Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Social Vandals

@archiveatBBC most of us are aware that during the late sixties and seventies the BBC television archive ran out of shelf space.  Rather than build more shelves they decided to perpetrate the most appalling cultural vandalism and destroyed or wiped many shows that would deprive historians and the public for the rest of human time.

I have my own story about the LBC and IRN archive - a new owner at LBC decided that we had run out of shelf space and that the archive was to be pruned down to just a handful of 'important' recordings. (Familiar story hey?) I along with Chris Lowrie (still at LBC)  and Derek Cole (Now at Sky) were given the task to fill a very large builders skip with archive tapes.

The three of us decided that this would be cultural vandalism.  Derek went hunting around the building and we filled the skip with all manner of junk - old sound mixers even a broken dishwasher from one of the kitchens.  Then we layered a thin cover of tapes on the top - to make it seem we had emptied out most of the archive.

Then came the tricky bit making the archive room look less full of tapes.  Well by shoving a lot of tapes closely together and sliding reels on top and by farming off the whole of the LBC show 'Cinema Screen' to its former presenter - Carol Allen - we managed to pull it off.

Writing this I can still see in my mind Carol Allen's old estate car driving away from the underground car park so weighed down that there were sparks coming from underneath as it caught the concrete floor.

Fast forward to another time and place and our precious archive was now stored at Kings Cross - a bid for lottery funding had been put in to have the whole of LBC/IRN recordings from 1973-1997 digitally archived.  The bid was successful and Bournemouth University took on the mammoth task of cataloging all the tapes.

A few weeks ago I was teaching a student who had a masters in Journalism - I asked what their dissertation was about? "Oh comparing the BBC radio and Commercial radio coverage of the miners strike during Mrs Thatchers time as Prime Minister, did you know there's a fantastic audio archive of commercial radio on the University Library system?

As a footnote 'Cinema Screen' and all its tapes that had been sitting in Carol Allen's garage were lovingly collected by the British Library and now reside in their archive.

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