Cotswold Roundabout goes Digital, by Natasha Young

I was appointed as a Gloucestershire Archives trainee in January 2021 under the National Archives “Bridging the Digital Gap” scheme.  My post has an emphasis on digital and technical skills and one of my tasks has focussed on the Cotswold Roundabout collection (D6112).  This wonderful sound archive consists of programmes compiled and edited by the Cotswold Tape Recording Society from around 1960 to 1976.  Originally called Hospital Roundabout, the programmes were designed to provide comfort and entertainment to hospital patients. The scope then widened to reach the elderly, the blind and the disabled, through clubs, homes and societies. .Despite being an amateur endeavour, the recordings were made in a professional manner and the quality of the audio is high.  The content is extremely varied, showcasing the talents of local people and “characters”, from singing and stand up comedy to telling spooky tales.  It also includes people’s reminiscences and unvarnished interviews about local trends. 

Original Cotswold Roundabout reel-to-reel tapes

The recordings are a superb resource which capture much of the flavour of local life at the time, but their sheer quantity makes them hard to present in an accessible way.   Each programme lasts about 45 minutes and there are 130 reel to reel tapes so only the truly dedicated would commit time to listening to each and every one! The format of the recordings has also made them difficult to access.  The original reel to reel tapes were later copied onto cassette tapes and have recently been digitised thanks to the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

My mission is to find new ways for Archives staff  to share these amazing recordings. I have been listening to each episode and editing the interesting, poignant, historically significant , or downright weird parts into short clips, between 30 seconds and 1-2 minutes long. I am then organising these into categories, tagging each clip with various key themes and subjects.  The idea is that this will create a versatile sound bank that Archive staff dip into.  The clips can be used to bring history to life in various ways, for example by adding them to still images sourced from the Archive collections or to soundless video recordings.  This technique is a brilliant way of creating more engaging and dynamic content for social media and digital campaigns. It also allows Gloucestershire Archives to get these audio recordings out into the public eye- or ear!- where they can be heard and appreciated once again. 

And to finish- here are some examples of what we’ve done.

Supernatural experiences

False teeth for sale at the local jumble sale

Hunting for bargains at the local jumble sale

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