The Edinburgh Napier University team that worked on the Platform to Platform (P2P) project to transform Lorna Lloyd’s Diary of the war into a podcast series is delighted to have learnt that this work has been highly commended as a runner-up for the British Records Association’s (BRA) 2022 Janette Harley Prize. This prize, awarded in memory of archivist Janette Harley (1951-2015), is intended to generate interest in archives, and raise awareness of research and achievements in the world of archives.
Our commendation was made on the basis of a submission that reads as follows:
We would like to submit our podcast series Lorna Lloyd’s Diary of the war for the 2022 Janette Harley prize. All eight episodes of the podcast series are accessible from https://rss.com/podcasts/lornalloyd/.
We created the podcast series in the first half of 2022 as part of a project called Platform to Platform. The project was supported with a £5000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It extended the work of Hazel Hall between 2019 and 2021 to digitise an archive on a photo sharing platform (Blipfoto). The funding also enabled the team to undertake empirical work to compare audience engagement with digitised archives in two formats: (1) online text and images; (2) audio.
The main content of the archive that we have digitised comprises written commentary on the events of World War II between September 1939 and January 1941, and details of life under war-time conditions in England. When war broke out in 1939, Lorna Lloyd – the author of the diary – was somewhat reluctantly living with her parents in Malvern, Worcestershire after a few years away from home, first as a student at Girton College, Cambridge, then as a school mistress.
Thanks to support of the British Library, FindMyPast, and the BBC, the podcast series also includes contemporaneous news stories from print and broadcast media. As a result, the podcast series presents a chronicle of the early years of World War II where one woman’s perspective is amplified with news content. Lorna’s words give us first-hand personal reflections on particular events. The narrated print media excerpts chart reactions to the same news at local and regional levels. The national perspective is provided through the inclusion of BBC content in the podcast episodes in two forms: (1) broadcast radio news clips and (2) readings from news report scripts.
As well as allowing access to BBC material that we know that Lorna herself heard at the time, the BBC Archive staff also helped us with another key element of the podcast version of the war diary: a theme tune. For this, we were keen to use a piece of music that Lorna mentions in the diary. The BBC Archive staff secured a BBC performance of César Franck’s Symphony in D minor for us, and advised on its use without breaking copyright.
Part of the originality of this work is that the actress who plays Lorna in the podcast series is a member of Lorna’s family. Lorna’s great-great niece Bethany Ray happens to have turned 25 this year, the same age as Lorna when she started writing her war diary. Three other voices contribute to the story: another professional actor plays Lorna’s brother; one of our PhD students is the announcer; and another non-professional (although with much experience of amateur dramatics) plays the newsreader.
The other personnel important to this project has been the production team. Five third year students from the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University – four from Sound Design and one from Software Engineering – have produced a highly polished, professional product that, to date, has been downloaded 17882 times from https://rss.com/podcasts/lornalloyd/.
The empirical work that we have conducted with audience members who are familiar with the archive on both platforms (Blipfoto posts and podcast episodes) is important and novel. This is because its focus differs from that of the limited amount of prior research on podcasting and archives, where archivists’ use of podcasts for outreach is the main area of enquiry. Our interests are engagement and impact, where the podcast is an entire archived data set presented as a performance.
The main findings from the empirical study are that a digitised archive in audio format supplemented with contemporaneous news content:
- contributes to the entertainment value of the audience experience
- makes the audience experience more vivid
- gives audience members the opportunity to consume exactly the same news media as the author of the archived material
- encourages the learning of listeners, with the news content serving as ‘additional references’
- prompts a far greater emotional response to the atrocities of war than an archive digitised in text and images.
Furthermore, the casting of a Lloyd family member as Lorna here adds to the authenticity of the listening experience.
To conclude, the Platform to Platform project has demonstrated the value of the podcast format in unlocking the hidden value in archives, while making accessible a fascinating resource about the first-hand experience of living through the early months of World War II.
The digitised archive in two formats:
Other work by Lorna Lloyd created as part of the Platform to Platform project:
- Selected poems by Lorna Lloyd, compiled and edited by Bruce Ryan and Hazel Hall
Conference presentations on the Platform to Platform project:
- Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised archive set transformed from online text and images to audio format presented at the Archives and Records Conference, 1st September 2022
- The creative use of digitised archives: case study of Lorna Lloyd’s ‘Diary of the War’ podcast series presented at the BBCat100 Symposium, 14th September 2022
Congratulations to the team members who worked so hard on the production of the podcast series: Principal Investigator Bruce Ryan; Co-investigators Hazel Hall and Iain McGregor; student production team members Alex Gencs, David Graham, James McLachlan, Andras Peter, and Michael Suttie; performers Bethany Ray (Lorna Lloyd), David Monteath (Theo Lloyd), Richard Godden (newsreader), and Katherine Stephen (announcer).
The project team also gratefully acknowledges the support of the wider community in bringing Lorna’s writing into the public domain, with special thanks to Jake Berger and Emma Gibbs (BBC Archive); Faith Renger (Malvern Museum of Local History); Marianne Wilson (researcher on the sister HOPSS project); Stella Wisdom (British Library); P2P project board members: David Darlington, David Monteath, Guy Puzey, Sarah Ames and Sue Dumbleton; the Blipfoto community; the project team at Creative Informatics; and the Lloyd family.