.

Eva is against Grimm’s current search. She believes that if Titanic is found, it should be left where it is. In an excerpt from the end of the interview, she recognises that Titanic is an important historic relic, describing what she believes her reaction would be if she were to see it again.

Listen to Eva Hart

Download Eva Hart interview transcript

Titanic is now protected by UNESCO and there have been no more attempts to raise it. Eva Hart’s recollection of the night of the sinking is harrowing, but puts events into a human perspective. It is understandable that she would want the shipwreck to remain undisturbed. The grave of her father has been at the bottom of the ocean for almost her entire lifetime.