Thursday, 5 April 2012


Testing, testing 1,2,3.” I intone into the receiver. I hit stop, press play. Words repeated back audibly. Does that voice belong to me? It can't be. It's lighter in tone and could be described as singsongy. To be sure, I press record and say: “'Allo, 'allo. Listen very closely, I shall only say this once.” I play it back, the words spill out low and fast. That's me alright,(who else could it be?) Speech always rushing out, playing catch-up with my brain. It will have to do, how my voice sounds is not important. Equipment tested out, I'm good to go, except I've yet to decide who to converse with? A relative, a friend, or a stranger? Who would you choose to share and record an exchange with?

People up and down the country are locked in a debate regarding this. Who to choose and what to talk about. It's all the fault of the BBC's Listening Project – an ambitious partnership between BBC Radio and the British Library to capture the nation in conversation and record it for posterity. A selection of these exchanges will be broadcast on radio; the rest joining a library of sound. I'm not sure I'd want to contribute my own recordings to it, but I like the idea of preserving life how it was and is today. To be able to, in the future, listen to voices recounting life experiences and family history. Think of how much information we miss in our everyday exchanges. Snippets when your mind is on something else, you're distracted. Inattentive to the teller and the story imparted. Details which eventually end up lost forever.

All of us have a story that's unique. Wouldn't it be great if we could go back and really get to know our great-grandparents and grandparents? Those born to a different generation, a different life. I'd get mine to recount their memories of growing up, work and the war effort. Given the chance, I'd love to get to know these relatives from the past, but even the BBC can't bring back the deceased. As a child, you don't appreciate other people's experiences until it's too late. Taught never to make the same mistake twice, I choose to get to know my parents. Hungry for them to elaborate on what seems like insignificant details. What was it like growing up? Were the 60s and 70s really outrageous?

I call sharing these thoughts 'murmurations'. These reminiscences, recorded or not will imprint in your memory. Head on one side, I sit across from my Mum, “I'm all ears”, I say. As her lips move, I pay close attention to this continuous sound of hushed speech.