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BBC Radio at 90: The Listeners' Archive

Trevor Dann


Trevor Dann and his first tape recorder

Do you remember all those warnings about home taping? Did you ignore them and furtively record some of your favourite radio shows anyway? Do you have an attic or a garage or even an old cardboard box under the spare bed full of tapes or cassettes of Pick of the Pops, Saturday Club, Easy Beat, Top Gear or Housewives’ Choice?

Well the good news is you got away with it!

Not only that, but the BBC would love to recover some of the great shows it broadcast and didn’t archive. And as part of the Corporation’s brilliant 90th anniversary celebrations, it’s declaring a radio amnesty, and asking you to help.

That’s me above with my first tape recorder. My Dad bought it for me as a present for passing the 11 Plus (it was like Year 6 SATs kids!) and it set me on the road to a lifetime in radio including spells as head of music at Radio 1 and chief exec of the Radio Academy.

These days I work as an independent producer and it was while my colleague Heather Davies and I were working on our mammoth 50-part series, Sounds of the 20th Century for Radio 2, that we realised the need for a project like this.

The BBC’s sound archive is a terrific resource for wars, elections, strikes and other news events, but it doesn’t have many regular programmes which would help us tell the social history of the UK. For instance, from the 1960s, there are acres of material on the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the 1966 World Cup and the moon landing, but where are the shows people were actually listening to in between the news programmes?

Well, that’s where you come in. We’re looking for good quality recordings of Family Favourites, Midday Spin, Music While You Work and the other shows which the archivists of the day thought too inconsequential or too expensive to keep.

Going further back, where are the voices of Dylan Thomas and George Orwell? Both of them broadcast regularly on the BBC, but none of their talks were saved.

More recently, where’s the first Radio 1 Chris Evans Breakfast Show from 1996? Where’s Derek Jameson on Radio 2? Has anyone got complete shows from the 60s or 70s presented by Kenny Everett, Alan Freeman or Emperor Rosko?

Please start searching now and see if you can help us plug the gaps. On a day in October you’ll be able to bring your tapes, cassettes, DATs, minidiscs or CDs to a BBC centre near you. If we can broadcast all or part of what you bring us, we’ll digitise it for you and give you a sparkly new CD. In return you have to tell us the story of the tape, why you pressed ‘record’, why you kept it and what it means to you.

We’ll compile your memories into a special show for Radio 2 in November. And we do want speech, comedy and sports programmes too. The whole of BBC Radio (English local stations, the BBC Nations and the national networks) is keen to hear what you’ve got and what we thought was lost.

Trevor's 1963 notebook

We’ll be announcing the details of how you can deliver your recordings to us very soon. In the meantime PLEASE don’t send us anything on spec. It may get lost and we can’t be held responsible. And there’s one thing I do need to add. If, like me, you used to record the music and cut out the DJ (see my notebook here from 1963) then your tape isn’t much use. And if you recorded it at a very slow speed through a microphone built into a little plastic cassette player, it’s unlikely to be good enough for us to inflict on the listening millions. But you’d be amazed by what the BBC’s technical boffins can do with half-decent recordings.

For the latest news, follow us on twitter @BBCListeners and check back here regularly. Happy hunting!

Trevor Dann is editor of the Listeners’ Archive

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