9 episodes

What does love sound like? Which phrases transport us home? What are the sounds that matter to you?
From a chorus of seals recorded under arctic ice to speeches that have saved lives, settle in to explore the depths of the British Library sound collection, with author and poet Lemn Sissay and some very special wordsmiths.
Together they will discover how language, voice and sound has shaped us, our world and our identities. Press play on a world of sound. 
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a UK-wide project, made possible by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, that will help save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone.
A Pixiu production.

All About Sound British Library

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 26 Ratings

What does love sound like? Which phrases transport us home? What are the sounds that matter to you?
From a chorus of seals recorded under arctic ice to speeches that have saved lives, settle in to explore the depths of the British Library sound collection, with author and poet Lemn Sissay and some very special wordsmiths.
Together they will discover how language, voice and sound has shaped us, our world and our identities. Press play on a world of sound. 
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a UK-wide project, made possible by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, that will help save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone.
A Pixiu production.

    Shami Chakrabarti on Protest

    Shami Chakrabarti on Protest

    When did you last take part in a protest? Perhaps you signed a petition; joined a debate on social media; wrote to your MP or read an impassioned poem. In this episode Lemn is joined by Shami Chakrabarti to examine how campaigners have used language to further their aims throughout the centuries. Together, they listen to inspiring voices from the British Library Sound Archive, from leaders such as Nelson Mandela to campaigners fighting for LGBTQ rights, punk musicians and suffragettes such as Christabel Pankhurst. 

    Described in The Times as "probably the most effective public affairs lobbyist of the past 20 years," Shami Chakrabarti is a barrister and human rights activist, as well as Member of the House of Lords and former Director of advocacy organisation Liberty.

    Recordings in the episode in order of appearance: 

    Christabel Pankhurst speaking after her release from Holloway Prison on 18th December 1908. 
    British Library shelfmark: 1CL0025836 
     
    An extract from Nelson Mandela’s speech made in April 1964 at The Rivonia Trial. Restored and transferred by the British Library from the dictabelt originals loaned by The National Archives of South Africa and © The National Archives of South Africa. 
    British Library shelfmark: C985
     
    An oral history interview recorded with Mr Kemp from Nottingham, in November 1982. Part of the Nottinghamshire Oral History Collection: Making Ends Meet Project.
    British Library shelfmark: UUOL066/14
      
    Member of the Gay Liberation Front, Luchia Fitzgerald, speaks to Dr. Sarah Feinstein in 2016 as part of Manchester Pride’s OUT! oral history project. Thanks to Archives+ in Manchester for this extract. © Luchia Fitzgerald and Archives+.
    British Library shelfmark: UAP007 

    The Hooters perform ‘We shall Overcome’ at the Hooters' club in Birkenhead in 1965. The recording was found at Archives+, Manchester, it’s part of the Stan Mason folk music archive and was digitised as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage (UOSH) project. 
    British Library shelfmark: UAP004/5 S2 C1 

    Barack Obama speaking to his supporters in January 2008, after losing New Hampshire's Democratic primary to Hilary Clinton. Popularly known as the ‘Yes we can’ speech. © Barack Obama.
    British Library shelfmark: 1SS0009809 

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2018 PEN Pinter Prize acceptance speech. The recording was made at the British Library. With thanks to The Wylie Agency (UK) Limited. 
    British Library shelfmark: C927/1981 

    Labour MP Jess Phillips's address to the House of Commons in January 2019. Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0. 

    Alice Walker reads her poem ‘First they said’. The recording was made at the Africa Centre in May 1985 and it is part of the African Centre Collection, digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 
    British Library shelfmark: C48/56 

    Adrienne Rich reads her poem ‘Power’ at Conway Hall in June 1984 as part of the 1st International Feminist Book Fair collection. The recording was digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 
    British Library shelfmark: C154/2 

    Benjamin Zephaniah performing his poem ‘This policeman keeps on kicking me’ at the Poetry Olympics festival, 1982. Recorded by the British Library at the Young Vic Theatre. 
    British Library shelfmark: C92/2 C43 

    ‘Black and White for Apartheid’ performed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in December 1964. It is part of the African Writers Club collection of radio programmes recorded in the 1960s in London. 
    British Library shelfmark: C134/375 

    Extracts from the British Library event called ‘Banned Books Week: Poetry in Protest’ in September 2021. Myanmarese-British poet Ko Ko Thett and Dr Choman Hardi, poet and scholar, speak to columnist Kate Maltby. 

    An extract from ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’, the 1977 debut single by X-Ray Spex. © BMG, X-Ray Spex/Poly Styrene, Westminster Music Ltd/TRO Essex Group. 
    Brit

    • 41 min
    Monica Ali on Love

    Monica Ali on Love

    From stories about star-crossed lovers to heartfelt poetry, we’re enamoured with love itself. But how do we capture what love feels like in language? Novelist Monica Ali joins Lemn to explore affairs of the heart through the British Library Sound Archive.
    Monica Ali is a bestselling writer and Booker Prize nominee whose work has been translated into 26 languages. She’s written five books: Brick Lane, Alentejo Blue, In the Kitchen, Untold Story and her most recent is called Love Marriage.

    Recordings in the episode in order of appearance: 

    ‘I’m in love’ by The Subways, demo submitted to the Glastonbury Festival Unsigned Performers competition in 2004. Donated to the British Library Sound Archive and digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.
    British Library shelfmark: C1238/2540
     
    ‘Love is Strange’ performed by the The Bob Cort Skiffle Group, 1957.
    British Library shelfmark: 1CS0042286
     
    ‘Al buren matau ae aki tara bai’ or ‘The Fault of my Eyes,’ a Pacific Island love song. The recording was made in South Tarawa, the capital of the Pacific island Republic of Kiribati, in August 1985 by Daisy Maerere and Simon Seligmann. The performers are Tokana (voice) Teawate (ukulele / voice) Ioatene (guitar / voice) Tio (chorus) Raiwan (chorus) and Tekaie (chorus).
    British Library shelfmark: C205/1
     
    Gabriel Aragón plays his own composition on a large harp with sound holes; the piece is described by the performer as an 'alegre fox', and as belonging to the music of the Inca area. The recording was made in October 1980 in Cusco, Peru, by Peter Cloudsley Collection and was digitised as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage Project.
    British Library shelfmark: C9/17/ C1
     
    Poet Choman Hardi reads her poem ‘Summer Roof’ in the British Library recording studio, made in September 2009 for the project ‘Between Two Worlds: Poetry and Translation.’
    British Library shelfmark: C1340/30
     
    Mr and Mrs Smethhurst recall the ‘monkey parade’ of how teenagers used to meet and socialise in Salford. The interview was recorded in August 1977 and it was part of the Manchester Studies Oral History Project, digitised as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage Project.
    British Library shelfmark: UAP008/218 S1-S2
     
    Diana Martin remembers her visits to the cinema in Great Yarmouth in the late 1950s, the interview was made in 2007. It was found in the Norfolk Record Office and digitised as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage Project.
    British Library shelfmark: UNRO005/204
     
    Actor Sir John Gielgud plays Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in August 1955. The extract is from Act 5 Scene 3.
    British Library shelfmark: 1CL0005072
     
    Ex-husband and ex-wife Andy and Jo reflect on the breakdown of their marriage. The recording was made as part of the Listening Project for the BBC in August 2016 © BBC. 
    British Library shelfmark: C1500/1002
     
    A piece called ‘Gendhing 'Rondhon sari' minggah Ladrang 'Surèngrana' sléndro manyur.’ Part of a performance on one of the gamelan sets of Mangkunegaran palace in Surakarta; the recordist focussed on the gendèr panerus part, played by Pak Turus. The recording was made in September 1990 in Central Java, Indonesia and is part of the David Hughes Collection.
    British Library shelfmark: C1450/17/S1/C2
     
    Civil partners Lyn and Mary discuss the future of their relationship. The recording was made as part of the Listening Project for the BBC in November 2012 © BBC. 
    British Library shelfmark: C1500/0257

    • 36 min
    Jonathan Nunn on Food

    Jonathan Nunn on Food

    Lemn is tucking in the British Library Sound Archive with food writer Jonathan Nunn. Jonathan edits the food newsletter Vittles, and has written for various publications including the Guardian and Eater. 
     
    Together, they’re exploring the relationship between food and language: both are passed down through generations and are closely linked to identity. But how do the ways we talk about food change over time? And what does the history of food writing tell us about how society has changed?

    Recordings in the episode in order of appearance:
    French chef Xavier Boulestin explains how to make an omelette. The recording was made in July 1932. 
    British Library shelfmark: 9CS0012507 

     Jim from Norfolk speaks about brewing beer. The recording was made between 1980-1989 by Gressenhall Rural Life Museum and Farm. The original recording is held in the Norfolk Record Office and was digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 

    British Library shelfmark: UNRO004/84 
     
    Madhur Jaffrey, cook and writer of over 15 cookbooks, speaks to Ravinder Bhogal, food-writer and the chef-restaurateur of London’s Jikoni. The online event ‘Madhur Jaffrey: A Life In Food’ was recorded in May 2021 as part of the British Library Food Season.  

    Full conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjnR3keoDIA&t=497s 

    An oral history interview with a woman called Agnes Davey from Norfolk about hot cross buns. The interview was recorded in Norwich in April 1986, it is held in the Norfolk Record Office and was digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

    British Library shelfmark: UNRO001/1 

    A man from Great Yarmouth describes his mother’s recipe for Bloater paste, a fish paste made from smoked red herrings. The recording is part of the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service and it was digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

    British Library shelfmark: UNRO005/35 

     Maeve and Dick discuss how to make ‘Pig Lug’, a Yorkshire dish from the coastal town of Filey. It's similar to a pie or pastry containing currants. The recording is part of the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture and it was recorded before 1966. 

    British Library shelfmark: C1829/922
     
    Historian Pen Vogler and writer Ruby Tandoh take part in an online event called ‘From Fish Knives to Fish 'n' Chips’ in April 2021. The discussion was recorded by the British Library and the Chair was Babita Sharma, BBC journalist and author of The Corner Shop. 

    Full conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ytHgPsjTy0 

    An interview with Tara Din about being the first Asian woman to run a takeaway shop in Tameside. The original recording was stored in the Manchester Central Library and it was digitised as part of the Tameside Oral History Project ‘Here To Stay’. The recording was made in December 2005 in the interviewee’s home. 

    British Library shelfmark: UAP015/120 

    Wing Yip, a Chinese entrepreneur who travelled to England from Hong Kong in the 1950s, describes some of Britain's first Chinese restaurants. This recording was made in 2001 for the National Life Stories project 'Food: From Source to Salespoint’ and the interviewer was Polly Russell.

    British Library shelfmark: C821/62 

     Cookbook writer Claudia Roden speaks to Polly Russell as part of the 2001 National Life Stories project 'Food: From Source to Salespoint.’ 

    British Library shelfmark: C821/47

    • 35 min
    Amy Liptrot on the Sea

    Amy Liptrot on the Sea

    Where would our language be without the sea? Aground, adrift, the wind taken from our sails.
     
    In today’s episode, Lemn is diving beneath the surface into the British Library Sound Archive (see full credits below) to hear how language, on this island nation, has been shaped by the sea.
     
    To help on his quest, he’s joined by Scottish writer Amy Liptrot, whose 2018 memoir The Outrun won the PEN Ackerley Prize and the Wainwright Prize. In the book, Amy returns to the wildness of Orkney, an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland where she grew up. There, she immerses herself in the sea and the island that she once left, and journeys towards recovery from addiction.
     
    Together, they listen to sea shanties sung in Cornwall; coastguards responding to the aftermath of shipwrecks; tourists enamoured with Orkney’s inebriating charms and more...

    Recordings in the episode in order of appearance: 
    An interview with Violet Bonham Carter recorded by the BBC. The original recording was part of the Aberdeenshire Museums Service John Junner Collection and it was digitised as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 

    British Library shelfmark: UNLS028/254 S2 C3 
      
    Coastguards David Jackson and Graham Hale recall responding to the aftermath of a shipwreck. The interview was conducted in St Levan in 2001 and the original recording is held at the Telegraph Museum in Porthcurno and it was digitised as part of the Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 

    British Library shelfmark: UBC035/7 

    Farmer Wilfred Keys and fish salesman Thomas Kyle speak in Belfast in 2013 about the superstitions of fishermen. Their conversation was part of the Listening Project recorded for the BBC © BBC.  

    British Library shelfmark: C1500/0416 

    Kei Miller reading his poem ‘The Law Concerning Mermaids’ in 2012. The recording was made by the British Library at The Power of Caribbean Poetry – Word and Sound conference in Homerton College, Cambridge. 

    British Library shelfmark: C1532/12 

    Sea shanty group The Oggymen performing their version of ‘The Mingulay Boat Song’ at the The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival in 2017

    British Library shelfmark: DD00010583  
    ‘Scapa Flow’ on melodeon performed by Jimmy Leslie. This recording was made in 1955 in St Ola, Orkney and is part of the Peter Kennedy Collection. 

    British Library shelfmark: C604/1128 

    A song about Brighton nudist beach performed by folk singer Miles Wootton in 1981 at BBC Radio Brighton. The recording was digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

    British Library shelfmark: UTK006/1043

    • 28 min
    Inua Ellams on Migration

    Inua Ellams on Migration

    When we migrate, can language help us feel at home? And how can words make us feel unwelcome?  How does migration affect the ways we communicate and express ourselves in writing, poetry, performance? 
    In this episode, Lemn is joined by poet and playwright Inua Ellams to listen to some highlights from the British Library Sound Archive and explore the relationship between language and migration. 
    Inua Ellams wrote the Barber Shop Chronicles which sold out all its runs at the National Theatre in London. His recent show ‘An Evening With An Immigrant’ tells the story of ‘escaping fundamentalist Islam, experiencing prejudice and friendship in Dublin, and drinking wine with the Queen of England, all the while without a country to belong to or place to call home.’ 

    Recordings in the episode in order of appearance: 

    Madhohu Rammutla performing Kgerere (Planting time). This piece is part of the Stanley Glasser Collection and the recording was made in Sheshego, South Africa in April 1975.  
    British Library shelfmark: C1671/6

    A County Kerry Irish fiddle recording which is part of the Terry Yarnell Collection
    British Library shelfmark: 1CDR0008122

    A recording from 2012 of poet Kei Miller reading ‘The Only Thing Far Away’ from his collection 'Writing Down The Vision: Essays & Prophecies'. 
    British Library shelfmark: C1532/12

    Mohlao Rapetswa performing the piece Kara (Buttermilk.) The recording was made in Ramokgopa, South Africa, in March 1975.  
    British Library shelfmark: C1671/3 C1 

    An interview with Mervyn and Elsie Maciel. The interviewer is Jill Chapman and it was recorded in January 1990. The recording has been digitised in Bristol by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 
    British Library shelfmark: UBC034/103-104 

    Gilli Salvat describes her memories of arriving in England from India shortly after partition in 1948. The interview was recorded in 1986 by Allegra Damji. It’s part of a Hall-Carpenter oral history project which recorded gay and lesbian testimony in the 1980s/1990s. The collection has now been digitised by the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 
    British Library shelfmark: C456/40 

    Aragón C. L. Gabriel performing Paras in April 1981 in Cusco, Peru. The recording is part of the Peter Cloudsley Collection.
    British Library shelfmark: C9_52 S1 C3

    An interview with author Andrea Levy from 2014- this recording was part of the National Life Stories’ project, Authors’ Lives and the interviewer was Sarah O’Reilly. 
    British Library shelfmark:  C1276/59

    • 33 min
    Sophie Willan on Home

    Sophie Willan on Home

    Which sounds transport you home? Lemn is joined by BAFTA award-winning writer, actor, comedian and creator of the BBC’s Alma’s Not Normal, Sophie Willan, to ask this question. Together, they listen to stand-out recordings from the British Library Sound Archive (see credits below) to investigate what home means to us.
    From Sophie’s thoughts on Lancashire phrases disappearing, to her memories of growing up in the care system, to a forgotten love of George Formby, the archive inspires a fascinating conversation.
    This episode includes historical interviews that express the language and opinions of people recorded at that time.
      
    Recordings in the episode in order of appearance: 
    A selection of phrases from the British Library’s The Evolving English WordBank. This is a collection of words and phrases, contributed by visitors to the Library’s Evolving English exhibition in 2010/11 who were asked to submit a word or phrase they felt was somehow ‘special’ in their variety of English.   
    1 - Barmpot - someone who’s very silly (Glasgow)  
    British Library shelfmark: C1442/1118 
    2 - Get the messages - to go shopping (Northern Ireland, County Down)  
    British Library shelfmark: C1442/05498 
     3 - As wick as a flea - as bright as a button (Oldham, Lancashire) and Dead Hook - a villain (Oldham, Lancashire)  
    British Library shelfmark: C1442/6017 
     
    A conversation about adoption between Swazi and her youngest son Khushbir. The recording was made as part of the Listening Project for the BBC in 2017 © BBC.  
    British Library shelfmark: C1500/1394/01 
     
    An interview with Joe Baxter speaking in 1992 about Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne and the area’s redevelopment in the 1970s with the construction of the Byker Wall.  This was recorded by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and was digitised as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project.  
    British Library shelfmark: UTWAM011/3 
      
    Sally Poole remembering her childhood in Kent as captured by the BBC in 1999 © BBC, recorded as part of the Millennium Memory Bank.
    British Library shelfmark: C900/07623 
     
    A conversation recorded in 1978 between two women, Maureen and Pam, shortly after moving into high rise council houses in London. This interview is from a radio series created by the Inner London Education Authority and the BBC. It was found in the London Metropolitan Archives and was digitised as part of the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project.  
    British Library shelfmark: ULMA005/13 
     
    Ilkley Moor baht'at recorded by the BBC in 1940 
    British Library shelfmark: C604/111 C1-9 

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
26 Ratings

26 Ratings

123XYZcvdetp ,

Brilliant!

What’s it really like to be a performance poet? And more!

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A fascinating listen!

Fab!

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