These 301 hours of dialogue are the product of The Listening Project, an ambitious partnership between the British Library, BBC Radio 4 and BBC local and national radio stations which launched last year. The Listening Project, which launches its fourth series today, asks people up and down the country to share their thoughts and feelings in a recorded conversation on a subject of their choice. Extracts from the conversations are then broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (and on BBClocal and national radio) and the full recordings are archived as part of the British Library’s Oral History collections, and from today, are made available on the British Library’s Sounds website for researchers around the world.
Over 700 people have taken part so far, with participants spanning generations (the oldest speaker is 85 years old, the youngest is 8) and coming from diverse starting points, with people connected by family ties, careers or friendships, by their passion for music or comedy and even from a shared experience like the Olympics or the 1984 miner’s strike.
As well as offering future generations a unique picture of our lives in 2013, it is anticipated that The Listening Project archive will be extremely valuable as a resource for social and linguistic research. As the dataset grows and conversations continue to be added, it will be possible to use the recordings for investigating language change over time, for example, or to look at how voices vary across geographic and social space by analysing differences in speech according to age, gender, ethnicity or location.
“Most of the oral history collections here at the British Library comprise interviews with older people reflecting at length on their lives. The Listening Project conversations are rather different: they tell us a great deal about relationships and inspirations, families and friendships, and what matters to people in Britain today. It’s especially interesting to hear from younger people whose voices are often missing from our archives, We’re welcoming these new recordings into the British Library’s oral history collections for perpetuity, and onto our Sounds website where they can be accessed in full all around the world ”, says Rob Perks, Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library.
Tony Phillips, Commissioning Editor at Radio 4 says: “BBC Radio 4, the Nations and Local Radio couldn’t be more delighted that the Listening project and its hundreds of participants to date are now being added to the British Library’s impressive archive – it’s a huge privilege to be part of such a gift for future generations.”
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