Drama and literature recordings

We hold a unique collection of audio-visual recordings of drama, poetry and literature in performance. Material is drawn from commercial releases, private collections, the BBC Radio sound archive and the Library's own live recording programme.

About the collection

The Library aims to collect, as comprehensively as possible, all UK-released recordings of drama, literary performance, stand-up comedy and sound art, supplementing our holdings with otherwise inaccessible audio and video material from Europe and the USA.

Live performance audio recordings include productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company (1964-present), the National Theatre (1963-2008) and the Royal Court Theatre (1970-2013).

Live performance video recordings include fringe theatre and live art from venues including the ICA, Battersea Arts Centre and the Chelsea Theatre.

Literary recordings include the master tapes of the British Council's series 'The Poet Speaks', featuring over 200 poets, recorded 1955-1975; National Poetry Centre readings 1979-1989; BBC Radio readings and critical discussions from the 1930s to the present day; and many live festival recordings.

Ongoing literary recording programmes include collaborations with the Royal Society of Literature, Poet in the City, and King's Place Music Foundation.

What is available online?

Many sound recordings have been digitised and are presented on British Library Sounds. A large number of the recordings are freely available for listening online though some are restricted to users in accredited higher education establishments.

You can also use the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue to search for recordings.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Listening and Viewing Service provides free public access to the Sound Archive's collections of recorded sound and video in St Pancras.

The Sound Archive Information Service is based in Humanities - floor 2 in St Pancras, where books, discographies, periodicals and magazines are available on open access.

Further information

Drama and Literature Recordings
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7447
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441

Email: drama@bl.uk

Follow us on Twitter: @BL_DramaSound

How to guides

How to get a Reader Pass if you are Under 18

How to apply for an under-18 Reader Pass

Find and request Lord Chamberlain's Plays

How to locate items in our largest single manuscript collection

Access the manual of analogue audio restoration techniques

Manual of analogue audio restoration techniques

Search the catalogues for radio recordings

A guide to seaching the catalogues for radio recordings

How to request a copy of a sound recording

The British Library can provide copies of audio recordings held in the collections to users who are able to obtain the appropriate copyright clearance.

How to request a copy of a wildlife sound recording

The Library can provide copies of wildlife and environmental recordings held in the collections, subject to some restrictions.

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms