Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library


Discover more about the British Library's 6 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

21 September 2015

Happy birthday H. G. Wells

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Born this day in 1866, H. G. Wells was a remarkably prolific writer across a range of formats and genres. His preserved recorded output is somewhat less voluminous, running to something over an hour of BBC broadcast talks, or fragments thereof, but is nonetheless a relatively substantial audio archive for a writer and broadcaster active in the pre-WWII era. 

The BBC first approached Wells in the mid-1920s but it was not until 1929 that he made his broadcast debut, with a speech entitled 'World Peace'.

This talk, which has not survived as an audio recording, was the first of an occasional series of broadcasts that visited and revisited various societal themes, provoking both praise and complaints from the listening audience.

In the extract below, from a 1934 talk in the series Whither Britain?, Wells reveals his pride in his English heritage. 

Listen to the voice of H G Wells

Although the BBC recording from which this excerpt is taken runs for a further seven minutes, it does not contain the full original broadcast. Between 1930 and 1945 the BBC's usual practice was to preserve extracts from selected broadcasts on 78 rpm discs, the standard recording format of the time.

These discs had a running time of approximately three to four minutes per side, and thus determine what survives today: excerpts of programmes that, for the most part, were never archived in their entirety.

The complete text of Wells's Whither Britain? talk was however published in The Listener of 10 January 1934, which, along with the longer recording, may also be consulted at the British Library.

09 September 2015

Listening Project Workshop

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Holly Gilbert writes:

Join us on Monday 12 October at the British Library Conference Centre to reflect on the first three years of the Listening Project: an audio archive of conversations recorded by the BBC in which people are invited to share an intimate conversation with a close friend or relative.

These one-to-one conversations, modelled on the US StoryCorps project, last up to an hour and take a topic of the speakers' choice, collectively forming a picture of our lives and relationships today. The conversations so far gathered cover a huge range of life experiences told from the perspective of the people who have lived them, from birth to death and everything in between. The collection currently consists of 650 conversations made by contributors from 7 to 101 years old, recorded in all four corners of the UK and includes people who have moved here from across the globe.

The conversations can be listened to in full on the Library's Sounds website while the edited BBC radio programmes are available on the BBC Listening Project website.

The event includes a panel discussion chaired by presenter Fi Glover in which BBC producers reflect on the process of making the recordings and the impact of broadcasting excerpts, Listening Project participants discuss their experience of contributing to the collection and library curators and researchers explore the potential for using the online Listening Project archive for a variety of research purposes as it continues to grow.

The Listening Project booth will be making a stop at the Library especially for the event as part of its nationwide tour.

Listening Project booth

Tickets are free and can be booked via the British Library Box Office.

Workshop Programme

Monday 12 October 2015, British Library Conference Centre

10:30               Arrival: tea & coffee

11:00 – 11:20  Welcome & Introduction

11:20 – 12:45  Using the Listening Project Archive

  • Professor Joanna Bornat (Faculty of Health & Social Care, Open University and an editor of Oral History Journal)
  • Dr Natalie Braber (Department of English, Culture & Media, Nottingham Trent University)
  • Linda Ingham (Visual Artist-Curator, Conversations with my Mother, a book-work installation as part of the Shifting Subjects exhibition)

12:45               Lunch (not provided)

14:00 - 15:00 Creating the Listening Project Archive

  • Panel discussion with BBC Listening Project producers chaired by Fi Glover

15:00 - 15:30   Tea & coffee

15:30 - 16.30   Taking part in the Listening Project

  • Panel discussion with Listening Project participants chaired by Fi Glover

16:30                           Close

08 September 2015

Waves, Skylarks and Halyards: the favourite seaside sounds of BBC coast presenters

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Everybody has a favourite coastal sound. That special sound that brings a smile to the face or a warm glow to the soul. For some it is the ever present sound of the sea while for others it's the song and calls of our coastal wildlife. Whatever it may be, sound helps us form some of the strongest memories we have of our times at the coast.

A group of people who are no strangers to this are the presenters of the acclaimed BBC series Coast. We spoke to some of the presenters about what the sounds of the coast mean to them.

Nicholas Crane

Nick Crane

Favourite Coastal Sounds_Nick Crane

The Changing Sounds of the Coast_Nick Crane


Tessa Dunlop

Tessa Dunlop

The Magic of Iona_Tessa Dunlop


Mark Horton

Mark Horton

Favourite Coastal Sounds_Mark Horton

Lost Sounds of the Coast_Mark Horton


Alice Roberts

Alice on cliff

Favourite Coastal Sounds_Alice Roberts

Thinking about Sound_Alice Roberts


The UK's Favourite Coastal Sound

A few weeks ago the Sounds of our Shores team asked the public to vote for their favourite UK coastal sound. The results are in and we're delighted to announce that the sound of gentle waves breaking on a sandy beach won with flying colours.

Adam Long, a photographer based in Sheffield who recorded the winning sound, says:

“I’ve been visiting this corner of North Wales several times a year since I was a small boy, and so it feels like a home from home. The recording was made at a spot which is a favourite for an evening walk, and was made in spring before the summer crowds. The sea was almost mirror calm, and I was pleased to capture the gentle sound of the breaking waves and the fulmars on the cliff behind.”

Sounds of our Shores runs until 21st September so you still have a couple of weeks to get out there and record your favourite coastal sound! Full details on how to take part can be found here.


Many thanks to Coast co-creator Steve Evanson for providing these interviews