Voices – bringing sound archives to life

We’ve just announced the details of our next event, Voices, which will see us partner up with The Greater Manchester Sound Archive.

In this guest blog, archivist David Govier tells us more about his passion for sound recordings and introduces the ideas behind the event.

Everybody has an album they can remember giving themselves to completely. For me it’s Portishead’s Dummy. It was 1994. I was fifteen. I got home from Our Price in Dumfries, went to my room, put the CD on and switched off all the lights. I listened to it, repeatedly, in the pitch black, lying on my bed. I still can’t listen to it and not think of that beautiful day.

Sounds get under your skin and into your brain that way. Maybe it’s because they’re literally shaking up your inner ear. They demand an emotional response. You can’t help imagining the scene and feeling what it was like. Here’s Campbell talking remembering a funny scene from Manchester’s gay village in the 1960s.

It cracks me up every time. Quite apart from challenging perspectives on the history of Canal Street, the clip drops us into a space and time and challenges us to imagine it. Listening properly is a creative experience. And that’s why First Draft has been given the keys to the archives.

The Greater Manchester Sound Archive is an amazing collection of sound recordings held at Central Library. It includes over 200 shelves of every format from wax cylinders to usb sticks containing voices from the past talking and singing about their lives in Greater Manchester.

This is your chance to talk back to the archive, and for your work to be added to the collection. Just select a sound clip from this set to use as your prompt, let First Draft know which one you’ve picked, and get writing! Use the clip in any way it takes you.

Many of the sounds were collected by Paul Graney, a folk music collector and oral historian. He knew Manchester from walking the city and talking to whoever he could. He built up a unique archive of oral history, radio and folk music from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Graney taking notes

Graney taking notes

Here is a recording Paul made of birdsong, traffic and church bells in Alexandra Park, just round the corner from where he lived in Whalley Range. Listen to it and put yourself there. What else happened that day? Who might have Paul seen in the park?

All submissions will be archived at Central Library whether they’re written or spoken. A lucky few folks will be invited to talk perform live at the next First Draft at the Castle Hotel on Oldham Street on Monday 18 April from 7.30pm.

Find out more

Find out more about our Voices event on Monday 18 April and sign up to perform!

See the rest of our upcoming events

Follow David, Archives+ and First Draft on twitter



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