Sound and vision blog

365 posts categorized "Recording of the week"

04 July 2022

Recording of the week: The NHS turns 74

This week’s post comes from Hannah Tame, Oral History Cataloguer for the Voices of Our National Health Service collection.

On 5 July 2022, the NHS celebrates its 74th anniversary. It seems appropriate then, that this week’s selection is taken from the Voices of our National Health Service oral history collection. I am currently cataloguing this at the British Library. The collection of interviews is one of the largest collections of oral histories to ever be deposited at the British Library, with interviews captured from over 1200 different interviewees.

The collection consists of interviews from the University of Manchester’s 'NHS at 70' and 'NHS Voices of Covid-19' projects combined. NHS at 70 was initially set up in 2017 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the formation of the NHS (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund). It recorded first-hand experiences, memories and reflections of the NHS from staff, patients and members of the public. Then, with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council - part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Covid-19 Urgency call - interviews continued remotely during the pandemic for ‘NHS Voices of Covid-19’.

This week’s clip is taken from one of the pre-Covid interviews in the collection. Interviewee Margaret was born in 1935 and was interviewed in March 2019. Sadly Margaret passed away last year. Her interview captures her career as a dressmaker for the NHS, as well as her childhood reminiscences of healthcare. Margaret recalls a pivotal moment for her family in 1940 (before the creation of the NHS in 1948) when she was just five years old and her mother contracted tetanus.

Listen to Margaret Southey

Download Transcript

Illustration of couch grass

Above:  Couch grass, how Mary's mother contracted tetanus. Image credit: Wellcome Library, London. See Wellcome Images. Used under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0.

This experience captured in Margaret’s interview offers a unique insight into an infection that less than 100 years ago would have been life threatening. Treatment for tetanus was relatively new when Margaret’s mother received it. Before the Second World War (when developments advanced for the treatment of tetanus) around 200 people in the UK died of tetanus each year. In 2019 there were only 4 cases of tetanus reported in England. The number is low thanks to the effective tetanus vaccine given since 1961 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

Margaret’s story is just one of many interviews in the collection that demonstrates how direct and in-direct healthcare experiences can impact all aspects of people’s lives. There are numerous other interviews in the collection that include experiences of tetanus. Whether that be from a nurse who treated babies with tetanus or someone’s first healthcare memory of receiving a tetanus vaccination at school. In my eyes, the huge variety of perspectives is one of the things that makes the Voices of Our National Health Service collection so valuable and interesting to listen to. Each interview, and each person’s experience allows us to see the NHS from a different viewpoint.

The full interview with Margaret Southey is catalogued at our reference C1887/281 and is available to listen to on-site at the British Library.

Facts and figures from the Vaccine Knowledge Project.

Follow @BL_OralHistory for all the latest news.

27 June 2022

Recording of the week: Sharing Somali sounds and stories

This week's selection comes from Emma Brinkhurst, Learning and Engagement Coordinator.

As Learning and Engagement Coordinator for the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage programme, a highlight of my role has been working in partnership with Camden Somali Cultural Centre to develop a listening project. Weekly listening sessions showed the capacity of recorded sound to make connections, bringing listeners in contact with different times and places, as well as connecting those who share the experience of listening together. Ubah Egal, director of Camden Somali Cultural Centre, explained the significance of Somali sound recordings in the British Library’s World and Traditional Music collections, saying 'Camden Somali Cultural Centre wants to re-engage the community with our oral tradition of sharing stories. The collection at the British Library represents a beautiful selection of recordings capturing our oral tradition from many generations of Somalis.'

Poet and storyteller Elmi Ali selected recordings of song and poetry for the group to listen to, which elicited discussion, reminiscence, laughter and a sharing of cultural pride during the sessions. Of particular interest to participants were recordings from the John Low collection, made in Somalia in the mid-1980s during Low’s time as a development worker in the Lower Shabeelle region. On 12 November 1984, Low sent a postcard from Somalia to the British Institute of Recorded Sound (now the British Library Sound Archive). He wrote that 'songs, poems, work songs abound' and set about making recordings representing a diverse cross section of musical styles and practices. Several decades later, following Somalia’s civil war and the disruption and displacement it caused, Somali listeners in London engaged with these songs and poems, which stimulated memories of cultural heritage and former times, places and people.

During the listening sessions, artist and poet Sophie Herxheimer drew and painted, reflecting the words and stories shared by the group. Sophie’s drawings portray recollections of nomadic life evoked by recordings such as this house building song performed by a group of women and recorded by Low:

House Building Song [BL REF C27/13]

This song stimulated discussion about the role of women in nomadic culture and how women were responsible for building nomadic houses, with one participant commenting that this song made her think of her mum. At the end of the project she said: 'this has brought back so many memories.'

Black and white drawing of a nomadic woman with the words 'most come from a nomadic background the woman building the house or hut - using wood, mud, cloth, singing the songs while they build.'

Participants were very moved by lullabies from the collection, such as this one performed by Faadumo Cabdi Maxamed:

Lullaby [BL REF C27/13]

Hearing recordings such as this prompted memories of other lullabies, such as a fondly remembered lullaby that a participant sang to the group, a moment that was captured by Sophie in this drawing:

Black and white drawing of a mother and child and a glass of water, with the words 'We sing lullabies for the boys: "New moon, we need you like a thirst" and for girls: "you are so beautiful...no one is going to hurt you and if they hurt you I will hurt them"'

Low also recorded camel songs, including this watering song for camels at the Shabeelle river, sung by Geedi Maxamed Cali and a male chorus:

Camel Song [BL REF C27/12]

Listening to this evoked much laughter as a participant recounted memories of being a city girl visiting the countryside and running away in fright from various animals – foxes on one occasion and a baby camel on another!

A coloured pencil drawing of a camel and two children with the words: "So when I was out in the wild with my cousin we saw a fluffy animal and I didn't know what it was because I'm from the city. She said "watch out it's gonna get you!" and she followed it so it chased me! I was scared but it was only a baby camel'

One member of the group described the listening sessions as providing 'an opportunity for us to get to know each other in a different way, tell these stories to each other that we never speak about.' Ubah Egal reflected on the project as 'a wonderful moment capturing the reactions and impact the recordings had on our community and participants.' This small selection of recordings demonstrates the potential for sound heritage to unlock memories, connect listeners, and make a deeply personal impact.

The Somali listening sessions took place as part of Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, a major project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund which aims to preserve and provide access to thousands of the UK's rare and unique sound recordings.

With thanks to John Low for allowing us to use the sound clips, Sophie Herxheimer for permission to post her artwork, Elmi Ali for selecting recordings, and to Ubah Egal and members of Camden Somali Cultural Centre for allowing us to include their comments and stories in this blog.

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

The logo of the Camden Somali Cultural Centre Pink waveform logo of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project

20 June 2022

Recording of the week: Footsteps on gravel

This week’s post comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings.

Tape loop in box

The tape box in the image above measures 90 mm x 90 mm. Inside, as you can see, is a short loop of tape. This is one of nearly 300 similar items from the Bishop Sound collection. Each one features a prosaic title such as ‘Crowd Cheering’ or ‘Dog Barking’. They are sound effects dating from the late 1950s, designed for ‘the stage, film, television, exhibitions, pageants, etc., and all users of sound effects’.

Some years before, company founder Jack Bishop had the idea of replacing mechanical sound effects and ‘their somewhat capricious results’ with recorded effects that could be relied upon to sound the same every night.

Digitizing this sample tape for this week’s blog post presented our audio engineer Karl Jenkins with a modest challenge.

Audio engineer Karl Jenkins with tape loop

Audio engineer Karl Jenkins preparing to transfer the tape

We did not want to cut the original loop and add new leader tape if this could be avoided. However, the tape loop was too short to fit neatly onto the standard hubs of the tape player in the studio.

The answer, as you can see below, involved the judicious placement of a screwdriver.

Audio engineer Karl Jenkins transferring the tape

Listen to footsteps on gravel

Quotes are from Sound Effects: A Catalogue of Cuedisc Recorded Sound Effects (Bishop Sound & Electrical Co. Ltd.; London; date unknown).

Thanks to Karl Jenkins, Audio Engineer, and Andrew Pearson, Maintenance and Repair Engineer, Sound and Vision.

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

13 June 2022

Recording of the week: More than a headteacher

This week's selection comes from Sandra Agard, Learning Facilitator. 

'More than a headteacher' is how cousins Michelle Campbell-Davies and Rachel Clarke describe Betty Campbell, or Nan, as they knew her, in their chat recorded for The Listening Project to mark Black History Month in October 2021.

Bronze statue of Betty Campbell in Central Square, CardiffStatue of Betty Campbell in Central Square, Cardiff. Photo by 14GTR via Wikimedia, Creative Commons attribution CC BY-SA 4.0.

As the two cousins recall their family history and 'Nan’s legacy,' they painfully remember that as a child their Nan wanted to be a teacher – the response from her headteacher was 'it was never going to happen!' She went on to prove that teacher wrong!

Betty Campbell not only went on to be a teacher, she became the first Black headteacher in Wales. She was a trailblazer in Education and Community in Butetown, Cardiff.

This recording offers an insight into her remarkable life, legacy and all that she accomplished for her school, her community and for multi-culturalism.

According to Michelle and Rachel, their Nan had a 'clear vision on what equality looks like.' This entailed the importance of representation in the positions of power. One has to have a seat at the table to make decisions. Betty Campbell made sure she was at the head of table. As they put it, 'Nan was the boss!'

The cousins emphasise that their Nan was a pioneer for Black History Month. She made it her mission to promote the experiences of Black people and their contributions to British society through education. She also got involved in local politics by becoming an Independent Councillor. Originally, she planned on being a candidate for the Labour party in the local elections, but she was not selected. Undeterred, she decided to run as an Independent and, of course, she won! The words 'no' or 'can’t' were certainly not in her vocabulary.

Michelle and Rachel discuss their Nan's legacy [BL REF C1500/21254]

This then is the public face of Betty Campbell - head teacher, pioneer, councillor, trailblazer - but there are also the intimate memories of family moments.

Betty Campbell was not a very good cook. She also took terrible photographs, never waiting for anyone to be ready. No posing for her!

She loved singing in the choir.

She loved to travel and she made friends everywhere. Her granddaughter Michelle laughs at the memory of them all going to Canada to stay with people her grandmother had recently met in Butetown. For the cousins she was 'young at heart,' despite her advancing age.

As the cousins reminisce, they constantly say that they could not have progressed in their respective careers if it had not been for their Nan.

'I wouldn’t be the person I was if it was not for Nan,' says Michelle.

Nan gave them the confidence to pursue their dreams and destinies and the strength to navigate the constant challenges that they encountered in their daily lives.

Indeed, one of Betty Campbell’s mantras was, 'if you want something you have to go out and get it,' and she definitely did!

Betty’s achievements have earned her a spot among the 100 Great Black Britons; her place certainly deserved.

Betty Campbell left a lasting legacy for her family and the community.

---

Sandra A. Agard is storyteller, writer, playwright, poet, cultural historian, and author of children’s books including, ‘Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman’ and ‘Amazing Women in Black History’. Sandra is a member of the British Library staff CRED Network and Learning Facilitator.

The Listening Project is an audio archive of personal conversations, collected by local and national BBC radio stations. Since 2012, people have been invited to have a conversation recorded and broadcast (in edited form) by the BBC, and archived by the British Library. You can listen to over a thousand of the recordings in full through British Library Sounds. You can also learn more about the ongoing project on the BBC website.

The British Library is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Celebrating Beryl Gilroy which explores highlights from the archive of Beryl Agatha Gilroy, one of London's first Black headteachers. You can explore the free exhibition in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at our St Pancras site until 26 June 2022.

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

06 June 2022

Recording of the week: One stormy night

This week’s selection comes from Jonathan Benaim, Audio Cataloguing Coordinator.

Recordings of weather can give us a palpable sense of a time and place. When sounds from the surrounding environment are captured in a weather recording, we are able to imagine the scene, the totality conveying a cohesive sonic picture.

A cloudy skyA cloudy sky. Photo credit: Jonathan Benaim.

This thunderstorm recording has a nocturnal feel and evokes the natural world both great and small. It opens with the staccato sound of raindrops and the chirping of field crickets. It then surprises with a sudden, loud rumble of thunder. As the storm rolls on, the raindrops mass, their sound becoming louder and denser.

Second storm of the night France 2009 [BL REF 160301]

The recording is rich in texture and each detail helps us to build an image in our mind. The distant calls of sheep suggest a countryside location and also give a spatial depth. The pastoral sounds offer a soft counterpoint to the arresting claps of thunder.

The recording was made by Kyle Turner in Lacave, Lot, in France, on 25 May 2009. It is described in the British Library’s catalogue as the arrival of the second storm of the night. Kyle Turner recorded three storms that night in the same location. You can listen to the first storm of the night and the third storm of the night on British Library Sounds.

Follow @soundarchive for all the latest news.

30 May 2022

Recording of the week: Oak Apple Day

This week's selection comes from Sarah Kirk-Browne, Cataloguer (Digital Multimedia Collections).

Sunday 29 May is Oak Apple Day in England. You may also have heard this called Royal Oak Day, Show Oak Day or Shick Shack Day, depending where in the country you live.

Two people in a crowd, wearing sprigs of oak leaves in their hair29.5.17 Castleton Oak Apple Day 073 by Donald Judge via Flickr. Creative Commons attribution CC BY 2.0.

The day was once a public holiday and commemorated the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Charles II was said to have avoided capture by hiding in the Boscobel Oak in Shropshire, so in subsequent years people wore sprigs of oak leaves to celebrate.

The Royal Hospital in Chelsea, founded by Charles II, continues to celebrate Founder’s Day every year by decorating his statue in a wreath of oak leaves. All Chelsea Pensioners attend the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1692. Even when the building was bricked in to protect it from the Blitz in World War II, the outside was adorned with oak leaves.

Elsewhere around England, many houses would be decorated with boughs of oak, and the day was full of fun and festivities. This description from South Somerset was recorded in 1984, and features Bert Knapp reminiscing about Oak Apple Day in the small village of Huish Episcopi.

Bert Knapp recalls Oak Apple Day [BL REF C1033/169]

Download transcript

This clip comes from a large collection of recordings made by Jacqueline and Bob Patten from 1969-2001. They gathered a range of traditional songs, music, storytelling and customs, which were archived in the British Library in 2002. Jacqueline recalls the occasion they went to Huish Episcopi:

It was a very festive day, a celebration of Oak Apple Day and a reason for people of Huish Episcopi and Langport to come together. Town Bands were more prevalent then and the local band playing lifted everyone’s spirits. Children, teenagers, younger adults and older adults all shared in the fun together. The church bells were rung and oak branches festooned the village. The day celebrated an event in history that had an impact on the lives of people in the UK for generations to come, while the festivities on the day had become a local tradition, passed down from generation to generation, something inherent to the local community.

Demographics changed greatly during the second half of the twentieth century and the change has gathered pace in the twenty-first century, yet local traditions that have survived continue to play a significant role in a local community. They are a time for people who have moved into an area recently to join in, learn more about their new locality and to celebrate it; while people who have been born and bred in the area are woken out of any apathetic acceptance and appreciate it anew. It integrates people, and bridges any generation gap, the atmosphere is infectious, intangible.

As Jacqueline notes, several parts of the country still hold events, and the day has also been combined with various other celebrations and traditions over the years. This includes a charity fundraising procession with decorated oak sticks in Herefordshire, and a horseback rider wearing flower garlands in Derbyshire. Like Oak Apple Day itself, the origins of these customs can be traced back to several different sources.

Traditionally a day of laughter and games, in some areas, if people were found not be wearing their sprig of oak - or sometimes caught still wearing it after midday - they risked a cheeky punishment. This led to the day also being called ‘Pinch-Bum Day’ in Sussex and ‘Bumping Day’ in Essex. The following description from Miss Lilley (recorded in 1966) recalls the dangers of not being properly dressed with oak during her childhood in Huntingdonshire.

Miss Lilley describes Oak Apple Day 'punishments' [BL REF C433/33]

Download transcript

Pink waveform logo of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project

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

23 May 2022

Recording of the week: an intriguing description of a legendary media figure

This week’s selection comes from Mary Stewart, Lead Curator of Oral History and Director of National Life Stories.

A photograph of the outside of the Victorian neo-classical mansion, Cherkley Court.Cherkley Court, home of Lord Beaverbrook and the setting for his meeting with Bob Edwards described in this audio clip. Photo by Ian Capper via Wikimedia, Creative Commons attribution CC BY-SA 2.0.

As the Library’s Breaking the News exhibition is in full swing, it seemed apt to feature a Recording of the Week from An Oral History of the British Press. Listen to this very amusing anecdote from Bob Edwards, as he recalls meeting the famous newspaper owner Lord Beaverbrook. To me this extract humanises these two prominent people, giving us an insight that I don’t think you’d find anywhere but in an oral history interview!

Bob Edwards recalls his first meeting with Lord Beaverbrook [BL REF C638/10]

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Bob Edwards (1925-2012) was a seasoned and respected journalist who worked at an array of regional and national newspapers, including time as editor of the Glasgow Evening Citizen, the Daily Express, the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror.

Canadian-British William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, (1879-1964) was a powerful newspaper proprietor, owning the Daily Express. Beaverbrook served in Churchill’s cabinet in World War Two. Can you spot the mention of Churchill in the audio clip?

Oral historian Louise Brodie recorded nearly nine hours with Bob Edwards over three sessions in 2007, to add his life story to An Oral History of the British Press. This National Life Stories project began in 1994 and was revived in 2006 thanks to support from the British Library as part of the Front Page exhibition, which was also based on the Library’s amazing news collections. Listen to this interview in full and others from the collection at British Library Sounds

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

16 May 2022

Recording of the week: On climbing mountains - a woman's view

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

Woman wearing a long sleeved black shirt, trousers, and a climbing harness with gear attached, climbing an outdoor rock facePhoto by Cade Prior via Unsplash

In this oral history interview, Jean Drummond looks back at the times when she used to rock climb as part of the Pinnacle Club, a UK based club of women climbers that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021.

Jean Drummond describes changes to climbing [BL REF C1876/24]

Download transcript

I was quite intrigued to listen to a recount of a climbing experience from a woman’s point of view.

Jean describes climbing as a social practice as well as an exercise; climbing requires a partner, and she (almost annoyingly) tells how her body doesn’t allow her to be the leading companion anymore.

Jean describes the technical components of climbing these days, starting from the climbing gear, which became more practical and easy to buy as shops to buy equipment from multiplied.

She admires the scientific aspects of this change, although there is a nostalgic nuance in the admission that it is not the sport she used to love. Perhaps the adventure side has been lost with the proliferation of climbing walls, very much a different experience of being out there, in nature.

She describes climbing nowadays as something more similar to gymnastics, while recalling memories of when she saw mountains as her friend. This summarises in one simple image the core essence of the discipline: the challenge of reaching the top, a sense of accomplishment that accompanies the final step.

On a personal note, climbing could be a metaphorical wall, a way to push our limits; it helps with being centred in the present moment, and gives a sense of reward when reaching the top.

With self-motivation, mountains can be our friends, a genuine escape from our inner fears.

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

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