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The Beat Generation: audio and video resources

The British Library holds a large collection of audio-visual material relating to the Beat Generation group of writers and their contemporaries and associates.

The post-WWII 'Beat Generation' of writers, whose core trio comprised William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, was influential far beyond the world of letters, opening the door to the counter-culture that swept through the USA and Europe in the 1960s and 70s.

The above check-list details the complete British Library holdings of audio-visual material featuring Beat (or Beat-connected) writers performing their own or others' works, in interview, or as the subject of other kinds of documentary recording.

There are further details of the selection criteria in the introduction to the document.

The document was created originally as an appendix to a proposed print publication, a bibliography of the British Library's Beat-related printed material, compiled by James D. Egles. The draft text was completed but the book was never published.

All the material listed is available to view or listen to, free of charge, at the British Library building in London.

Accessing the collection

To access sound and moving image material:

  • Use the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue to search for recordings.
  • The Listening and Viewing Service provides free public access to the Sound Archive's collections of recorded sound and video in St Pancras. Sound recordings can be accessed in Boston Spa also.
  • 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.
  • Many sound recordings have been digitised and are presented on the British Library Sounds website. A large number of the recordings are freely available for listening online though some are restricted to users in accredited Higher Education establishments.
  • The Transcription Service can provide copies of recordings once the appropriate copyright has been cleared.