Oral histories of sport

Photograph of Sebastian Coe, 800m silver medalist of the 1980 Olympics.
Sebastian Coe (second from left), 800m silver medalist of the 1980 Olympics. Image courtesy of RIA Novosti archive/Wikipedia Commons

Our oral history interviews with sportsmen and women include tennis players, swimmers, and prominent track, field and road athletes.

About the collection

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

Accounts of leisure activities and sport feature in many life story and oral history interviews, particularly in those that offer a survey of British life. This includes recordings in the Millennium Memory Bank, one of the largest collections of oral history interviews ever assembled. Its theme of “Playtime” asked people about their leisure activities.

What is available online?

British Library Sounds presents many recordings from The Oral History of British Athletics. They include life-story interviews with:

This collection includes a five-part interview with Revd Nick Stacey, which ranges across his long career in sport, the clergy and social services.  As with all oral history recordings, the views expressed in the interview are solely those of the interviewee.  In the case of this recording, there are some descriptions of the culture of social services in the 1970s and 1980s which people may find disturbing, and which the Library in no way condones. However, as first-hand testimony of a period in our recent past we believe that it is important for the interview to continue to be available to researchers.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Cold water swimmers interviews is a series of 15 recordings with cold water swimmers about their swimming routines, made between July 1999 and February 2000 at seaside resorts around the UK.

You can also hear an interview with: