Sound and vision blog

420 posts categorized "Contemporary Britain"

23 January 2023

Recording of the week: Bob Cobbing (1920-2002)

This week’s recording of the week was selected by Steve Cleary, Lead Curator, Literary and Creative Recordings.

Black and white photocopied image of Bob Cobbing

Above: Image of Bob Cobbing from a scan supplied by Jennifer Cobbing in 2008. Photographer not known.

This is a selection from the personal tape archive of the British sound poet Bob Cobbing.

The archive comprises recordings of Cobbing - solo and with various collaborators - in live, studio and home settings. The British Library acquired it in 2005.

The Library is also home to Bob Cobbing’s manuscript archive.  And we hold copies of many of the publications issued by Cobbing’s Writers Forum imprint, as well as books about his artistic practice.

This particular piece, ‘WORM’, was recorded in 1966. It was among the tracks issued by the Library in 2009 on a CD compliation of Cobbing’s work called ‘The Spoken Word: Early Recordings 1965-1973’.

That CD is now long out of print and hard to find. Soon though, we will be making available - for free online listening - a selection of further treasures from the vaults. Our thanks are due to Barbara and Patrick Cobbing of the Bob Cobbing Estate, and also William Cobbing, for helping this to happen.

Keep an eye on our social media channels for news on the launch of our new ‘sounds’ web site.

Listen to Bob Cobbing

Download Bob Cobbing transcript

Note: The downloadable transcript is for the benefit of people with a hearing impairment. It is not intended as a guide to how the words should appear on the printed page. Cobbing published various treatments of the piece over the years. One published version has the words in horizontal lines from left to right, but also in four columns. Another visualisation sees the words printed off-register and arranged in wiggly vertical strings. The impression given is of worms on the ground, viewed from above.

Text and recording are copyright of the Bob Cobbing Estate, Used with permission.

16 January 2023

Recording of the week: ‘Reggae Fi May Ayim’ by Linton Kwesi Johnson

This week’s post comes from Daisy Chamberlain, Preservation Assistant for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Chapelton, Jamaica in 1952. His mother, Sylvena, migrated to Britain just before Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, and Linton followed three years later, aged 11. His first home in the UK was in Brixton, South London, an area he described as ‘an oasis of resistance and rebellion’.

Photo of Linton Kwesi Johnson

Photo credit: Bryan Ledgard on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In the following recording, Linton Kwesi Johnson recites his poem, ‘Reggae Fi May Ayim’ (British Library reference: C1532/14), written in memory of the Black German activist and poet, and his personal friend, May Ayim, at his birthday reception at Homerton College, Cambridge in 2012. May Ayim was the child of a German mother and a Ghanaian father, but was adopted by a white German family at a young age. She died on August 9, 1996, when she was only 36 years old.

Listen to Reggae Fi May Ayim

Download Reggae Fi May Ayim transcript

Though Linton Kwesi Johnson often works with a live band or backing track, this recitation of ‘Reggae Fi Ayim’ is performed without any music. His words have a rhythm and a musicality of their own, though, and the absence of any backing adds to the solemnity of his elegy.

From hamburg via bremen / den finally / Berlin

Ayim moved to Berlin in 1984, where the self-described ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’ Audre Lorde was working as a visiting professor in North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Ayim attended Lorde’s seminars while working on her thesis on the cultural and social history of Afro-Germans. Lorde soon became a close personal friend and mentor to Ayim, and the following year the pair co-founded the West Berlin Chapter of the Initiative Schwarze Deutsche (ISD), an organisation of Black Germans campaigning against racial injustice in Germany to facilitate bonds between Afro-Germans and create new cultural practices.

Photo of May Ayim (right) with her mentor Audre Lorde (left)

Photo credit:  Dagmar Schults / CC BY-SA 4.0

Afro-german warrior woman

The relationship between Johnson and Ayim was personal – the poem reveals that the pair met at a black radical book fair. It was also political – both Johnson and Ayim used poetry as a tool for inciting political change, and as a core component of their activism. Ayim’s own poetry dealt with the themes of classism, racism and feminism, and emphasised the potential of writing to build coalitions between Black Europeans and transform their social lives. As well as this elegy for May Ayim, Johnson has written poems for Blair Peach (‘Reggae Fi Peach’), a white teacher from New Zealand killed at a protest against the National Front in Southall in 1979, and George Lindo (‘It Dread Inna Inglan’), a Black man from Bradford who was wrongfully convicted of robbery despite a lack of evidence and a strong alibi. You can browse individual recordings of these poems in the Sound and Moving Image Catalogue.

Fallin screamin / Terteen stanzahs down

The opening stanza of ‘Reggae fi May Ayim’ sets the tone of the poem as a pained and emotional elegy for a close friend by highlighting the conspiracy between life and death to ‘shattah di awts most fragile diziah’ (shatter the heart’s most fragile desire). The lines ‘Fallin screamin / Terteen stanzahs down’ are a reference to Ayim’s tragic suicide in 1996. The poet jumped from the thirteenth floor of an apartment building after battling depression and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Before Ayim died, she received invitations from across the world to attend and speak at conferences about feminism, anti-racism and human rights. It was through her global activism and her commitment to Afro-diasporic coalition that Ayim connected with individuals like Linton Kwesi Johnson. ‘Reggae Fi May Ayim’ is just one of many tributes sent by her friends and colleagues following her death.

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.

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.

23 November 2022

Exploring disability during the Covid-19 pandemic through oral history

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 curator 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 Dr Madeline White, Oral History Curator.

A banner hung on a fence which reads 'There will be a rainbow after the storm. Keep safe. Keep well. Stay at home.'

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

The theme of UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) 2022 is Disability, Health and Well Being. The theme was chosen to shed light on the societal barriers that compromise the health and wellbeing of disabled people. In particular, it seeks to highlight the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated many of these inequalities.

The UKDHM website draws together some of the research into the impact of the pandemic on disabled people and communities. Reports and statistical analyses reveal above average rates of preventable death, exacerbated mental health issues, and increased isolation and poverty among disabled people. This excessive suffering was not inevitable, but the result of structural inequality, discrimination, poor communication and government action.

The oral history collections at the British Library offer us an opportunity to explore beyond the statistics and hear people’s lived experiences and emotions. We can use oral history, for example, to listen to disabled people describe their experiences of living through the pandemic, in their own words. In doing so, we can begin to get a sense of the human impacts of policy decisions and ableist attitudes.

The Voices of Our National Health Service collection – now archived at the British Library – comprises thousands of interviews recorded by the University of Manchester between 2017 and 2022. Given its sheer scale and scope, the collection offers an unparalleled insight into healthcare provision in the UK as experienced by patients, staff and communities across the country – including during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Within this collection are hundreds of stories that speak to the UKDHM theme of ‘Disability, Health and Wellbeing’. Individuals with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities designated ‘Extremely Clinically Vulnerable’ by the government describe their experiences of shielding during lockdowns. In other recordings, patients experiencing long Covid symptoms describe the lasting impact of their new illness on their day to day lives. Throughout, these interviewees explore how their health needs were at times met and at others missed by government public health policy, by the medical profession, and by the communities they live in.

Photograph of Stephen LightbownPhoto courtesy of Stephen Lightbown.  Image not licensed for reuse. 

Stephen Lightbown is one such interviewee. Stephen was a Director of Communications in the NHS until March 2020, when he took early retirement on health grounds. In his interview, Stephen reflects on life as a wheelchair user before and during the pandemic, exploring the extent to which society has adapted – or failed to adapt – to meet his needs and the needs of other disabled people over time.

In this first clip, Stephen recalls some of the discrimination he encounters in his daily life as a wheelchair user and some of the ways in which the pandemic exposed the ableist attitudes that are prevalent in UK society.

Stephen Lightbown on ableist attitudes of society being laid bare during the pandemic [BL REF C1887/700]

Download Stephen Lightbown on ableist attitudes - transcript

In addition to recording personal experiences at various intersections of disability and healthcare, the Voices of Our National Health Service collection offers an insight into individual wellbeing in the context of a global health crisis and beyond. Within the collection, people with disabilities describe how the pandemic and the measures to combat it impacted on their wellbeing. In this next clip, Stephen offers an illuminating perspective on access to social events. He argues that the swift move to online events during lockdown undermines the oft-made argument that providing regular access for disabled people to events and spaces is often too expensive or too difficult.

Stephen Lightbown on accessing events online during the pandemic [BL REF C1800/700]

Download Stephen Lightbown on accessing events - transcript

The nature of oral history as a methodology means the material it produces often offers unmatched insight into events as experienced by individuals, many of whom would not otherwise record their stories or be represented in the historical record. The Voices of Our National Health Service collection in particular has preserved for posterity raw and honest accounts of the pandemic from those who experienced it at its most extreme, of whom disabled people represent a significant demographic.

As the British Library and other archives continue to collect oral history material in the future, we will capture more stories from disabled people about their lives, including experiences of the pandemic. The legacy of the pandemic and its lasting impact on the rights of disabled people remain to be seen, but these archives will provide a vital source of information long into the future.

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

Stephen’s words echo mine and those of many who are struggling to understand what is happening to our rickety constructs, created by us so we can fit in and function. I saw lockdown-levelling-up, this pandemic by-product, as a boon. On 23 March 2020 my life became normalised: everyone was housebound, working remotely, socialising and culture-consuming on-line. Puff! Gone overnight the anxiety and exhaustion of the daily foray into hostile territory. In Stephen’s words, it was 'liberating.' Come-wheel-with-me, my able-bodied friends, I’ll show you how this works - I’ve got form! I felt guilty about these thoughts, worried that I would be seen as gleeful. I too was optimistic that we would emerge with a fresh vision of new ways of being, of delivering, of including. On 21 November 2022 my life remains, de facto, in lockdown. The gap between our worlds has not lessened, nor an interest in closing this gap increased. Many appear unaware or unwilling to recognise that their privilege to choose remains in intact whilst mine remains arbitrary. This is as crushing as anything done to my body by the virus. As Stephen, my benign doppelganger says, 'it feels like we are dispensable' and 'it is heart breaking.'

Find out more:

The interviews in the Voices of Our National Health Service collection are now available for listening on site at the British Library and a large number will be available online via British Library Sounds from 2023. You can search for the collection using reference number C1887 in the Sound and Moving Image Catalogue.

You can listen to more extracts from interviews in the Voices of Our National Health Service collection and explore material from the British Library’s other Covid-19 collections on the web resource Covid stories.

For more information on the wide range of disability oral history collections at the British Library, consult our oral histories of disability and personal and mental health collection guide.

10 October 2022

Recording of the week: Never you mind!

This week's selection comes from Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English.

Chatting today to our local fishmonger (Grimsby born and bred) I was reminded of a wonderful expression, back of Doig’s, submitted by a contributor from Grimsby (b.1939) to the Library’s Evolving English WordBank.

Listen to a contribution on Hawming about back of Doig's

Download 'Hawming about' transcript

The verb hawm has been recorded in this sense in several dialects, including in Lincolnshire, since the nineteenth century. It’s defined by the English Dialect Dictionary as ‘to waste time, to be idle, to move about aimlessly, to loiter, to stand gaping and staring’. The additional reference here to back of Doig’s is particularly intriguing as it’s also captured in a BBC Voices Recording in Osgodby, Lincolnshire in 2004.

Listen to a contribution on Egging back of Doig's

Download 'Egging back of Doig's' transcript

This more detailed description suggests that back of Doig’s is a playful expression, used especially by children to parents to deflect an unwanted enquiry as to what one has been doing or where one has been. This type of playful folk idiom is extremely difficult to observe as it typically occurs in private or domestic exchanges, often in the form of stock phrases or habitual responses to everyday situations. It is therefore rarely documented in linguistic surveys or conventional dictionaries.

Front cover of Egging Back O' Doig's

Egging Back O’ Doig’s, a 1995 glossary of words and phrases from Grimsby and Cleethorpes compiled by Alan Dowling, lists several such elusive local expressions. It has entries for both egging in the sense of ‘being on an errand’ and orming (a re-spelling of hawming to reflect the local tendency to delete an initial <h> sound) in the sense of ‘lounging about in a sloppy way, messing about’. This applies especially to ‘groups of youths gathered together without purpose’. It also confirms that ‘back o’ Doig’s’ is used in response to a nosy question or as a diversionary tactic to avoid an honest answer, expressing something along the lines of ‘mind your own business’. Lastly, it also confirms that local shipbuilder, J.S. Doig, had a shipyard in Grimsby docks in the middle of the twentieth century.

References:

Wright, J. 1898-1905. English Dialect Dictionary. London: Henry Frowde.
Dowling, A. (ed.). 1995. Egging Back o' Doig's. A Glossary of Words and Expressions used in Grimsby, Cleethorpes and District. Hull: University of Hull.

Follow @VoicesofEnglish and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

20 September 2022

Recording of the week: The Rite of Spring

This week’s post comes from Giulia Baldorilli, Sound and Vision Reference Specialist.

Photo of Columbia LX 119 disc label

The following post is inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s famous work, The Rite of Spring. The audio featured below is an excerpt from a 12” 78 rpm disc from our archive, released on Columbia Records in 1929. Stravinksy himself conducts the Symphonic Orchestra of Paris.

I was drawn to this recording after recently going to see a revival of Pina Bausch’s 1975 staging of The Rite of Spring at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. This was performed by a company of dancers from African countries.

Pina Bausch (1940-2009) was a German dancer and choreographer who was enormously influential in the fields of dance and performance. She worked in the tradition of ‘Tanztheater’ (literally ‘dance theatre’), which marries many different creative skills.

The performance was not very long; it ran for about 45 minutes with no interval. While I was watching it, I kept thinking about the meaning of the title, and its association with the spectacle I was seeing. I found I was often unsure of what exactly I was looking at or whether there was an explicit plotline to follow. It looked to me like a metaphor of seasons passing, of a romantic relationship, but mostly, of an emotional battle framed through an erotically charged dance performance.

The colour red was used throughout the production. Red is the colour of tension, of a bullfight, or, perhaps, of sensual attraction. The pure aesthetic of the movements, and their role in narrating the plot, are probably the things I remember the most. The whole performance revolves around the intrinsic, entangled relationship between two disciplines: theatre and dance.

Ultimately, Bausch’s choreography tells a story of sacrifice. The woman with the red dress is hunted to death by the other men and women on stage.

There is a pervasive emotional tension that is difficult to evade. Whilst the recording we are posting today is not the version used in the stage performance, it relays that said emotional tension, which connects the two works of Bausch and Stravinsky.

Listen to The Rite of Spring (excerpt)

Pina Bausch’s legacy resides in her conception of a new language of dance. She is remembered as one of the most innovative choreographers of all times. Since her death in 2009, her works continue to be performed around the world. It is a testament to Bausch’s interpretative abilities that her choreography for The Rite of Spring continues to reach new audiences, spanning several decades and several continents in the process.

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