Five films with analogue audio formats at their heart

International version of Maxell Tapes ‘Break the Sound Barrier’ TV commercial.

Here at the North West HUB of the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, we’re so into our analogue audio formats that it’s our mission to preserve, digitise, catalogue and share them. We’re set up to digitise 1/4 inch open reel tape, audio cassette, mini and micro cassette and transfer DAT, CD and MiniDisc.

Now sit back, relax and look as cool as Bauhaus front man Pete Murphy whilst the flying ducks are blown off the wall. Here’s a list of 5 films to watch that feature analogue audio as an integral part of each character’s journey.

Trick or Treat (1986)

Trailer for Trick or Treat (1986)

With a title like Trick or Treat you might expect a slasher film of the video nasty era. Instead we find a funny high school yarn spun from the discovery of a hidden message recorded backwards in a recently deceased heavy metal star’s final record. The high school student who discovers the message then receives instruction direct from his hero when playing the record to take revenge on his classmates who have bullied him for his love of metal fandom. This escalates when an electrical surge to the record player brings his beloved metal icon back to life, in time to play one more Halloween show.

The film plays heavily upon the contemporary distrust (particularly from the American Christian right) of heavy metal music influencing children of the 1980s and the media fascination of hidden ‘backmasked’ messages. To have such a satire buried with a vhs box title and cover that would perpetuate the fear of such groups is itself part of the joke (see also with Ozzy Osbourne taking a small part as a TV preacher).

Baby Driver (2017)

A divisive film in my household, this is as close as you can get to a bank heist musical. With the constant infectious rhythms of an iPod playlist to distract the lead character Baby’s tinnitus, he drums, dances and high speed races his way through all sorts of criminal shenanigans. Yes, it may be the MP3 of the digital world signified by his white Apple headphones but the analogue cassette is at the heart of the film’s narrative.

A suitcase full of childhood mixtapes is the first clue to his attachment to analogue audio as medium for revisiting his childhood memories. Flashbacks triggered by audio tape show his professional musician mother singing to him, unsubtly signifying the loss of both his hearing and family. Indeed retrieving this audio cassette goes on to be a crucial motivation to the final third of the film.

Clip from Baby Driver (2017) of Baby creating analogue samples and recording to audio cassette.

The Lives of Others (2006)

Trailer for The Lives of Others (2006)

In this film secret audio recording is shown to be the key tool in the East Germany secret police’s surreptitious mass surveillance of its citizens. With a Stasi officer bugging and blackmailing the partner of a prominent playwright, a dilemma unfolds with devastating consequences. The main actor Ulrich Mühe (who sadly died just after the film won Best Foregn Language Film at the 2007 Oscars) didn’t need to look far to gain inspiration for the part. He himself was under surveillance from his ex-wife and fellow actors with the East Berlin theatre.

See also the excellent TV series Deutschland 83 / Deutschland 86 ( available on 4oD in the UK). The second series includes a story line where secret messages are recorded, hidden within popular music cassettes and passed to loved ones across the wall.

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Trailer for Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Toby Young’s character, Gilderoy, starts a job as a Sound Engineer on a 1970s Italian horror film using various analogue recording techniques to create foley sound, such as witches’ hair being pulled out and demonic vocal effects. In the sound studio we see all manner of cabbages, marrows and chains used for the foley effects but we rarely see the film they are syncing the sounds to. This leaves the worst to our imaginations as we watch the first shocked reactions on the face of the sound engineer become increasingly desensitised. A creepy and clever film with experimental flourishes that play with the very formats themselves.

Notes on Blindness (2016)

Trailer for Notes on Blindness (2016)

My favourite film from this list is an astonishing creative documentary with all audio from the recorded diaries and precious family memories of the late academic John M. Hull. Actors recreate the filmmakers’ interpretation of scenes via lipsync to the original audio. This real life story follows the writer and theologian as he becomes blind after years of deteriorating vision and the impact on his professional and family life. The audio diaries form a rich legacy and affecting record of their intimate lives.

The film also sparked an award winning VR project based on John’s sensory and psychological experience of blindness.

This list included no cinematic car tape deck scenes so here’s a YouTube compilation of them. What scenes/films would you add? (comments below)

Compilation of car tape-deck scenes in American movies 1980-2009 by YouTube user


You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Club Cheoil Community

Artwork for Club Cheoil logo M836/1/5 Club Cheoil

Here at the North West Hub I am focused on working with the next collection for digitisation and cataloguing. Club Cheoil contains recordings of Irish music performances and sessions across Manchester. I know little about this scene and will be relying on internet research to learn more. Fortunately there is also a box and ring binders of material to accompany the cassettes; this will also be invaluable to me when cataloguing this collection.

Club Cheoil was formed on 6 March 1991 at the then Manchester Polytechnic. This voluntary organisation was dedicated to promoting traditional Irish music and the young musicians who were part of that scene, many of whom were 2nd and 3rd generation Irish Mancunians.

CLUB Cheoil started as a way of welcoming Irish students new to Manchester with Irish-themed concerts and events organised by student Mike Walsh from Glengarriff County Cork. When Lynne Percival became involved it quickly developed a more traditional focus showcasing young local musicians who provided support for well-known Irish artists in concert, in the form of duo’s, trio’s and groups. In addition to well-known players, young musicians from Ireland were welcomed, as well as students studying in Manchester, to take part in the regular festivals twice a year bringing the great joy of Irish music to a wider audience.

Update from Lynne Percival, 11 September 2019

I have read that Manchester is home to one of the largest Irish communities in the country, with a large festival held in the city every year.

For me this whole project is a fantastic idea; a local community celebrating and supporting their talented young musicians striving to keep their musical heritage alive. As I currently volunteer with a community organisation, I was keen to see how this project developed.

Club Cheoil flyer for gig at the Frog and Bucket, Manchester, 1995 M836/1/4 Club Cheoil

After promoting a range of gigs, sessions and workshops across Manchester, the Club then worked on a project to bring together all the various groups and musicians in a recording studio for a CD, called ‘In Safe Hands’. From my own personal experience I could see how this project grew through the energy and enthusiasm of all involved. A live concert was planned as part of a BBC ‘Music Live’ event. On 21 May 1997 the musicians performed in the Library Theatre, Manchester – the basement of the building where our Hub is based! The Club Cheoil collection contains both the CD and the recording of the live event.

‘In Safe Hands’ CD and cassette of live recording of In Safe Hands concert, held at the Library Theatre, Manchester on 21 May 1997 Club Cheoil
Extract of live recording of the ‘In Safe Hands’ concert. At the start of his set fiddle player Des Donnelly introduces and plays ‘The Second Star’ and ‘The Mason’s Apron’. (CHEOIL/27)

The ‘In Safe Hands’ project was obviously very successful and it appears that the Club Cheoil community were keen to build on this success. Around this time the Club started to investigate external funding to develop an archive, as well as building on their links with Manchester Central Library, where the archive was to be deposited.  A call out was made to the wider community for donations of material, such as photographs, newspaper cuttings and publicity material.

The ring binders contain this donated material, including flyers for various sessions. Luckily, I have been able to match a number of these flyers to the recordings on cassette. I have been able to clarify what has been written on cassette inlay cards, such as locations for sessions and the names of some of the musicians involved.

Club Cheoil flyer for gig at Band on the Wall, Manchester 1998 M836/1/5 Club Cheoil
Brochures for Manchester Irish Festival, 1998 and 1999 featuring Club Cheoil events M836/1/5 Club Cheoil

I also found a flyer for an event on 14 March 1998 at MANCAT Arts Centre for the launch of the Irish traditional music archive. A couple of the cassettes have MANCAT written on them and I wondered what the connection was. I discovered that Club Cheoil co-ordinator Lynne Percival was also a tutor at MANCAT and made a short radio programme about the project.

Club Cheoil flyer for the Irish Traditional Music Archive Launch event at MANCAT Arts Centre, 1998 M836/1/5 Club Cheoil
Extract of a Manchester College for Arts and Technology (MANCAT) radio broadcast. Two presenters introduce Lynne Percival, a tutor at the college’s Centre for Music and Performance Skills.  Lynne introduces a track by Michael McGoldrick, afterwards she talks about Michael and the other young musicians in Manchester. Lynne goes on to talk about the development of an archive to be housed in Central Library. She signs off by mentioning upcoming sessions in Manchester and that MANCAT Arts Centre hosts events for Club Cheoil. (CHEOIL/8)

Another aspect which Club Cheoil explored for their growing archive collection was in conducting oral history interviews with older members of the community. A number of interviewees share their memories of the musical heritage in their family; how they first learnt their instruments and played in bands, along with personal experiences of performing in sessions held across Manchester.

Regina Grainger talks about growing up with her musical family in Ireland. (CHEOIL/34)
Fiddle player Bernard O’Reilly talks about the tunes he brought over to Manchester from Ireland. (CHEOIL/4)
Bernard O’Reilly plays a short extract from a set of tunes. (CHEOIL/4)
Kathleen Houldsworth reminisces about her musical family and how she “grew up in the Irish tradition from birth”.  (CHEOIL/38)

This rich collection contains a wealth of information which I am sure will be of interest to many people, from music fans to academics. I also feel this archive could perhaps inspire other community groups to think about preserving their own heritage and their legacy.

The Archives and Records Association (ARA) has a Community Archives and Heritage Group. This active group has a website with range of resources on making collections available; an annual conference and their annual awards celebrate innovative and creative volunteer run projects across the country. Each year an issue of the ARA’s ARC Magazine is devoted to the Community Archives and Heritage Group. The edition features articles on amazing projects that bring local histories to life, often from different perspectives and with different narratives.

I volunteer with Writing on the Wall, an arts and literature organisation committed to equality and diversity. Since 2014 I have been involved with the Great War to Race Riots project. Our group initially catalogued and digitised the archive of correspondence relating to men who were stranded in Liverpool in 1919. After some reading and research to give us a greater understanding of the content of these letters we then held a series of workshops open to the public to develop a creative response, from making poppies to poetry. After enthusiastic responses we sought ways for the project to continue. The next stage was a partnership with the Geography department at the University of Liverpool. Here we created maps showing the locations mentioned in the archive documents and even created a walking tour. The archive is now publicly available at Liverpool Record Office.

Vicki Caren, Cataloguing Manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage North West Hub, based in Archives+, Manchester Central Library.

You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.


Heyday of cinema

I am a bit of a film fan; I subscribe to a monthly film magazine and have two loyalty cards for cinema chains in the city centre. So I was really looking forward to listening to the oral history interviews from the North West Film Archive (NWFA).

The NWFA is part of Manchester Metropolitan University Library Service. Since its inception in 1977 it has been working to collect, preserve and make available film and video made in or about the region. The NWFA also recorded oral history interviews with people who worked in the region’s film and cinema industry from projectionists and usherettes to cinema owners and film makers.

Outside the Whitehall Cinema Morecambe c1935 or 1936.  Mr Russell-Snowden is on the left and at the cinema’s front door is Maurice Nailor, the director’s son.  (67/3 Russell-Snowden © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

For this blog I am solely focusing on the interviews that chart cinema history in the North West; from the days of silent films with soundtracks on discs, through to the age of the talkies. One reoccurring theme was teenage projectionists. I was amazed to learn that a number of 13 year olds were learning to operate such heavy equipment and working with nitrate film, often unsupervised! I wonder what these interviewees would make of today’s teenagers watching films on their phones?

Interviewees all talk fondly about the cinemas they worked at or attended, even those affectionately described as ‘bug huts’.

Use of Jeyes fluid in one cinema (NWFA/12 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

Hearing about the disinfectant being sprayed made me squirm in my seat! I was stunned anybody would willing go there, but then again I am now used to luxe screens with reclining seats.

At the other end of the spectrum the interviews with those who worked as page boys were quite eye opening. These boys had a wide range of cleaning duties during long shifts. One interviewee, Mr. McClelland, speaks with pride about his uniform and how he ironed sharp creases in his trousers before going on duty. He also shares a little known fact about the page boys – once they grew too big for their uniforms they were out of a job and the uniform was passed down to the next in line!

A studio portrait of Mr McClelland in his pageboy uniform.  Taken at Gales Studio, Manchester 1925. (78/1 McClelland © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)
Mr. McLelland describes how he got the job as page boy and his duties (NWFA/29 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)
Mr. McLelland talks about the page boy uniform (NWFA/29 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

A number of the early cinemas were converted from theatres and that tradition of music hall and variety, which was initially threatened by cinema, became part of the entertainment on offer, including accompanying orchestras and different acts on during intervals.

A projectionist, Wyn Knott, shares her memories of working in a cinema in Hazel Grove, Manchester. She talks about her duties and a typical days work. A particular highlight for her was a visit by Sandy MacPherson, a well respected theatre organist resident at the Empire in Leicester Square.

Renowned organist Sandy MacPherson played in a local cinema (NWFA/27 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

A cinema manager, Renee George, talks about her father’s early cinema career. He began with a film show in a travelling fair before settling to manage cinemas in Carlisle. Using tricks from his magician’s act he would entertain audiences during the intervals in between the films and serials.

Variety acts on during intervals (NWFA/15 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

Then, as now, publicity played a big part in drawing audiences to the screen. We are all used to promotional tie ins, such as action figures, posters, sweets and drinks, even Q&As with directors or cast members. However, I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed the screening of ‘Cat Girl’ at the Coliseum in Southport? I don’t fancy sharing my popcorn with a leopard!

Mr Green and cinema staff in the doorway of Coliseum, Neville Street, Southport.  He had arranged for a leopard to be brought to the cinema to publicise the film “Cat Girl”.  1957. (91/10 Green © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)
Innovative marketing idea from Mr. Green! (NWFA/21 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

Another change that is starkly different today is in the schedules. During the summer months we have multiple, almost hourly showings of the latest blockbuster film throughout the day and night. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s a busy summer season was much different.

Summer season schedule (NWFA/42 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

Listening to the interviews about the more upmarket cinemas, particularly those where usherettes wore evening gowns, I found myself picturing art deco glitz and glamour. This reminded me of the film screenings in the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. Before and after screenings the pipe organ is played from a rising platform as the Walturdaw cinema screen also rises up from below the stage. As much as I like watching upcoming film trailers this seems a more appropriate start to a film given the beautiful architectural surroundings.  I was surprised to discover one of the reels from the NWFA collection contains music that was possibly used as a soundtrack. We are hoping to learn more about this. Please get in touch if you can identify any of the extracts below.

Cinema soundtrack 1 (NWFA/7 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)
Cinema soundtrack 2 (NWFA/7 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)
Cinema Soundtrack 3 (NWFA/7 © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)
Coliseum cinema, Neville Street, Southport. The donor, Mr Green, is standing in the doorway of the Coliseum, c1950s (91/9 Green © North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University)

Sadly, a number of the interviewees also talk about how they never went to the cinema as customers once they left the business. Perhaps because there was no magic as to how these moving images made it on to the big screen anymore?

Vicki Caren, Cataloguing Manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage North West Hub, based in Archives+, Manchester Central Library.

You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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Fight Like a Girl

“She just asked me one day…‘would I like to wrestle?’”

In the BBC Radio Manchester ‘Voice in the Crowd’ series, broadcast 8th April 1972, Eric Purnell interviewed an anonymous wrestler about her working life. We learn about her travels in Europe, the fear of getting into the ring for the first time, and the endurance it takes to train to fight at this level. However, somewhat predictably, we also hear her response to several sexist lines of questioning.

Over the last couple of years there has been a greater spotlight on female-led wrestling fandom and participation. With the success of the Netflix show G.L.O.W. dramatising the actual 1980s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling ensemble’s lives and their cable TV show, there is now greater consideration of the barriers women wrestlers have fought to overcome misogyny and sexism and their reasons for fighting in the first place.

The UK currently has its very own DIY feminist wrestling comunity with the podcast Grap Grrrlz and EVE Pro Wrestling, based in Bethnal Green London, described as ‘a grassroots feminist movement which celebrates women of all shapes and sizes [whereby] wrestling quality is an important aspect, alongside a DIY attitude and a desire for change’ (Metro). Within the mainstream, this prevailing trend continues with the feature film Fighting with My Family (2019) starring Florence Pugh, currently on general release. This film is based on the 2012 documentary about WWE wrestler Paige (Saraya-Jade Bevis) and her wrestling family.

Image of audio recording RMAN-1082 digitised at Archives+ as part of Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’s North West HUB.

This 1/4inch magnetic tape recording, held at Archives+ based at Manchester Central Library, was only the second recording out of five thousand to be digitised in-house as part of the three year Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. The interview is from Voice in the Crowd BBC Radio Manchester series, selected as one of the most at risk audio collections to be digitised at the project hub for the North West of England.

In this BBC radio interview the anonymous wrestler (who later reveals her first name as Helen) describes how at 18 years of age she was still at school and ‘unable to do a handstand’ but after just a fortnight’s training took the place of a wrestler who was ‘too scared’ and had dropped out. Advised that she couldn’t let the public down, Helen stepped into the ring for her first bout:

Extract 01 (First time in ring)
EP: What did it feel like when you stepped into the ring for the first time?
H: Oh!… Every time I get into the ring… I’m frightened to death..every time [extract continues]
Image of Hulme Labour Club, Manchester (m25540)

Helen wrestled in her local area, at venues including Hulme Labour Club and Holdsworth Hall (both in Manchester) and had frequent international appearances across Europe. She speaks of the daily training required and the ultimate necessity with all wrestling training, to learn how to fall:

Extract 10 (Learning wrestling moves)
EP: How do you learn, as a woman, the wrestling game? All the forearm smashes, all the leg locks, this kind of thing.
H: You go to the gymnasium…[extract continues]


Wrestlers often perform as a ‘heel’ (villain) or a ‘face’ (hero), both of which can inspire a passionate following. Here, Helen speaks of wrestling fans that love to hate you:

Image of wrestling fans c.1965 (m07762)
Extract 02 (Ripped up photo, sealed with a kiss)

…or are too scared to talk to you:

Image of wrestling fans c.1965 (m07763)
Extract 03 (Approached on the bus verses the street)

Helen describes how wrestling with her own name wouldn’t attract fans. Keeping with the series title of being an anonymous ‘voice in the crowd’ sadly Helen doesn’t reveal her wrestling identity and instead lists the names of her peers that she admires such as Orchid Emmanuel, Spanish Gypsy and Klondike Kate:

Extract 11 (Choosing your wrestling name)
H: … if I’d seen a bill out… and I’d seen the name Helen… Helen could be anybody…[extract continues]

Image of BBC Manchester Radio announcer’s script to introduce this episode of Voice in the Crowd, 1972.”…This week in our crowd is a rather attractive young woman, who is a wrestler…”


Listening to this 1972 interview today, in the context of the current growth in feminist wrestling is striking. What follows is something of a bingo playlist of questions female sportspeople, musicians, authors, scientists, anyone in the public eye often still faces when lazily questioned within an assumed male norm:

Extract 04 (Not ladylike, rubbish!)
EP: What would you say to women who say it’s not ladylike to be wrestling?
H: Rubbish! [extract continues]
Extract 05 (Kinky vs. women’s liberation)
EP: Isn’t there something rather kinky about two women grappling away in the ring?
EP: Do you think women’ wrestling is really part of the whole process of women’s liberation?
Extract 08 (Eric’s assumption of what boyfriend’s think)
EP: Surely it can’t do much for the romantic side of life for you? A boyfriend may run a mile if he gets to know you’re a wrestler.
H: Boys think it’s fantastic [extract continues]
Extract 09 (My wrestling clothes have been burnt so many times)
EP: If you ever have a daughter of your own would you mind if she went wrestling?
H: If that’s what she wanted [continues]
EP: What do your parents feel?
H: Well they don’t like it [extract continues]

At one stage the interviewer even questions whether she knows all the holds and asks about hair pulling, with Helen simply pointing out that the rules for wrestling are the same no matter your gender:

Extract 07 ( Holds and hair pulling)

Who is Helen?

I enjoyed the forthright and matter-of-fact responses Helen gives. Imagine how tiring it must be, not only to answer to this, but to exist as a professional wrestler within such a persistently sexist culture.

I wonder who Helen was? What was her wrestling name? Where else did she wrestle and who with? Did she have her own gang, as seen in G.L.O.W., who supported one another and met any side eyes she darted? (If you know the answer to any of this please get in touch!)

I’ll leave you with Helen’s explosive answer to the age old question as to whether wrestling is fake and also to her hopes for the future of women in wrestling:

Extract 06 (Is wrestling fake? Are you telling me or are you asking?!)
EP: A lot of people say that wrestling anyway is a bit of a con… what do you think?
H: I don’t think… I know it’s not. How can Wrestling be a con?
EP: Well you get together in the dressing room and you talk over the tactics… [interrupted]
H: [Loudly] Are you telling me or are you askin’ me? [CONT….]
EP: Well it certainly seems to be catching on these days do you think it will become more popular over the years?
H: Well I’m hoping so.


You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Whit Friday memories at the Weavers Factory

Local art gallery plays Whit week memories digitised by Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

We’re really excited to announce our first public event. We have teamed up with the lovely people at the Weavers Factory to mark Whit Friday by playing some clips of local people talking about Whit celebrations a century ago.

Our first oral history collection was recorded by Alec Greenhalgh in the late 1980s. Alec lived in the Saddleworth area and he was particularly interested in older people’s memories of their childhoods in the early twentieth century.

Alec, like most good oral historians, made a point of asking his interviewees the same questions so he could get a variety of responses to any given subject. One of his standard questions was, ‘Now, what about special days in the year? Which would be the ones you always looked forward to?’

Nowadays the most common answer to this question might be Christmas, foreign holidays or birthdays – but most of Alec’s interviewees said Whit week was the highlight of their years.

Amy Lawton remembers her father’s excitement and preparations for the big day…

Amy Lawton on preparations for the big day (MANOH/34)

Albert Findlow, among many other interviewees, points out that Whitsuntide was one of the few occasions when children would get new clothes…

Albert Findlow on new clothes (MANOH/18)

For Phyllis Wagstaff the bands and their uniforms were the main attraction…

Phyllis Wagstaff on the bands in procession (MANOH/29)

One unnamed woman from Greenfield, born in 1893, remembers the sports activities and outings organised for children…

Unnamed woman on children’s sports (MANOH/02)

You can hear these and many more extracts from the collection this weekend at the Weavers Factory in Uppermill, to coincide with Simon Buckley’s We Play In Time and Whit Friday. The exhibition runs to 30 June 2019.

You can listen to these full-length oral history interviews (reference MANOH) in the archives search room at Manchester Central Library. Digitised in 2019 by Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Sound of Protest

Oral histories are interviews with people talking about their memories of things that have happened in their life. They can be about particular events or about what daily life and places were like during their childhood. This can give us valuable insights into the past and help us to see history from a personal perspective.

Through the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, a collection of oral history from the Greater Manchester area is being digitised. One of these interviews is with Benny Rothman (1911-2002), an activist who was one of the organisers of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass in 1932. In the interview he talks about the events leading up to the mass trespass, what happened on the day itself, and the aftermath including his prison sentence.

The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass took place on the 24th April 1932. At that time, it was illegal to go walking on privately owned land and there weren’t public rights of way like there are today. After having encountered aggressive gamekeepers while out rambling, a young group of walkers decided that something should be done. Kinder Scout is the highest peak in the Peak District so it was a prime location to take a stand, and in the end around 400 people took part in the trespass. In this clip, Benny Rothman talks about the decision to have the trespass.

As one of the leaders of the trespass, Benny Rothman provides a behind-the-scenes look at what happened on the day. He describes the scene of the large crowd of trespassers in animating detail and reveals that a third of the Derbyshire police force were there to deal with them! The trespassers made it up to the top despite running into some gamekeepers and held a meeting, which Benny Rothman spoke at.

However, on the way down they were met by the police who arrested some of the walkers. These clips talk about the group setting off for the walk up Kinder Scout and the encounter with the police.

Benny Rothman was one of the six people arrested on the day. He defended himself in court but was eventually found guilty of riot and sent to prison for four months. He was only 20 years old at the time and had trouble getting a job when he came out of prison but he continued to be an activist for the rest of his life. Here, he tells a story from his prison days.

The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass kicked off a movement pushing for better access to the British countryside and contributed to a change in the law and establishing public rights of way for walkers. In 1949, the Access to the Countryside Act was passed which meant that public access to Kinder Scout was finally granted soon afterwards so today anyone can go and walk in the footsteps of the original trespassers!

This blog post was written by Naomi Hall, an MA Library and Information Management student at Manchester Metropolitan University, who is currently on a work placement with Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.

If you would like to listen to the full interview (reference MANOH/20-21), it is accessible in the search room at Manchester Central Library. Benny Rothman’s papers are held at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Women’s Voices in the Crowd

Vicki Caren reflects on some of the women’s voices she has catalogued so far…

I am the Cataloguing Manager for the North West Hub, based in Archives+, Central Library, Manchester. My role involves carefully documenting each collection, from looking at the physical items (reels, cassettes and MiniDiscs) before digitisation to describing the recorded content in more detail once we have digital copies.

One of the first collections we decided to work with was the BBC Radio Manchester broadcasts. This material consists of a range of documentaries, news and interviews covering popular culture, history and politics. In the mid-1970s local producers and broadcasters, Alex Greenhalgh and Eric Purnell, created Voice in the Crowd, a series of short interviews with people from all walks of life; from aged 5 to 91.

Voice in the Crowd booklet

I was keen to see how women were represented and whether their interviews would reflect the gender stereotypes of the time. To some extent they did; such as make-up girl and model. However, there are interviews with women who ran their own business (for example marriage bureaux and fish wife) and interviews with those who worked in what was seen as male dominated professions, such as the probation officer and educational psychologist. Both talk about how the job has changed over time.

I enjoyed listening to the interviews with women who were perceived as leading different lifestyles from the ‘norm’ (whatever that means) and their attraction to their chosen way of life. The pearly queen not only gives an insight into the history of the pearly culture, but also recounts their charitable donations. While the fairground woman describes her caravan and its interior decoration, along with the gold leaf and paint used on the fairground rides. Not forgetting the interviews with those who have simply followed their passion, flying in the face of popular convention; quite literally in the case of the trapeze artist. I was fascinated in hearing how a young teenage girl left home to join the circus and start aerial training.

How trapeze artist got her job (RMAN/1140 © BBC Radio Manchester)

One of my favourite interviews comes from the other end of the age spectrum. The flapper recalls the birth of this rebellious movement after WWI as a reaction against authority. These revolutionary young women sent shockwaves through society for both their looks (shorter haircuts, clothing and jewellery); as well as their behaviour, including pranks such as decorating statues in Piccadilly, London. The latter reminded me of more modern day political protests, although such behaviour is clearly not new.

Description of the birth of the flapper movement as a reaction against authority (RMAN/1198 © BBC Radio Manchester)
Flapper describes the wild behaviour of her contemporaries (RMAN/1198 © BBC Radio Manchester)
Reels, including interview with Flapper, from the BBC Radio Manchester collection

With recent commemorations of the Representation of the People Act 1918, giving some women the right to vote, I was excited to see a suffragette included in the list of interviewees. She talks about how she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union after hearing about the treatment of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. The interviewee describes how she became more politicised and wanted to learn more about issues surrounding the campaign of votes for women. She talks about attending street corner meetings, and meetings in Deansgate.

What made interviewee join the suffragette movement (RMAN/1133 © BBC Radio Manchester)
What the the suffragette was fighting for (RMAN/1133 © BBC Radio Manchester)

Around the same time that I was listening to and cataloguing these interviews climate change protests were taking place across central Manchester, including in St. Peter’s Square. On a number of Friday afternoons throughout March and April students would gather in the square, which is located just in front of Central Library. These rallies saw groups of young people and families gathering with homemade placards and banners urging political leaders to tackle climate change and hear their voices.

For me there was a parallel with what these students were doing and what the suffragette was describing in her interview. I was also reminded of the flapper and the groups of young women who were keen to continue working and did not want to return to their pre-war life. That spirit of rebellion, defiance and a sense of justice is as alive today as it was 100 years ago. I would like to think that the news and social media coverage of the recent climate change protests will be preserved for future generations to look back at to see the feisty, fighting spirit of their ancestors.

Vicki Caren, Cataloguing Manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage North West Hub, based in Archives+, Manchester Central Library.

You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.