The Leonard Cheshire Historic Sound Archive 

By Stephanie Nield​ – Archivist

Leonard Cheshire logo

The Leonard Cheshire Archive Centre in Netherseal, South Derbyshire collects, cares for and shares the history of disability charity Leonard Cheshire and its founder, Group Captain Lord Leonard Cheshire VC OM.

Whilst the charity is non-denominational, its founder and his wife and fellow charity worker Lady Sue Ryder CMG OBE were well known Roman Catholics in their lifetime, and the archive contains much evidence of their faith.

In 2019, we were awarded grants by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Foyle Foundation to save our historic sound collection, which was at grave risk due to technical and physical obsolescence. This project, called ‘Resonate’ saw 256 reel to reel and cassette tapes digitised and then transcribed by a team of digital volunteers. As well as this vital conservation and access work, we produced a podcast and a series of blogs, and made some sound recordings available on our website.

The digitisation was done by an external company, Sirensound who we selected after a tender process. Once this was complete, we did a lot of work to improve the accessibility of the digitised sound files for disabled people. This started with transcription – a transcript is available for each recording and podcast. It also affected the way we chose to present the information online. For the digitised sound tapes, each tape is presented on our website as a fully captioned film, hosted on YouTube, so that people with sensory disabilities can access the recordings. The films were created for us by the company Nutmeg, again selected through a tendering process. For the podcast, we hosted the podcast in the Anchor app, which distributes the podcast to other apps such as iTunes and Spotify and provided a YouTube version as a fully captioned film too. We plan to continue this podcast now the project has ended.

Because of our location in South Derbyshire, and the limits on the size of our premises, the volunteering part of this project was always going to be ‘virtual’. However, our call for volunteers coincided with the first pandemic lockdown, so we were quite overwhelmed with expressions of interest. This soon settled down, and we had 27 volunteers, who contributed over 1,177 hours to the project.

There are a selection of the digitised sound tapes now available online. They include interviews with Group Captain Cheshire and Lady Ryder, and soundtracks of films on both of their charity work by Ryder-Cheshire films. Also included are oral history interviews with past members of staff, volunteers and residents as well as a selection of Group Captain Cheshire’s sermons. They can be viewed online, along with the accompanying blogs and podcast episodes at https://rewind.leonardcheshire.org/?type=tag&s=resonate.

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