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National Life Stories: Pioneers in Charity and Social Welfare

Pioneers in Charity and Social Welfare, initiated with funding from the J. Paul Getty Jr. Charitable Trust, comprises interviews with key (and largely unsung) individuals connected to social welfare, social policy and charity work.

The interviews cover a broad range of individuals at all levels of the company, reflecting its origins, its growth and development, the shifting business climate, key accounts and clients, its impact in the sector, and the company's unique ethos.

Interviewees include:

  • Chad Varah (founder of the Samaritans)
  • Olive Stevenson (about her involvement in social work and social policy)
  • Tony Lynes (Child Poverty Action Group)
  • Bob Holman (community worker)
  • Des Wilson (founder of Shelter)
  • Mary Asprey and Janet Newman (founders of National Missing Person's Helpline)
  • Lord Joel Joffe (part of the defence team at Nelson Mandela's Rivonia Trial)
  • Mary Barnes
  • Sir Bill Utting
  • Ken Leech


  • J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust

Accessing the collection

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)