The Story of Aids: the Unheard Tapes

Man sitting cross-legged on hospital bed.
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Discover how the amazing documentary was created using interviews archived at the Library.

This event takes place at the British Library.

The ground-breaking three part documentary series Aids: The Unheard Tapes was broadcast on BBC2 in June and July 2022. The series used personal testimonies to tell the story of the HIV epidemic in the UK from the early 1980s until the mid-1990s as experienced by the UK’s gay community, tracking a similar time period to the award-winning 2021 Channel 4 drama series It’s a Sin.

Alongside new filmed interviews, each one-hour episode forefronts testimony from the British Library’s oral history collections recorded in the 1980s and 1990s. The documentary uses the audio from the archived interviews with each narrator's voice lip-synched for television by an actor. Sadly, many of the interviewees died in the AIDS epidemic.

This event will bring together a roundtable of researchers who conducted the interviews, surviving interviewees, the programme-makers and British Library curatorial staff to explore the process of interviewing, the selection of testimony decades later for the programme, and the emotion and reception of this brilliant series.

Margot Farnham ran the ground-breaking Hall Carpenter oral history project in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Several of the interviews that Margot conducted feature in Aids: The Unheard Tapes.  Margot will give an insight into the background of the oral history project and her thoughts revisiting the interviews upon the production of the documentary series.

Morgana Pugh is the Head of Wall to Wall West.  She has a background in TV production and was the Series Producer and Director on Aids: The Unheard Tapes.  Morgana will outline the extensive research process for the series and the practical and ethical challenges encountered when using this archived personal testimony for broadcast. 

Mary Stewart is Lead Curator of Oral history at the British Library.  As chair of the discussion she will give insight into the collection, cataloguing and access to the archival material used in the series, and how it sits alongside the Library’s extensive oral history holdings.  Mary also led the British Library team who worked with Wall to Wall TV on approaches to clearing the material for use in the series. 

Credit for the image:

John (Luke Hornsby) in Aids: The Unheard Tapes. Photograph: Production/BBC/Wall to Wall Media Ltd

This event will not be live-streamed.

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Name: The Story of Aids: the Unheard Tapes
Where: Foyle Visitor and Learning Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: From £5 – £10
Concessions available
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
Book now

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