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Radio recordings: arts programming

The British Library's collection of radio recordings include a broad range of series and off-off features on the contemporary arts, art history, movements and their exponents.

The post-war years saw the rise of more informal magazine-format series such as Woman's Hour (1946-) and arts review programmes which typically aired live, often with pre-recorded segments. Although these early programmes were not always retained in complete form, hundreds of extracted interviews and talks do survive.

Many complete editions of Radio 4's daily review series Kaleidoscope (1973-1998) are held along with key BBC Radio International series The Arts Worldwide, which featured national and international subjects from the worlds of literature, the visual arts, theatre, music, cinema, ballet, contemporary dance, broadcasting, architecture and design.

Other notable series available from the British Library's off-air recording programme or on request from the BBC Sound Archive include:

  • The Lively Arts (1965-1968)
  • The Arts This Week (1969-1971)
  • Black Londoners (BBC Radio London's Afro-Caribbean news and arts magazine, 1980s)
  • Third Ear (1988-1991)
  • The Radio 2 Arts Programme (1990-1997)
  • Night Waves (1992-1997)
  • Front Row (2007-)

Added to these are a broad range of series and one-off features on aspects of arts history, movements and their exponents.

Other arts-related interviews and talks from Radios 3 and 4 are preserved in the Judith Bumpus Radio Interviews (catalogue no: C798) (late 70s-1995), while the Mike Sparrow Collection (catalogue no: C1248) includes interviews for the BBC Radio London producer’s cinema review series Close-Up. Commercial radio examples will be found among the Stephen Williams (catalogue no: C704), Capital Radio (catalogue no: C628) and other Independent Local Radio collections.

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.

Further information