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Oral history: sport

We have small but important oral history collections offering insights into British sport, past and present.

Collections include:

  • The Oral History of British Athletics (catalogue no: C790) collection is a rolling programme of life story interviews with British athletes. Includes: Jim Peters, Audrey Court (Brown), Steve Smith, Menzies Campbell, Kirsty Wade, Mary Peters, Daley Thompson, Jackie Ageypong, Joe McGhee, Bill Roberts, Robert Kennedy, Sandy Duncan, Dorothy Tyler, Dorothy Hyman.
  • Cold water swimmers interviews (catalogue no: C987) is a series of 15 recordings with cold water swimmers about their swimming routines, made between July 1999 and February 2000 by Dr Susie Parr of the Department of Clinical Communication Studies, City University, London, at seaside resorts around the UK, including Brighton, Hastings, Scarborough and Eastbourne.
  • An interview with tennis player Kathleen (Kitty) Godfrey is included in the National Life Stories project Leaders of National Life (C408).
  • An interview with British Olympic weightlifter Ben Helfgott is included in the National Life Stories project Living Memories of the Jewish Community (C410).
  • Issues of sport and leisure are also a main feature of the Millennium Memory Bank (C900) recordings. The recordings in the Millennium Memory Bank derived from the joint BBC and British Library project The Century Speaks: Millennium Oral History Project. This is one of the largest collections of oral history interviews ever to have been assembled - a unique and invaluable snapshot of how the British think of themselves and their past from the perspective of the beginning of a new millennium. One of the project themes was 'Playtime' which asked people about their leisure activities.

Related recordings

Accounts of leisure activities and sport will feature in many life story and oral history interviews, particularly in those that offer a survey of British life. For more information, see major national oral history projects and surveys. To search all of the oral history collections visit the British Library Sound Archive catalogue.

For more information on current and local oral history projects relating to sport, visit the Oral History Society website.

Accessing the collections

To access oral history material:

  • Search for oral history recordings held at the British Library using the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue (see useful advice on searching the oral history collections).
  • Onsite access to oral history recordings: The Listening and Viewing Service in St Pancras provides free public access to the oral history collections on an appointment basis. Many digital recordings are also available via SoundServer, a computerised listening facility located in the Humanities Reading Rooms.  SoundServer is also available at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
  • Internet access to selected oral history recordings: The British Library Sounds website gives remote access to a selection of interviews from the Library’s oral history collections. Some recordings are currently only licensed to Higher and Further Education users in the UK, others are available for full public access.

Further information

Contact us

Oral History
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Lead Curator, Oral History  / Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Curator, Oral History / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Archivist, Oral History)

External links

The Oral History Society