Lockdown Sounds

At the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project we are now all working from home on oral history, radio and live music collections. These tapes capture our communities in times gone by.

They include much more than conversations – you can hear the cat meowing and brushing the mic and you can feel the atmosphere in the streets at festival time.

All of our lives have changed since lockdown. The sounds we are hearing every day are different now too. We would like you to create an audio snapshot of your lockdown experience by recording what you can hear at home or in your community.

These clips are from Alec Greenhalgh’s recordings of Whit Week celebrations in 1989. The first time I heard them I almost dismissed them as background noise; the tape recorder was left running in between the brass bands playing. Listening to them now takes me to that place and time. I feel part of the festivities.

Whit Walks, Whitsun Procession, Manchester, 1900 Reference m69146

The first clip takes place in a pub where musicians are tuning up and snippets of conversations can be overheard. Manchester Oral History reference manoh/43/1

The next clip is outside, on a road, you can hear children’s footsteps running ahead and feel the growing anticipation of seeing the band as the music gets louder and closer to you. Manchester Oral History reference manoh/43/2

The last clip, recorded in a field, captures the winner of a race and the announcement of the next race – the under 4s potato and spoon – while one of the bands gets ready for their performance. Manchester Oral History reference manoh/48/2

What sound captures lockdown for you?

For example I now wake up to bird song not the sounds of traffic from morning commuters.

What can you hear from your front door, back garden or balcony?

What is going on in the kitchen – new pans cooking new recipes?

Does the bell ring in home school at lunchtime?

Have you become closer to neighbours or nature?

For some people this is a time of creativity. Have you heard a neighbour playing a musical instrument? Or are you a budding writer who is developing the plot of your latest short story.

For others it is a time of reflection. In recent years journaling has become more popular. I keep a journal and have been learning more about audio journals.

Or maybe you found time to start researching your family history through recording interviews with your loved ones and you want to share your findings.

Record a short clip, approximately 1 minute in length, of what you hear or experience during the day. The aim is to capture a snapshot of life in lockdown, not to produce a professional, archive quality recording. There may be interruptions, background noise, anything can happen – just like in life!

Here Mrs. Connolly has an unexpected visitor as she is being interviewed about shopping when she moved to Wythenshawe. Manchester Studies Oral History reference 1103/86/1

Papers are rustled at the start of Mrs. Bennett’s interview about her nursing career and she is prompted by others in the background. Manchester Studies Oral History reference 1103/124/1

Mrs.  Mutch’s dog also responds to the question about food and meals! Manchester Studies Oral History reference 1103/5/1

Keep it simple – you can use a voice recorder app on your phone or tablet, or find someone in your household who can do it for you. Save your file as an mp3 – usually this is the default option.

You can submit your audio clip to us by emailing it to info@archivesplus.org. Please add a sentence or two describing your clip. Include your first name, where the clip was made and what it means to you.

We hope to share as many of these as possible on our blog site, and add them to the sound archives at Central Library – so if anyone else is in your recording please make sure they are happy to be involved.


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


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