This week I picked up a brilliantly funny email from the inbox at work. A listener who’d been interviewed on the radio wanted to know if we could help him with a copy of the broadcast.
Now I’m used to this type of request, often from contributors who’ve appeared last week, or maybe last month. But sadly, I was unable to help this guy who’d once appeared on Dennis McCarthy’s legendary show on BBC Radio Nottingham 19 years ago.
If you don’t know who Dennis was, you’re too young to be reading this blog. And I should warn you that there’s an incoming storm of Anorak Force Ten. So turn away now if you don’t want to know the result.
The funny thing is, most broadcasters – when they get their first gig on the radio – tend to keep loads of archive recordings of themselves. And when it comes to archiving, it’s arguably never been easier. Simply copy the item onto a memory stick, transfer it to a storage drive the size of your mobile phone, or just stick it on a cloud. Yet as time goes on, we tend to forget about the significance of saving material which will otherwise be digitally zapped from history at the click of the delete key.
So it’s great to see independent producer and BBC veteran Trevor Dann this week launching an ambitious new project called The Listeners’ Archive. In strictly legal terms, Trevor’s asking people to fess up to infringements of copyright over the years. Ahem, of course, recording for personal purposes wasn’t really breaking the law. And it’s hoped scores of dusty old reels of tape, cassettes and CDs will be donated during October – with the best being aired as part of the BBC’s 90th Anniversary celebrations.
The project will doubtless stir more than a few happy memories for many radio industry professionals, who obsessively taped the Top 40 not for the records, but for the jingles. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll get us all thinking again about the importance of archiving. I know a few people who are still very active in the practice – their spare rooms being a paradise to some, but a curious nerdy collection to their partners and families. Whatever floats your pirate ship, I guess.
And who knows – Trevor Dann worked for many years in Nottingham. Perhaps he’s got that recording of Dennis?