Sound and vision blog

7 posts categorized "Sports"

22 February 2021

Recording of the week: Breathe in

This week's selection comes from Giulia Baldorilli, Reference Specialist.

Born in 1885 in a small town in the Free State province of South Africa, Tromp Van Diggelen had an unfortunate childhood. He suffered from various respiratory-related illnesses, such as pneumonia.

Supported by his teacher at school, Tromp started studying the functionality of human body which eventually led him to discover that simple circular breathing exercises would improve physical strength and build up body resistance.

Instead of investing in long days of training at the gym, he realised good breathing techniques could in fact help him add a few inches to his chest, thus building up physical endurance. He would later become known as 'The Man with the Perfect Chest'.

This focus on functional strength allowed him much more freedom to finally participate alongside other children in sport competitions.

He understood that muscle flexibility was improved by blood flow, and simple breathing exercises might improve the muscular tone, leaving us with a healthier and stronger appearance. This knowledge is at the core of 'A Lesson in Correct Breathing', released by Columbia.

Colombia disc label

Breathing Made Easy

Download Transcript for Breathing Made Easy

In the recording you hear real intakes, while following Tromp’s clear instructions on how to expand the chest and then release the breath.

These talking demonstrations based on practical and simple advice are sequences that are easy to follow and repeat, accessible to anyone. Ultimately, they show us how much a correct breathing technique can improve the quality of our life as a whole.

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

30 September 2016

Albert Spalding - American violinist

In a recent blog about swans, my colleague Cheryl Tipp used a recording of the famous work by Saint-Saëns, Le Cygne.  The work is normally played on the cello, but Cheryl found an arrangement for violin played by the American violinist Albert Spalding.  Along with Maud Powell (1867-1920), Spalding was one of the first American violinists to make recordings.  Powell made her first discs for Victor in 1904 while Spalding began to make his recordings a few years later for Edison.


Albert Spalding in 1911

Spalding was the son of James Walter Spalding who founded the famous sports goods company in the United States with his brother the baseball pitcher Albert Spalding.  The violinist, apparently named after his uncle, was born in Chicago in 1888.  He studied in Europe and made his Paris debut at the age of eighteen.  After serving in the First World War, Spalding had a career in the States, notably giving the premiere of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto in 1941 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Charles Munch.  During the Second World War he served in London, North Africa and Naples where he gave a concert to stranded refugees.  Spalding retired in 1950 and died at the age of 64 in 1953.

Spalding recorded for Edison in the early years of the twentieth century on both cylinder and disc.  Many of the cylinder recordings (some of these are dubbings of diamond disc recordings) have been made available on line by the University of California Santa Barbara.  Below you can hear one of the recordings not featured in the Santa Barbara collection, a popular encore by Henri Wieniawski of the Scherzo-Tarantelle Op. 16 which was recorded in 1920 and dubbed from an Edison diamond disc. 

Spalding Scherzo Tarantelle

14 September 2016

Paralympics Memories


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

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

Ida Bromley on the early days of physiotherapist's involvement

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

Training on Christmas day

Learning to think like an athlete

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

Kieran Maxwell:  ‘Doing cartwheels with a prosthetic leg’

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

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

Disappointing PE lessons

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

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

By Dr Sally Horrocks

07 September 2016

Olympic memories

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


Usain Bolt winning the Men's 100m

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

Programmes recorded:

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


The cauldron from the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony

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

Programmes recorded:

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

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

21 August 2015

World Athletics Championships

The 15th  World Athletics Championships are being held in Beijing’s iconic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic stadium from 22-30th August.  Britain currently lies in eight place on the overall medal table from the 14 previous events, and interviews with some of the athletes who won these medals and competed at in earlier editions feature in the British Library’s oral history collections recounting their life stories and reflecting on their time in athletics.

Silver medalist of the 1980 Olympics in 800m running Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe (second from left), silver medalist of the 1980 Olympics in 800m running.  © RIA Novosti archive, image #556242 / Yuriy Somov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

400m runner Roger Black, winner of an individual silver medal (1991) and three 4x400m relay medals two gold (1991 and 1997)  and a silver (1987) reflects on how athletes view success in the World Championships compared to other major events, particularly the Olympics

Roger Black reflects on how athletes view success

Liz McColgan was another gold medal winner in Tokyo in 1991, just nine months after giving birth to her daughter, Eilish.  In her interview she discussed her return to competition after pregnancy, her memories of the World Championship win and the struggle she had to produce a urine sample after the race.

Liz McColgan discusses her return to competition after pregnancy

For McColgan, however, it was not this gold medal that gave her the most satisfaction during this period of her career.  Instead it was running a world best time for the half-marathon the following year, in the face of adversity including several sleepless nights with a sick child

Liz McColgan describes the best moment of her career

Both Black and McColgan were fortunate to be injury-free and in peak form in a World Championship year. Others such as Lord Coe, now president of the IAAF, were less fortunate.  Coe missed the inaugural World Championships in 1983 with toxoplasmosis, was injured for the second in 1987 and had retired by the time of the third in 1991.  Interviewed in 1999 he remembered missing the 1983 event and the press speculation that surrounded his absence from the track.

Lord Coe remembers missing the 1983 World Championships

All these performances were based on many thousands of hours of training and failure as well as success.  Daley Thompson, winner of the decathlon gold medal in the first World Championships in 1983 and a double Olympic gold medallist, reflected on how he learned from his failures and always sought improvements in training. 

Daley Thompson reflects on how he learnt from his failures

For Thompson the track was where he felt at home, and like many other athletes he found dealing with the media and the public away from it could be challenging.  High jump bronze medallist in Toronto in 1993, Steve Smith, reflects on the positive and negative consequences of being in the public eye.

Steve Smith reflects on the positive and negative consequences of being in the public eye

This level of scrutiny and the life of a professional athlete described by Smith seem a long way from the experiences recounted by many of the older interviewees in this collection such as John Disley, Ann Brightwell (Packer) and Dorothy Hyman whose Olympic medals were won in the 1950s and 1960s before British athletes who competed on the international stage could make a living from their sport.

To hear more visit the Sport collection on British Library Sounds.

By Sally Horrocks

15 January 2015

Help Us Create a Directory of UK Sound Collections

Amongst the literary treasures held in the basements of the British Library sits an extraordinary collection of sounds.  From recordings of extinct species, voices from the past, to music across all genres, the British Library’s sound archive is held on more than 1.5 million physical items, just waiting to be heard.

But all of these recordings, from those made on the earliest wax cylinders to contemporary CD-Rs, face a real and immediate threat.


Edison 'Concert' wax cylinders in the collections of the British Library

Within 15 years, the combination of physical degradation and the disappearance of the technologies that support physical media will make accessing the nation’s sound archive difficult, and in many cases impossible.  Without taking steps to preserve these recordings now, they will be lost.

These risks face all recorded sound collections, across the country; from boxes of forgotten cassette recordings to professional archives.

To understand the risks facing the UK’s sound collections, the British Library has initiated a project to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a Directory of UK Sound Collections.

By telling us what you have, we can understand more about the breadth of the nation’s collections and the risks that they face, and this will help us plan for their preservation, for future generations.

Our aim is to be comprehensive; to search out sounds that exist in libraries, archives, museums, galleries, schools and colleges, charities, societies, businesses and in your homes.  And we’re not just interested in large collections: a single item might be just as important as a whole archive.   

So if you think you might have a rare or unique collection of sounds, or just a recording that should be preserved, let us know!

The census is live now and will run until the end of March 2015.  You can read more about the project, and send us information about your collections here:

Responses have already started to come in, and we’ll be publishing updates on the project, and some of the things we’ve found on this blog, so enter your email address and click the Subscribe button at the top of this page to receive notifications by email.

The British Library’s Directory of UK Sound Collections is one of the first steps in our Save our Sounds programme; one of the key strands of Living Knowledge, the British Library’s new vision and purpose for its future.

You can follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

07 January 2011

Recording of the Week: Australia’s top batsman Bradman in full swing - on a piano #cricket #ashes

Richard Ranft, Head of Sound and Vision at the British Library, writes:

Legendary cricketer Sir Donald "the Don" Bradman (1908-2001), who was once named the "greatest living Australian" by former  Prime Minister John Howard, and acclaimed by Wisden as the 20th century’s greatest cricketer, here shows off another cricket record.  But not on the pitch - on the keyboards.

A skilled piano player who grew up in a musical household, he was a boy soprano in his school choir, composed music and made several records (his grand-daughter Greta inherited The Don's love and talent for music and is one of South Australia's pre-eminent classical singers).

Here the Don plays solo “Old Fashioned Locket” and “Our Bungalow of Dreams” on a 78 rpm shellac disc, Colombia DB270, recorded in England in the Colombia Record studios during the 1930 cricket tour to England:

The British Library’s copy of this particular disc includes a copyright stamp affixed to the label:


The A-side of the disc, labelled “How it’s done – a friendly chat”, features Bradman discussing cricket, including differences between Australian and English cricket:


'Recording of the Week' highlights gems from the Archival Sound Recordings website, chosen by British Library experts or recommended by listeners. This item was selected by audio engineer Tony Harris.

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