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Last on

Mon 2 Jul 2012 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 02 July 2012

Clare Jenkins explores why people record their life stories and what impact those stories have on other people when the interviewee is no longer themselves, or no longer alive.

Twenty-five years ago, Clare recorded her father talking about his life: growing up in a Scottish tenement, being 'sold' as a farmer's boy at a hiring fair, a wartime stint in the RAF, working as a gardener to the wealthy, amateur poet. Jack Jenkins died 18 years ago, and Clare never listened back to the tapes - until making this programme.

Broadcaster Rony Robinson never listened back to recordings he had done with his mother until Clare asked him to. Nor had singer-songwriter Sally Goldsmith listened to her mother, who died two years ago, singing May Day songs recalled from childhood.

This programme explores the different circumstances in which people's life stories are recorded, and the memories and emotions that come flooding back when the tapes are eventually heard.

We hear from the wife of a man suffering from dementia about her bitter-sweet feelings when listening to tapes of his voice. "They really calmed him and made him smile. And it was amazing for me, because I'd forgotten how funny he was."

Another woman, terminally ill with cancer, has made a series of recordings for her newborn granddaughter as part of a hospice project in Sheffield. "I want her to hear about my life - and to know that I don't have a Yorkshire accent!" she says.

We also hear from Mary Stewart of the British Library, who has been studying the way recorded interviews are used by and for those most intimately involved. Along the way, we discover the power of the beloved voice.

Producer: Clare Jenkins
A Pennine Production for BBC Radio 4.

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