THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

256 posts categorized "Contemporary Britain"

08 February 2019

Where our laws are drafted: 150 years of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel

Add comment

On 8 February 1869 the Board of the Treasury met to discuss “the drafting or preparing of Bills introduced into Parliament on the part of Her Majesty’s Government.” The Treasury minute goes on to note “the advantage of bringing all important Government Bills under the view of one person,” and being “pleased to direct that the office as proposed shall be constituted to be called the “Office of the Parliamentary Counsel”.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel has grown from one man and his assistant in 1869 to consist of a staff of 60, including some 50 experienced barristers and solicitors. Led by Elizabeth Gardiner, the team’s job is to assist government departments in preparing Bills.

In a BBC interview Gardiner remarked that, "what they used to say was that every Labour government legislated more than a Tory government but that every government legislated more than the previous one, of that colour.”

The experience of Patrick Macrory, director of Unilever, seems to corroborate that view. He worked as an assistant at the Parliamentary Counsel Office during the late 1940s under Granville Ram (known as the ‘Maestro’) and alongside Harold Kent who later became Treasury Solicitor.

Interview with Patrick Macrory, C408/005, Tape 1, Side 2, 00:23:18 – 00:24:31

In this excerpt from her 1988 interview for NLS Legal Lives, Baroness Hale explains how parliamentary draftsmen contribute to the work of the Law Commission on law reform.

Baroness_Brenda_Hale
University of Salford Press Office [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Interview with Baroness Hale, C736/008, Track 4, 00:17:29 – 00:20:52

Those currently working in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel are facing unprecedented challenges, drafting legislation to accommodate the constitutional novelty that is Brexit.

Blogpost by Emmeline Ledgerwood (@EmmeLedgerwood), AHRC collaborative doctoral student with the University of Leicester and the British Library Oral History department. Her PhD research is looking at governments’ attitudes to the management and funding of scientific research, 1970-2005. 

04 February 2019

Recording of the week: life in a rock pool

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environmental Sounds.

Life in a rock pool is not for the faint-hearted. These miniature ecosystems, found in the intertidal zone, have evolved to endure extreme condition fluctuations caused by the daily movements of the tide. From full submersion to being left high and dry for hours at a time, the inhabitants of this changeable environment need to be resilient in order to survive. 

As with other marine gastropods, the Common Limpet (Patella vulgata) has mastered the art of rock pool life. The following recording, made by Peter Toll on Bantham Beach in Devon, captures the rasping sound of these conical molluscs feeding on algae attached to the rocky surface.

Rock pool atmosphere recorded in Devon, England by Peter Toll (BL reference 212536)

Bay-1357248_1920

Two underwater microphones, known as hydrophones, were used to listen in on the sounds of this otherwise silent world. To listen to more underwater recordings, head on over to the Environment & Nature section of British Library Sounds.

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

21 January 2019

Recording of the week: it's a bit Derby!

Add comment

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

Rhyming slang is a wonderful vehicle for individual and collective linguistic creativity. The expression here a bit Derby [= ‘cold’] was submitted to the Evolving English WordBank by two contributors from Nottingham and captures the playful rivalry between neighbouring cities.

It's a bit Derby (C1442)

The term I was thinking of from Nottingham was we say if it’s cold we say it’s a bit Derby and this comes from it’s kind of a rhyming slang where we have a famous road called Derby Road but a lot of people in Nottingham seem to drop the L when they say cold so they say cowd so it rhymes with Derby Road so if someone says ooh it’s Derby they mean it’s cold (British Library shelfmark C1442/1310)

In Nottingham we might say it’s cowd instead of it’s cold and if we’re feeling frisky we might actually turn that into rhyming slang so oh it’s a bit Derby Road obviously rhyming with cowd meaning cold and we particularly don’t like Derby in Nottingham so it’s doubly funny (British Library shelfmark C1442/684)

Both speakers explain that the phrase derives from a dialectal pronunciation of cold as ‘cowd’, thus potentially rhyming locally with road. As the conventions of rhyming slang require the rhyming component (‘road’) be omitted, it’s a bit Derby might appear incomprehensible to outsiders but immediately strikes a chord with locals. The phrase illustrates how dialect is constantly refreshing and re-inventing itself and the obvious enthusiasm with which it’s used confirms the continued relevance of dialect as a means of expressing local identity.

Derby Road

The Derby Road itself merges into a long stretch of the A52 recently re-named ‘Brian Clough Way’ in honour of the football manager who enjoyed unprecedented success at both Derby County and Nottingham Forest from the 1970s to early 1990s. Despite the fierce rivalry between the two clubs, he’s viewed with equal affection in both cities, so this simple phrase conveys much more to a local than outsiders can possibly imagine.

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

14 January 2019

Recording of the week: starling mimicry

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Greg Green, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.

Learning to identify bird song can be tricky at the best of times; to the untrained ear it can all sound remarkably similar. To add to the confusion, many birds like to show off by mimicking the songs of other species, and some are very good at it.

Starling

In the UK, our best copycat is the starling (Sturnus vulgaris). These incredible birds are like little avian hip hop artists. They take in ‘samples’ of the songs and calls around them and remix them! A typical starling song is very complex, consisting of multiple layers, and can incorporate song fragments from five or more species. Sometimes the song is reproduced faithfully, other times the rhythm is chopped up, repeated and mixed in with other sounds. It’s not just other birds they mimic too. They have been recorded mimicking mammals, car alarms, telephone ringtones, and even human speech.

This recording from Patrick Sellar showcases just some of the starling’s seemingly limitless repertoire. Patrick identifies the songs and calls of jackdaw, brambling, buzzard, blackbird, house sparrow, wren, arctic tern, northern bullfinch and willow tit.

WS5532 C10 - Common Starling mimicry recorded by Patrick Sellar on 1 st May 1978 (BL ref 07111) 

This spectrogram shows the similar harmonic content between the flight call of the buzzard and the starling’s mimicry.

Buzzard and starling mimicry

Follow @gregegreen,  @BLSoundHeritage and @soundarchive for all the latest news.

This recording has been digitised as part of the library's Unlocking our Sound Heritage project.

UOSH_Footer with HLF logo

07 January 2019

Recording of the week: sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi on post-war Britain

Add comment

This week's selection comes from Camille Johnston, Oral History Assistant Archivist.

Sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) describes how it felt to be an artist in the 1950s. Post-war Britain was changing but there was nonetheless a pervading sense of austerity. Paolozzi says, 'we were all grey'.

This sense of austerity was, for Paolozzi, coupled with a sense of apprehension towards foreign art and foreign food. Picasso was deemed 'interesting but foreign'. Spaghetti was unheard of!

He mentions the Festival of Britain, a national exhibition that took place on London's South Bank in 1951. The Festival attracted millions of visitors and was seen as a turning point in Britain, where minds were opened to new achievements in the arts and new developments in industry.

Eduardo Paolozzi was recorded by National Life Stories for Artists’ Lives in sessions between 1993-1995. The interviewer was Frank Whitford.

Eduardo Paolozzi on post-war Britain (C466/17)

PaolozziSir Eduardo Paolozzi with his sculpture of Newton at the British Library, photographed by Chris Lee. © British Library. Image not licensed for reuse.

This clip features on the Voices of art website. Voices of art is a new British Library resource that explores the art world from behind the scenes. Extracts from oral history recordings accompany a series of essays by writers who have been immersed in the art world of the 20th and 21st centuries. To hear Paolozzi's clip in context, see Duncan Robinson's article The London art world, 1950-1965.

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

20 December 2018

A spirit of Christmas

Add comment

Father Christmas resizedImage Credit: Susie2779 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

In 1999 a fifteen year old girl was interviewed at her home in Shrewsbury for the enormous BBC/British Library oral history project ‘The Century Speaks’. In a bedroom decorated with X-Files posters – partly reflecting her belief in government conspiracies – she spoke with considerable charm about other beliefs, including the belief in ‘a spirit of Christmas’:

"It's like a Father Christmas thing... something friendly" (C900/15116) 

An infectiously cheerful account of a world view in which forms of belief and doubt, unbelief and hope mingle. Another example, in other words, of what the Understanding Unbelief programme calls ‘hybrid configurations’ of belief and unbelief. For other configurations see a previous post, and another in the LSE’s Religion and Global Society series.

This blog is by Dr Paul Merchant, Oral History Interviewer, National Life Stories, The British Library. More information on Millennium Memory Bank can be found in our collection guide to Major national oral history projects and surveys.

WordBank Acrostic Challenge: Celebratory Selection Part 2

Add comment

UOSH Volunteer and poet, Amy Evans Bauer, writes:

Scrabble

As we approach solstice, pantomime horses, the holly and the ivy, and festive schedules in which we often have to be in two places at once, here is the other half of WordBank’s own two-parter…

Part 1 of our celebratory selection contained poetry, comedy and a riddle. Part 2 below features the lists with which it all began, followed by the sophistications of the challenge’s advanced category!

Sonic choreographies come to you from the furthest corner of our challenge in South Africa (hello!), before Yorkshire has the last word with a moving image (blog pun intended) of spoken language—and of our shared acts of listening across silences and other gaps.

As you read, click on the hyperlinks so as to hear the lexical items in WordBank that form the fabric of these archive-led works of slang art.

*

Vajazzle

Oxter

Imshi

Chimbles

Elpit

Bahookie

Anywhen

Nang

Kets       

                —Holly Gilbert @CollectingSound

                 A special thanks to Holly for being the challenge’s first entrant!

Ultimosmic

Oh my days

Sick  

Hella cool

               —Jonnie Robinson @VoicesofEnglish

Wumpert

Overner

ROFL

Deffo too

Brassic for

Argy-bargy and

Nithered

Kerfuffle

               —Amy Evans Bauer @AmyEvansBauer

               See SAMI for wumpert, argy-bargy and kerfuffle

*

Wasted not are you, unwind sweet torment,

Or overner, here, in land of nod.

Rowie thy flavour, bewitching thy scent

Dimpsy or dusk, you and I interlocked.

Bugger, they don’t understand our love!

Ach y fi, laugh I back, yours is the loss.

Now then, mind I not share with them my dove?

Keek  ye may, her round body touch not, pus!

 

Uber-rich am I not, nor cute am I,

Ohrwurm, thy name stuck on my heart’s beat, shy.

Somewhen you’ll grow bored of me, my toffee.

Hey lads hey, hear: I’m soft on my coffee!

               —Patricia Furstenberg @PatFurstenberg

The Dalesman to the Academic 

Well chuffed to blether

On and on for nobbut t'sound o'thysens,

Reight glib an' reckonin' nowt to it,

Durst ever stop to ponder

Bout the weight of air

Around a word—the clemming

Needing filling, that you cram for fear

Knowing what empty means?

 

Us'll teach thee

Only eejits fear the gap;

Sniff out the right word, if tha must, but

Harken—silence ain't a trap.

                        —Clare Mulley @simply_spiffing

                        Yorkshire dialect, based on the way my Grandad used to speak

Trophy
[Boeotian alphabet]

A huge Thank You, THX, ta and cheers to all who took part. If you didn’t have a chance last month but would still like to try your hand at a dialect or slang acrostic, we hope you have a spell-tastic time!

Amy’s at-sea poetry installation SOUND((ING))S is available to hear online or to read in chapbook form as the transcript PASS PORT.

Index

19 December 2018

WordBank Acrostic Challenge: Celebratory Selection Part 1

Add comment

UOSH Volunteer and poet, Amy Evans Bauer, writes:

Thank you to everyone who got their thinking caps on, filled their boots, threw their hat in the ring, rolled their sleeves up, took up the gauntlet and otherwise accessorised so as to take part in the WordBank Acrostic Challenge call for poems, puzzles and lists!

ScrabbleIn the words of Lead Curator of Spoken English Jonnie Robinson @VoicesofEnglish, we asked people to

                                Unleash

                                Our

                                Slang

                                Hoard

 

Participants chose to spell WORDBANK, VOICEBANK or UOSH. The adventurous tried their hand at an advanced challenge of WORDBANK UOSH. We asked for one line or more to begin with a lexical item from WordBank.

We were delighted to receive entries from all over the world taking part in this celebration of linguistic diversity, informal modes of linguistic inheritance and non-standard spoken English. The acrostically challenged from the UK to South Africa and the US got puzzling.

Our writers have their say through words contributed to the Library by visitors born between 1925 and 2000, and explore place, romance, pain, childhood, nights out, and more. We even had an Anglo-Saxon riddle, appropriately enough given the current exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War exhibition, and a re-imagining of the playground chants in the Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs.

I was struck by the agility of each writer-as-listener, without exception. Entries ranged from witty musings on the process, and a-geographical medleys, to fully-fledged dialect poems fluent in Lallans (Lowland Scots) or Yorkshire dialect. We hope you agree that each reads as a wonderful microcosm of the collection!

I also reveled in hearing how much fun was had by all: “Thank you so much!! I loved writing this!!!” and “I had a great time in the WordBank! It’s the language obviously—but also the accents!”

Here’s to our nimble wordsmiths—champion slangsmiths, every one!

Trophy

[Boeotian alphabet]

’Tis the season for two-part creatures (panto, anyone?). In Part 1 of our selection below, you’ll find poetry, comedy and riddling. Part 2 will follow with lively lists and 2 longer poems. 

If you click on the hyperlinks that we have added to each acrostic, you can listen to the recordings that form the fabric of these intricate, archive-led sonic tapestries.

*

We’d run, unleashed from indoors, 

Over soft sand and sturdy blades of marram grass.

Racing, panting, spluttering, swither; down to the water then in,

Dodging jellyfish, splashing, squealing,

Brassic fun. I flap with my arms,

Aeroplane aquatics in a shallow lagoon.

Now sand castles. Dig, deeper, that’s the moat. I

Kneel on something sharp. Blood. ‘Come and have a cwtch’ she says. ‘You’ll mend.’

               —Frances Jones

*

Wheesht!

Whauphill whair I ne'er heard the curlew cry

Only Johnny Robb w' his mismatched een

Rules owre the moonllcht fields ahint the byre

Dealin' oot daith while we keep at hame

Bakin' oor breid but scunnered fo' a' that

As the big yins a' bigg their big hooses

Nae less, nae mair, we maun just haud oor tongues

Kennin' a', not greetin' like twa wee bairns.

               —Robert Hampson

               Lallans (Lowland Scots)

*

Vardos moored in Kent’s fields, chavvies playing 

Opies turned their chanted games to wavs

I hope your chickens turn to emus and kick your shit house down’ 

Curses deftly reference Ozzy outback lavs

Eight, nine, ten’s a clean expletive if you’re Pennsylvanian Polish

Bashert is a stoic, Jewish ‘c’e sera’

Acky, atta, panshite, mumpus, once at risk of fading from us, 

Now are

Kosher, ordered, safe, and catalogued.

               —Anna Savory  @AnnaSavory

               Opie: Opie collection of children’s games and songs

*

Wrong, just wrong

outen as we were, holding battery eggs,

runted chocolate. Both half-grown,

dimpsy and mussed.

Bishy you and me—well—

azizam, I never quite knew me.

Nithered, nesh,

kecks like a shy fey boy.

               —Kirsten Irving  @KofTheTriffids

*

What the

Oy vey

Rat-arsed!

Don’t piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining

Blud.

Awesome

Nerdy

Kecks!

               —Stephen Cleary

*

Wor(l)d-weary,

Or what?!

Reading acrostically is… em

Difficult, deffo, at the… em

Best of times.

And this is not the best of times

Nevertheless, I soldier on—undaunted?!

Keep the faith!

               —Jayne Lal

*

Speech

Word hoard widening,

Oratory turns to paper,

Random chances of locality— 

Drei the wird of word

Branching like yew, elm, oak, ash

Across skins and seas.

No-one can doubt its power,

Knowing it is heard.

               —Clare Mulley  @simply_spiffing

               Play on Anglo Saxon riddle style

If you didn’t have a chance last month but would still like to try your hand at a dialect or slang acrostic, we hope you have a spell-tastic time!

Amy’s at-sea poetry installation SOUND((ING))S is available to hear online or to read in chapbook form as the transcript PASS PORT.

Index