By Jingjing Xu, Student Volunteer, & Esther Gill, Project Manager
Over the last month, we’ve enjoyed having Jingjing Xu working with the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project on a short placement as part of her MA in Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Sussex. Jingjing is a Chinese student, studying in Brighton during this very challenging year. Due to Covid19 restrictions, most of the placement has been virtual, and focussed on listening and writing about some of the recordings that the project has been preserving. I was interested to hear her perspective as an international student on the recordings, so I posed some questions about the BBC Radio Brighton collection that she has been listening to. Esther, UOSH Hub Project Manager.
Esther: Has listening to the Radio Brighton programmes increased your knowledge and understanding of Brighton and its past?
Jingjing: Before I listened to the Radio Brighton programmes I understood where certain places were, like the Palace Pier, the West Pier, Royal Pavilion, but I didn’t know the background to the buildings. Listening to Radio Brighton programmes has helped me to better understand Brighton. I feel know more about Brighton than before and have a more in depth understanding. I have learned a lot about the stories behind some of the buildings. For example, in 1980 the West Pier continued to crumble and campaigners carried on their fight and protested about the state of it (UTK006/1043).
Esther: And now we just see the rusty remains of the last bit of the pier!
Esther: How easy have you found it to understand the Radio Brighton programmes?
Jingjing: For some of the simple radio programmes, where you don’t need to know the background, it‘s easy, because when you listen to them you can understand what they’re talking about. But for some unfamiliar subjects, I have found it a bit difficult. One recording that I found difficult was ‘May Morning at Hollingbury Castle’ (UTK006/653-654). I needed to do some research to know, for example: this is about May Day traditions and has some specific religious ceremonies. This programme also talks about a maypole (dance). If you don’t do some research, you may not understand it as a foreigner. For my opinion, this radio is a description of belief and religion I’m not familiar with, so maybe some will find it hard to understand.
Esther: Do you think that the Radio Brighton collection could be used introduce new students to the City’s history and culture?
Jingjing: Yes, absolutely. First of all, these collections are all about Brighton and because everything about Brighton is new to the freshmen, so these radio recordings give us a good idea of the city. My language teacher introduced us to the Royal Pavilion and the West Pier, and told us Brighton is vacation spot, so when I came to Brighton, I was already familiar with these places.
Secondly, the Radio Brighton collection is all about Brighton history. For new students, it is a new kind of knowledge; it can help them to understand and adapt to life in Brighton more quickly.
Esther: More generally, what do you think are the benefits of radio recordings as a source of information?
Jingjing: It is easy to listen to sound recordings at any time and to have them on in the background. We all have devices where we can easily listen to things like podcasts and it doesn’t require too much bandwidth. Sound recordings are also good to listen to in ‘fragmented time’, those bits of time when you are doing other things, travelling, cooking, etc.
Esther: I love the idea of ‘fragmented time’ and how a sound recording can just slip into those pieces of time that we all have.
Esther: Going forward, how do you think sound collections (radio, oral history, music, lectures, performance etc) be used to support the sort of culture activities and industries that you are interested in?
Jingjing: Audio collections are valuable for research and more and more people are interested in how radio collections can help you understand the past. As part of my MA in Cultural and Creative Industries, we have studied how having access to the cultural heritage of a city can contribute to creative clusters and creative innovation.
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a project to preserve, improve access to and raise awareness of archive sound recordings. We have been able to offer placements to a number of students from the Universities of Sussex and Brighton over the course of the project and are very pleased to know that each one has left with a greater understanding of the potential of archive sound recordings. For us, student placements are an opportunity to share our enthusiasm for sound heritage, but also to listen to different perspectives on our work.