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‘Lost’ BBC radio plays recovered


‘Lost’ BBC radio plays recovered

Wiped audio productions have been recovered as off-air recordings…

Over 1,000 radio plays have been returned to the BBC Archives by the Radio Circle, a group of radio enthusiasts and collectors, made up of reels and home recordings sent in by members of the public.

Carl Davies, Senior Curator, BBC Archives:

“The Radio Archive is a vast and diverse series of collections with millions of recordings from the 1930s to the current day from all the BBC radio services. When new discoveries are found it’s a wonderful opportunity to add to the archive. The Hidden Treasure season is a great moment to highlight the hard work we undertake to curate, catalogue and preserve the BBC’s archive holdings, ensuring they are accessible for our audiences via radio output and BBC Sounds in the months and years to come.”

BBC Radio 4, 4 Extra and Radio 3 will celebrate their return to the Archive with a season of special broadcasts of the recordings, including Macbeth, which when it was first broadcast in 1971 was the first-ever stereo production of the play. The season also includes adaptations of works by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Wallace, Kingsley Amis and JM Barrie. Radio 4 will also celebrate the BBC Archives by broadcasting two plays by giants of twentieth-century literature, Harold Pinter and Dennis Potter, which have not been heard on BBC Radio since their original broadcasts in the early 1980s.

The collection of plays has been gathered by the Radio Circle, who have identified and restored recordings belonging to members of the public. Most recordings in the collection are of programmes which were not already held by the BBC Archives, making this a particularly special discovery.

Steve Arnold from the Radio Circle notes, ‘We at the Radio Circle are so glad to have been able to return these cultural treasures to the BBC Archives and hope that listeners enjoy hearing these slices of audio history. Many thanks to all the members of the public who contributed to this project.’

The BBC Archives have evolved significantly throughout the BBC’s history. In its early days, there were significant obstacles to keeping permanent recordings – including cost, copyright issues, and a culture that saw radio as a ‘live’ medium – but much progress has been made. The Beeb now archives all output from its network stations, and the Archive currently spans multiple collections. The focus is now on bringing these collections together into one unified back catalogue, and the discovery of these additional recordings by the Radio Circle is an excellent addition to this resource.

Alison Hindell, Commissioning Editor for Drama and Fiction, BBC Radio 4:

“I’m delighted to be bringing these rediscovered gems to listeners – there are some very special dramas which I’m sure listeners will love, with great actors such as Denholm Elliott, Bob Hoskins and Roy Kinnear. The BBC has always been at the forefront of audio drama and we’re in a unique position to preserve and celebrate the rich history of this very special art form. Many thanks to the Radio Circle and the BBC Archives team for their work on this.”

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