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

10 July 2017

Recording of the week: choosing dreadlocks

This week's selection comes from Holly Gilbert, Cataloguer of Digital Multimedia Collections.

Mother and daughter, Jan and Ama, talk about why they both have dreadlocks. This is the first time they have told each other their reasons for choosing to wear their hair in this way and their motivations are quite different, though Jan’s hair definitely inspired Ama’s choice and they both really like the way that dreadlocks look and feel. They discuss how other people react to their hair and how this makes them feel as well as how their hair connects with their self-identity, their appearance and their blackness. Later in the conversation they talk about how fighting for racial and gender equality has evolved over time and is different for their respective generations, how their hair is part of being active in those fights and how choosing dreadlocks is a way of defining their own idea of beauty.

The Listening Project_Choosing dreadlocks

Jan and Ama

This recording is part of The Listening Project, an audio archive of conversations recorded by the BBC and archived at the British Library. The full conversation between Jan and Ama can be found here.

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

06 July 2017

Remembering Piper Alpha

On 6 July 1988 a massive explosion on the Piper Alpha North Sea oil rig killed 167 people. The oral history project Lives in the Oil Industry records the experiences of those who survived the disaster, and how it affected their lives.

Lives in the Oil Industry was a collaborative project between National Life Stories and the University of Aberdeen, where Hugo Manson recorded 177 interviews between 2000 and 2005. The project documents accounts from men and women representing all sectors of the industry – management, offshore workers, technical professionals and specialists and personnel from government and regulatory bodies – and also from the local communities whose stories are so entwined with the rigs that sit nearest to their shores. Together these voices record the major changes which have occurred in the UK oil and gas industry in the twentieth century, focusing particularly on North Sea exploration. Along with intrepid bravery displayed by the deep sea divers and engineers, the collection captures testimony from the voices of those workers, such as caterers and cleaners, who perform routine yet essential tasks that ensure the smooth running of oil rigs. Many of the interviews are available in the British Library Reading Rooms.

 Oil-rig-workersOil rig workers, no date

As the worst offshore oil accident in the history of the industry, it is unsurprising that the Piper Alpha disaster features prominently in the collection. The collection features – amongst others – the powerful testimony of Bob Ballantyne (1942–2004, C963/53) who survived and vividly recalls how it felt to be alone in the water amongst the inferno:

Bob Ballantyne

“I was afraid. I was terrified. And I thought ‘oh no, I cannae’. And I thought this was a bad dream that somehow, this was a nightmare. That somehow someone was going to turn this off. And I was gonnae wake up and back in the cabin and I was somewhere else. And it never happened. And also I had never been in the North Sea so far away from land. And I looked up at the size of this platform and it was absolutely huge; it was the biggest structure that I had ever seen in my life from that angle. And the noise was terrible and there were bangs, explosions, there were things clattering down and there were things falling off the platform. One of the seamen had told me that he could actually hear me above them. I was shouting, ‘You bastards come in and get me.’ And I never realised that anybody could hear me. But he said, ‘We heard somebody shouting’. And I told him it was me who was shouting for them to come in, because I wasn’t going to leave the platform, although I had the lifejacket on and was in the water. And I must say that because of the intense heat I was throwing the water over myself to cool down and the water wisnae cold. And I was burning up as well with it. And Iain Letham was the Coxswain on the Zodiac [rigid inflatable rescue craft] that had come in to pick [people] up and then it [the Zodiac rescue craft] blew up and Iain was the only survivor. And Iain floated by me with his lifejacket and hat on. And I pulled him in beside me – and it wisnae a rescue or anything like that, it wisnae any hero thing. It was just, I just wanted someone to talk to, or somebody to be with me, that I wouldn’t be by myself. That there’s another human being here.”

The testimony of Alan Swinton (1926–2004, C963/134), Chaplain at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary at the time of the disaster, is equally compelling as it gives a different viewpoint on this harrowing day:

“What was your first notion that something was wrong?

“I lived across from the helicopter pad. …I was in bed. The helicopter came in and then another came in one and then another one came in. And I said to my wife, ‘I’ll be needed’, so I got up and got dressed. And interestingly, which was a bit unusual, I put on my clerical collar which identified me as the chaplain. The telephone rang, ‘Mr Swinton there has been a major civil accident and you’re needed.’ I said, ‘I’m on my way, I’ll be five minutes.’

“What time was that?

“Three something. 3.40 [in the morning]… I went up to the chapel. There were two women standing there… Now you must remember I knew nothing at all about what was happening. They expected me, of course, to have some information… I had none whatsoever… Two relatives became four, became six became ten, became twenty and suddenly the place was filled with people... So the relatives who were within let’s say 100 miles of Aberdeen, decided the best thing to do was to go to Aberdeen, so Aberdeen soon became a focus for people from all over the place… And the numbers of people who were now under the ‘so-called’ care of the chaplain were now at forty, fifty, sixty, but they were coming in asking questions… I became a kind of shuttle, because I knew my way around quickly around the hospital and how get to various bits quickly. Most of the admissions who were injured had burns, so the burns unit was cleared to receive causalities... Their injuries were horrendous…

“The first list of survivors was not given to me until 11am on the 7th [July] and I pinned it up outside the chapel. That caused some hurt because of course it was a first list, it was a limited list. I remember one man from Kilmarnock coming up to the list and looking down the list and taking out his handkerchief and wiping his eyes and reading down the list again and I remember going up to him and putting my arm around him and saying, ‘He’s not there is he?’ and he said, ‘No’... Much of the rest of the time was waiting, waiting for another helicopter, trying to get the names from the helicopters. Every time a helicopter came in, everybody rushed to the window… Then word came, no more helicopters… I called everybody into the chapel and I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have to say to you that there are no more helicopters.’ There was a kind of stunned silence. And then groups starting forming. Crying, crying, numb. ‘What do we do now?’”

This post by Mary Stewart, Oral History Curator, is the first of a series marking the thirtieth anniversary of National Life Stories (NLS) in 2017.

05 July 2017

Artists’ Lives & Chelsea College of Arts: An Audio Exhibition

In a special collaboration between National Life Stories and Chelsea College of Arts, a group of MA Curating and Collections students have curated an exhibition featuring edited sound clips from the Artists’ Lives collection of recordings. The exhibition is divided into three zones, and this blogpost presents an outline of each section. This exhibition has been generously supported by the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation.

The fourth floor studio in Chelsea School of Art at Manresa Road, “Untitled” photograph, undated, Chelsea College of Arts Library, University of the Arts London

The first section contains interviews with former students and teachers at Chelsea, who provide an introduction to the history of the school. Jock McFadyen describes the architecture of the Manresa Road campus and the different art movements represented in the studios, such as Pop Art and Systems Art. David Nash and Flavia Irwin address the curriculum and learning experience, including lecture series with artists such as Claes Oldenburg, classes in the Life Room and the Fine Art programme schedule. Anthony Fry talks about teaching painting in art schools, and Bernard Meadows highlights Henry Moore’s tenure at Chelsea and his working process of creating sculptures. Finally, Barbara Steveni introduces a paper she wrote during her teaching stint at Chelsea, which led to the development of the Artist Placement Group with John Latham - addressing where artists would go once they graduated from art school. Photos showing images of the exteriors and interiors of the building, such as the studio departments and galleries, are presented in this section as well.

Image 2_Chelsea School of ArtChelsea School of Art Elevated Front and Side View, photographer unknown, undated © Donald Smith

In the second section, the friendship between John Hoyland and Patrick Caulfield is explored in the form of two interviews. Hoyland’s recording begins with a reading of the address that he gave at Caulfield’s funeral, and goes on to honour in greater detail his friend’s life and work. This is a composite clip edited together from the recording of John Hoyland (1934-2011) interviewed by Mel Gooding, 2005-2007, National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives, C466/205 © British Library Board. You can listen to the full tracks at British Library Sounds: Tape 4 side B/track 8, Tape 6 side B/track 12, Tape 11 side A/track 20, Tape 11 side B/track 21.

John Hoyland

Caulfield in his interview discusses his first encounter with Hoyland, as well as his own teaching experiences. This is a composite clip edited together from the recording of Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005) interviewed by Andrew Lambirth, 1996-1998, National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives, C466/64 © British Library Board. You can listen to the full tracks at British Library Sounds: Part 6, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14. Both recordings also provide reflections on Chelsea at the time they were both teaching. 

Patrick Caulfield

Finally, the last section features five excerpts from an interview with Clive Phillpot, exploring his eight-year tenure as librarian at Chelsea and his acquisitions of Artists’ Books. These recordings also reference his colleagues such as Frederick Brill, Anthony Hill, Norbert Lynton and Edward Wright who inspired and supported Clive Phillpot to produce critical reviews in magazines and exhibition catalogues. Phillpot’s influence on the development of artists’ books is reflected in two recordings by Jock McFadyen, a former student of Chelsea, and artist Telfer Stokes. Accompanying the recordings is a vitrine containing Telfer Stokes’ first book, ‘Passage’, published in 1972. Clive Phillpot wrote a review of the book in a monthly column of Studio International magazine in 1973. A series of black and white photographs documenting individuals in Chelsea, taken by Dick Hart in the early ‘70s, is also presented.

Image 3_'Passage'‘Passage’ and the review on Studio International, photographer: Yuen Yu Ho, 29 June 2017

Material from the exhibition comes from: the Artists’ Lives section of National Life Stories courtesy of the British Library, the Special Collections section of the Chelsea College of Arts Library courtesy of Gustavo Grandal Montero, and archival images courtesy of Donald Smith.

Special thanks to Cathy Courtney, Mary Stewart, Gustavo Grandal Montero, Donald Smith, Cherie Silver for their assistance in making this exhibition possible. This exhibition is generously supported by the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation.

The curators would like to thank the late Patrick Caulfield, the late Anthony Fry, the late John Hoyland, the late Flavia Irwin, Jock McFadyen, the late Bernard Meadows, David Nash, Clive Phillpot, Barbara Steveni and Telfer Stokes for sharing their experiences through the Artists’ Lives project. Listen online to these recordings at British Library Sounds.

The exhibition runs from 29 June to 28 July 2017, and is installed at Chelsea Landing, E-Block (first floor), Chelsea College of Arts, 16 John Islip Street, Westminster, London SW1P 4JU. It is curated by Yuen Yu Ho, Georgia Keeling, Deborah Lim and Xiaodeng Zhou.

03 July 2017

Recording of the week: Wioletta Greg reads her poetry

This week's selection comes from Stephen Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary & Creative Recordings.

Polish poet and writer Wioletta Greg has attracted critical praise for her coming-of-age tale Swallowing Mercury, which was published in January this year by Portobello Books. For this week's 'Recording of the Week' we offer a unique recording of Wioletta reading her poetry, made by the British Library in 2012 at the poet's home on the Isle of Wight. The reading is in Polish, with English translations made and read by Marek Kazmierski. 

Wioletta Greg reading_C1340/79


This recording is part of Between Two Worlds: Poetry and Translation, an ongoing Arts Council-funded audio recording project conducted by the British Library in collaboration with the poet Amarjit Chandan.

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

29 June 2017

Dr Sally Horrocks wins Research Impact Award

We are delighted to announce that Dr Sally Horrocks has been jointly awarded the University of Leicester’s Research Impact Award for Best Public Engagement for her role as senior academic advisor on the National Life Stories projects An Oral History of British Science (OHBS) and An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry in the UK (OHESI).


Dr Sally Horrocks receives the award from Samira Ahmed (image copyright University of Leicester, created by Osborne Hollis Photography)

Dr Horrocks, a Lecturer in Modern British History, has helped to shape these projects, enabling OHBS to collect 114 audio interviews along with 33 interviews on science and religion and 19 video interviews shot on location. Comprising over 1,200 hours of material, this is the largest collection of life story interviews with scientists in Europe. Over 90 of the interviews can be listened to in full online at British Library Sounds.

OHESI comprises 56 audio interviews, video interviews at 3 locations and over 530 hours of material. It is the only major collection dedicated to the industry worldwide. Over 40 of the interviews can be listened to in full online at British Library Sounds.

Together these recordings are a unique addition to the national collection and represent a significant cultural asset, now and in the future.


Dr Sally Horrocks and Dr Paul Merchant, Oral History Interviewer (image copyright University of Leicester, created by Osborne Hollis Photography)

You can find out more about the British Library’s oral histories of science and industry at our online collection guides, and you can play audio and video clips from an Oral History of British Science at the Voices of Science website.

Dr Emma Parker, Associate Professor of Post War and Contemporary Literature, shared the award for her work on the Joe Orton 50 Years On project.

Walter Legge and the Hugo Wolf Society’s recordings of the Spanisches Liederbuch

Guest blog by Ammiel Bushakevitz, current Edison Fellow at the British Library and freelance pianist based in Berlin, Germany.

 Walter Legge, his wife Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Geoffrey Parsons (Getty Images)

Although the majority of his legacy was produced more than half a century ago, Walter Legge (1906–1979) left behind such a copious treasure of legendary recordings that his achievements in the field have yet to be surpassed.  During his tenure as chief classical record producer from 1932 to 1962 for EMI in London and for EMI’s subsidiary, Angel Records, Legge played a significant part in launching and documenting the careers of artists including Callas, Fischer-Dieskau, Gieseking, Flagstadt, Karajan, Klemperer, Lipatti, Ludwig and Schwarzkopf.  An indomitable autodidact, quotable though controversial, Walter Legge possessed a flair for spotting talent and an uncompromising ear for musical quality.  He was a music critic, lecturer, writer, editor, masterclass teacher and founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra; but it is in his capacity as a record producer that he contributed the most to posterity.  Alan Sanders, in his Walter Legge: A Discography (1984, Greenwood Press), commences the introduction to his extensive Legge discography as follows:

Walter Legge was the first record producer. Before him were “artistes’ department representatives” who saw to it that matters went smoothly at recording sessions [...]. His quest for perfection was untiring and it is thanks to his vision that a large proportion of the greatest recordings from the 1930s onwards came into being.

Included in the vast catalogue of recordings produced and supervised meticulously by Legge are such historically portentous examples as the Callas/Gobbi/di Stefano/de Sabado Tosca (1953), the Ludwig/Schwarzkopf/Karajan Der Rosenkavalier (1956), most of Callas’s records, numerous recordings of the Irish tenor John McCormack, Arthur Schnabel’s complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, and a collection of recordings of veteran conductors including Beecham, Boult and Toscanini.

Even though Legge was a man of many hats, there was one obsession that haunted him more than any other throughout his life - the lieder of Hugo Wolf.  Legge was an avid young Wagnerite when he borrowed Ernest Newman’s biography of Hugo Wolf from a London lending library, a day Legge describes as “probably the best day of my life”.  The lack of any recordings of Hugo Wolf's lieder in England prompted Legge to launch the Hugo Wolf Society in order to raise funds to record the lieder of Wolf.  The Hugo Wolf Society subscription recordings commenced in 1931, ending with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, and were reissued on LP in 1981 and again on CD in 1998 as a box set by EMI.

As an Edison Fellow of the British Library, I am fortunate to have direct access to the original 78 rpm shellac records of the original recordings made between 1931 and 1939. The originals are housed in the archives of the British Library and the two audio tracks on this blog are direct conversions of these original 78 rpm discs. The unfiltered audio is thus a reasonable indication of the sound that the original subscribers would have heard when listening to these records in the 1930s.

The formation and history of the Hugo Wolf Society is of special interest to me personally, since I often accompany the songs of Hugo Wolf as a pianist. Walter Legge was a colossal figure in the history of song recording and set a certain standard, often in collaboration with the great song pianist, Gerald Moore, and such illustrious lieder singers as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Angeles and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.


Elena Gerhardt (1883-1961), the great German mezzo-soprano who moved permanently to London in 1934, largely due to her political convictions, but in part also because of the success of the Hugo Wolf Society (Library of Congress)

Nun wandre Maria

Spanisches Liederbuch: No 3, “Nun wandre, Maria” by Hugo Wolf .  Elena Gerhardt (Mezzo Soprano) Coenraad Bos (Piano). Recorded 11th June 1931

A background to Hugo Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch

One of the defining traits of the German Romantic Age was their interest in the poetry of the world. In their eager quest of national and folk themes and subjects, the Romance languages and traditions were especially sought after.  As German artists had longed for the clear air and warm light of Italy, so German writers and poets and musicians found their own native art-forms irradiated by the light of the Southern Countries and especially, of Italy and Spain.  As Eric Sams mentions is his The Songs of Hugo Wolf (2011: Faber & Faber), the ideas of Spanish local colours and costumes, pride and passion, the guitar and the castanet made a particular appeal to the lighter lyric poets such as Emanuel Geibel (1815-84) and through them to the great song writers such as Schumann, whose Geibel setting Der Hidalgo of 1840 was among the very first to put Spain on the map of the Lied.  And in 1852 he collaborated with a younger poet, Paul Heyse, on a joint compilation, the Spanisches Liederbuch, dividing the poems into sacred and secular and drawing on famous writers such as Cervantes alongside anonymous sources and two obscure characters, “Don Manuel Rio” and “Don Luis el Chico”, who turn out to be none other than Geibel and Heyse themselves.  Wolf’s own collection of settings of the “Spanish Songbook” is the finest fruit of a long-lasting fascination with Spain that had begun in 1882 with an aborted opera set in Seville and culminated in the two operas of his final creative years, Der Corregidor and the unfinished fragment Manuel Venegas.


Hugo Wolf in 1902

The motifs in the Spanisches Liederbuch

For Wolf, the expression of his musical language was intensely personal.  Wolf’s detailed knowledge of Wagner make the resemblances between the two composers very strong.  These resemblances are usually general and not specific - the affinity goes far deeper, down to the very roots that both music and language have in common.  It is the same relationship that Schubert shared with Mozart. These masters of music and of song learn from the masters of drama, the motive power of music and drama is converted into the lyrical mode. In this way, Wolf expressed himself in motifs which traverse his entire output of songs.

Examples of the motifs include worship, submission, smallness, weakness, mockery, criticism, unrest, manliness, freedom, release, longing and love. Perhaps his most intense motif is that of isolation, separation and loneliness.  This is a wonderful example of primary musical metaphor. The right hand of the piano part has repeated chords, from which the left-hand moves away and downwards.  It is difficult to define this sound yet the passages in which it occurred are clearly related in meaning.  Im Frühling, for example, is a great example of this.  It seems unlikely that in this song there is any particular thematic significance, but the motive of isolation is clear throughout. The associations, and there is no mistaking the meaning of the motif, that goes grieving through the piano part.

The themes of mystery and magic are also important in the Spanish Songbook.  This involves a progression in harmonies, usually based on the interval of the descending dominant seventh.  This occurs in slow time, involving a chromatic shift in which two unrelated tonalities are juxtaposed. This creates a mysterious sound reminiscent of Wagner, who may have influenced the connection in the younger composer’s mind between this motif and the theme of mystery and magic.

 Walter Legge and the Hugo Wolf Society

It was in 1931 that Walter Legge first came to prominence in the world of records when, as a young executive for His Master’s Voice he had a brilliant idea of making available important new recordings on a subscription basis so that the cost of making the recordings was guaranteed by advance payment.  This was indeed the time of the Depression and money and financing was hard to come by.  Walter Legge had a quest for perfection that was untiring, and it is thanks to his vision that a large proportion of the greatest recordings from the 1930s onwards came into being.  The 24-year-old Walter Legge suggested to EMI that he would find 500 subscribers who would pay in advance for the product and thus support its recording and release.  In a way, this is similar to the many online fundraising endeavours of today’s internet age.  Walter Legge received approval from his company and thus the Hugo Wolf Society was born.


Gerhard Hüsch (1901-1984) in Japan, 1952

Auf dem grünen Balkon

Spanisches Liederbuch: No 15, “Auf dem grünen Balkon” by Hugo Wolf .  Gerhard Hüsch (Baritone), Hanns Udo Müller (Piano). Recorded 2nd May 1935

Legge, always having an eye for opportunity, wanted to share his youthful love for the still relatively unknown Hugo Wolf with other interested listeners.  The Wolf songs were relatively unknown in England so Legge had to create a society of interested patrons (subscribers) in order to fund the hiring of top-notch performers.  These artists included:

Elena Gerhardt, mezzo (1883-1961)

Karl Erb, tenor (1877-1958)

Marta Fuchs, soprano (1898-1974)

Ria Ginster, soprano (1989-1985)

Gerhard Hüsch, baritone (1901-1984)

Herbert Janssen, baritone (1892-1965)

Alexander Kipnis, bass (1891-1978)

Tiana Lemnitz, soprano (1897-1994)

John McCormack, tenor (1884-1945)

Elisabeth Rethberg, soprano (1894-1976)

Helge Roswaenge, baritone (1897-1972)

Friedrich Schorr, bass-baritone (1888-1953)

Alexandra Trianti, soprano (1901-1977)

Ludwig Weber, bass (1899-1974)

When the Second World War broke out, many of the senior EMI staff were called up for war duty. Due to he is very poor eyesight, Legge was considered unfit for service and after a period of uncertainty when he was often called upon to record lighter repertoire not to his taste, he assumed a dual role.  With the ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) organisation, he became responsible for supplying concerts of serious music to those on active service at home and abroad or working in war factories.  He also became responsible for all new EMI classical recordings.  The great majority of these recordings he oversaw to the last detail himself, and soon his energy and flair were at work in bringing to fruition some astonishing projects considering that the country was in a situation of war.  It was also at this time that his legendary temper began demonstrating itself. Yet his main ambition was to form a great orchestra, and at the end of the war, with the best musicians returning to normal life in London, he formed the Philharmonia Orchestra, an ensemble which soon became one of the finest orchestras in the world and which he controlled absolutely for the next 19 years.

Legge’s many further ventures led to the highest levels of performers and a collection of recordings, many of which are now legendary, spanning many decades.  Yet his affinity to the songs of Hugo Wolf never subsided and he would always return to Wolf.  Especially dear to Legge, a song from the Spanisches Liederbuch was Legge’s first recorded work on 5 November 1931 (for the Hugo Wolf Society) and he recorded another song from the same set at his last recording session on 2 January 1979, just weeks before his death.  The circle had been completed.

Further Reading

Cook, C. 2007. Walter Legge – The Tosca Sessions. Gramophone Magazine, June 2007.

Davis, P. 2002 [1982]. Preface. On and Off the Record: A Memoir of Walter Legge. Lebanon: University Press of New England.

Gelatt, R. 1965. The Fabulous Phonograph: From Edison to Stereo. Revised Edition. New York: Appleton.

Legge, W. 2002 [1982]. On and Off the Record: A Memoir of Walter Legge. Lebanon: University Press of New England.

Legge, W. 2012 [1966]. Preface. Hugo Wolf. Ernest Newman, Author. New York: Dover.

Mann, W. 2001. “Legge, Walter”, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Second edition. Edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.

Sanders, A. 1984. Walter Legge: A Discography. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Schwarzkopf, E. 2002 [1982]. On and Off the Record: A Memoir of Walter Legge. Lebanon: University Press of New England.

Walker, M. 1986. Legge’s Records. The Musical Times, Vol. 127, No. 1719 (June 1986).

Food For Thought: Voices of Charity and Social Welfare in Britain

When people think of food poverty, Britain rarely springs to mind. However, food poverty has always had a presence in the United Kingdom and is a particularly growing issue in the early twenty-first century as a result of many factors, including rising inflation and living costs, as well as economic recessions. According to a recent UK government survey, a quarter of low-income families in Britain struggle to eat regularly. To help ameliorate this crisis, food banks have now become a common feature of the British landscape – their usage continuing to grow year after year.

One of Britain’s leading food bank charities is The Trussell Trust, its British branch having been founded in 2004 by Paddy and Carol Henderson in Salisbury, Wiltshire, after the couple came into contact with a British mother struggling to feed her family. Starting with two food banks, the trust now has 400 food banks across the United Kingdom (approximately 500,000 people used these facilities between 2004 and 2013). 

In 2015, National Life Stories in partnership with the British Library, interviewed the then Director and Executive Chairman of the Trussell Trust, Chris Mould, as part of its Pioneers in Charity and Social Welfare project (BL catalogue ref. C1155). A collection of 30 life story interviews conducted by Louise Brodie between 2005 and 2016, the project celebrated and explored the personal biographies of individuals who have played a key role in the development and provision of charitable and welfare activities in Britain throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Chris Mould on the early days of The Trussell Trust's activities in Britain

We are pleased to announce that these interviews are now freely accessible online via the BL Sounds platform under the theme Charity & Social Welfare. The online collection covers a range of subject matters, including Prison Reform, Mental Health, Food Charity, Housing and Humanitarian Aid. As well as Chris Mould, the resource features interviews with leading figures working in Britain’s third sector, such as the late Rev Kenneth Leech, founder of the homeless support charity, Centrepoint; Frances Crook, the Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform; and Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, the Executive Director of the United Kingdom’s leading volunteering and training charity, Community Service Volunteers (CSV), between 1975 and 2011.

20110801140518!Frances_CrookFrances Crook OBE. Director, the Howard League for Penal Reform

Frances Crook on the need for penal reform in Britain

The late Rev Kenneth Leech (1939-2015) on establishing the charity 'Centrepoint'

Although thematically linked by the subjects of ‘charity’ and ‘welfare’, the interdisciplinary and biographical makeup of the life story interviews in this collection means that they contain a wealth of information that will be of interest to anyone researching social events and issues in Britain during the 20th and 21st centuries. For instance, Sally Greengross, Baroness Greengross, OBE , was chosen to be interviewed for the project for her work in caring for older people in Britain, but her life story interview tells us a great deal more than just her time working as Director General of Age Concern England from 1987 to 2000 – one example being her personal thoughts on her Jewish identity and upbringing.

Sally Greengross on her Jewish identity

As well as serving an invaluable role as repositories of ‘history’ and ‘information’, life stories offer an insight into the inner subjectivities of individuals, allowing listeners to gain a clearer perspective on personal historical experiences and emotions. In the words of Robert Atkinson, they are a ‘highly personalized approach in gathering qualitative information about the human experience.’ [Robert Atkinson, ‘Life Story Interview’ in Michael Lewis Beck, Alan E. Bryman and Tim Futing Liao (eds.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods (2003), p.569.]

Charity & Social Welfare is now available online via BL Sounds

Dr Cai Parry-Jones, Curator, Oral History

26 June 2017

Recording of the week: Himba women’s songs from Namibia

This week's selection comes from Dr Janet Topp Fargion, Lead Curator of World and Traditional Music.

This is an ‘ondjongo’ song sung by a group of Himba women, recorded in 1998 by French ethnomusicologist Emmanuelle Olivier (BL reference C1709). The recording was made within the French-Namibian project "Living Music and Dance of Namibia" (1998-2000) directed by Minette Mans (University of Namibia), Emmanuelle Olivier (CNRS, France) and Hervé Rivière (CNRS, France).

Ondjongo song sung by Himba women

Himba 1998 girls with headphones and hairstyles

The Himba, from the northern part of Namibia, very close to the border with Angola, are well known for their elaborate hairstyles, using copious amounts of lush, orange ochre – which helps to protect them from the scorching sun. Hair cutting ceremonies are significant markers of life cycle events, being performed, for example, for naming ceremonies or in celebrations connected with girls’ first menstruation and marriage.

(Photo: Emmanuelle Olivier, 1990)

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