Listen up

reel_tape_audio_bobbin_recorder_analog_deck_studio_recording_music_equipment_device_technology_retro_player_electronics_machine_sound_hifi_record_flat_design_icon-512At Wordstock this year, three oral historians are going to reveal how audio recordings can aid writing and unlock life stories. Sue Evans introduces your oral history panel.

Our oral historians are Alan Dein, Graham Smith and Amy Murphy. Alan is a radio broadcaster, best known for his radio programme, Don’t log off. Graham and Amy run the Memories of Fiction project at Roehampton University. They will share highlights from their work and encourage us all to listen harder.

I’ve long been a fan of using a digital audio recorder when interviewing people for a written piece. It helps with accuracy, that’s for sure. But, for me, it has a more subtle effect. It brings out the nuances of individual ways of speaking, a person’s choice of vocabulary and, of course, tone of voice. It gives a truer sense of the person and what he or she is saying.

Alan Dein
Alan Dein’s interviews for his radio show involve random encounters, meeting people from around the world via the Internet and Skype. It started with a Facebook page in 2011 where Alan asked people to “talk to me” and share their stories on his programme. He’s uncovered real life dramas, including a man in Beirut shot by a sniper during the Lebanese civil war, an American who wooed his Russian girlfriend using Google Translate and a man carjacked in Caracas. Alan’s conversations explore universal themes, using social networking to cut across borders and give people a voice, sometimes in countries with restricted freedom of speech. His new series starts on Monday 27 June at 11pm on BBC Radio 4 and runs for four weeks.

Graham Smith and Amy Murphy
How reading shapes lives is the theme of Memories of Fiction, an oral history of readers’ life stories funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Graham and Amy are interested in readers’ perspective and how memories of books are associated with particular life experiences. They interview people about their individual and collective memories of reading fiction, exploring connections between individual life histories and how the same individuals recall fiction in reading groups where memories of reading are shared. Graham is senior lecturer in social science at Royal Holloway and chairman of the Oral History Society. Amy is a member of the English and Creative Writing Department at the University of Roehampton.

At Wordstock, the panel will discuss the value of hearing people’s memories, telling and listening, reading and writing. Graham and Amy will tell us how reading group books are chosen and literary tastes policed, and about different protocols for book group behaviour with extracts from their interviews. We’re hoping for some live action from Alan and to learn about his latest projects. Our voices can be heard too in the Q&A afterwards.

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Sue Evans

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