About the Collection
The History Project interview recordings were the first major oral history project of its kind to record the working lives of professionals who had contributed to the growth and success of Britain's film, theatre, television and radio industries. With approximately 800 interviews recorded to date, and drawn from the experiences of a diverse group of creative and technical talents, our Interview Collection has become an exceptional and highly-respected national resource. You can either browse through the Gallery View or use the Index View of the Collection.
Unlike any other archive available in the UK, the History Project archive is truly multi-disciplinary, consisting of interviews with professionals from across the various roles, trades, and sectors of the cinema, theatre, broadcast and digital media industries. This uniquely valuable collection of the voices of practitioners across a wide range of craft and skills includes the voices of many who cannot be heard anywhere else. Famous voices in the collection include Lindsay Anderson, David Attenborough, Richard Attenborough, Sidney Gilliat, Sheila Hancock, David Puttnam, Karel Reisz, Wolfgang Suschitzky, and many more.
Widely regarded as the largest oral history archive of its kind on the working heritage of Britain's multi-industry media sector, the Collection is a formidable challenge to maintain and manage as it comprises a mixture of audio recording and video recordings across various formats, reflecting the developments in technology and recording formats over the last thirty years. Interviews are currently being re-indexed and compiled into the new database. Please note that the database includes records of interviews that have not yet been uploaded or updated.
As the Collection continues to grow, we remain determined to ensure that the stories, insights and experiences of this part of our cultural and economic history is available to be shared as part of our national legacy.
The earliest interview recordings, made between 1987 and 2000, were on cassette tape; hereafter, some recordings were made on semi-professional Mini DV Cam and professional Mini-Disc recorder (presented by Sony). From 2003 onwards, almost all recordings have been made on video, with developments in media technology being reflected in the wide range of formats of our recordings. However, where possible, all recordings are now, by default, on HD video. Anyone can nominate a potential interviewee (including professionals who wish to nominate themselves) by contacting Sue Malden, the Project Secretary.
The recordings are stored in the BFI with a back-up copy at BECTU’s Head Office. The BFI arranges access to the recordings, and to transcripts where these exist, for research purposes. We answer history-related enquiries from television and radio programmes, and for films, books, academic research, exhibitions, and festivals. We have also worked with the University of East Anglia, BAFTA, the David Lean Centre, BUFVC, the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema at Exeter University, and the Cinema and TV Research Institute at De Montfort University.
Interviews are currently being re-indexed and compiled into the new database. Please note that the database includes records of interviews that have not yet been uploaded or updated. You can explore our interviews in our Collection Gallery.
Accessing the Collection
Access to our Interview Collection is free for personal, educational, and non-commercial use as we provide it as a service for the educational, social, and cultural benefit of the public. For all other intended uses, please see our terms and conditions or contact the Secretary, Sue Malden.
We recognise that users' requirements may differ, so we've provided several different ways to explore our interview collection:
- Index View - to see a complete listing of all interviewees, by name
- Gallery View - visual search using interviewee portraits
- Browse Buttons - enabling users to page forward or back through the collection, by interviewee surname.
- Search - conduct searches and use filter criteria to find relevant interviews
The interview profiles, including those with accompanying short, sample audio or video files, are accessible by all site visitors. Browse the full collection here.
Master tapes are deposited with the BFI National Archive. To search for all material held at BFI, use BFI Collections Search. To request access to material at the BFI National Archive, contact the Archive Viewing Service. Security copies are stored at BECTU Head Office. For any commercial use, please contact the Project Secretary Sue Malden.
A National Legacy
Maintaining this collection - regarded as the largest oral history archive of its kind on the working heritage of Britain's multi-industry media sector - is a formidable challenge as the Collection comprises a mixture of audio recording and video recordings across various formats, reflecting the developments in technology and recording formats over the last thirty years.
Thanks to our working relationships with our Partners, some, but, sadly, all too few of our interview recordings have had the benefit of being digitised and transcribed (both costly in terms of time and financial expense). Some recordings have been transcribed by the British Cinema History Project at the University of East Anglia, and excerpts from other participants may be found on the BFI’s Screenonline website, and the BUFVC Newsreel project.
We continue to work diligently to ensure that these priceless interviews are properly archived as part of our cultural legacy and made available to share, for the benefit of all, including students, researchers, filmmakers and the general public. Work is being undertaken to ensure that the recordings, past, present and future, are maintained in appropriate digital archive formats for future preservation. To this end, this website is merely the publicly visible part of a larger ongoing project; to create a fully searchable, interactive online digital archive of our entire interview collection, so that it can continue to be maintained and developed for the benefit of current and future generations.
We are determined to ensure that the stories, insights and experiences of this part of our cultural and economic history is available to be shared. Therefore, digitising, transcribing, and fully indexing our interviews are ongoing projects that remain among our key priorities in the continuing development of our archives.
The History Project is entirely reliant on its volunteers to help nominate interviewees, conduct research, produce interviews, transcribe, index, and manage the digital archive. Offers of help are always welcome, and further information on how to become involved in the History Project is available in our Membership section.
If you have any queries or would like to find out more, please contact Sue Malden, the Project Secretary.
The British Entertainment History Project (History Project) is a living archive for the stories and experiences of those who have chosen to share memories of their personal and professional lives. Out of respect to our participants, and to provide context for what may be said, the recordings are generally unedited and provided in their entirety, though, occasionally, minor redactions have been made at the request of the interviewee.
The views and opinions expressed by interview participants are obviously personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the History Project or any of its volunteers, employees or representatives. The History Project make no warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the interviews and expressly disclaim any liability therefrom.