The Connected Histories of the BBC

The Connected Histories of the BBC project was a six year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. A team from the University of Sussex with support from the BBC worked to create this website.

It makes available a fully searchable collection of oral history interviews about the BBC. It also provides access to several different collections of interviews, from multiple sources:

  • A significant proportion of recordings and transcripts held in the BBC’s own Oral History Collection, including the majority of those recorded between 1972 and 2001
  • A History of North Regional Broadcasting Collection
  • The BBC–- World Service Moving Houses project
  • BBC–- Horizon at 50, a collaboration between the BBC and the Science Museum Group
  • A selection of BBC-related interviews from the British Entertainment History
  • Interviews from the Alexandra Palace Television Society are also included
  • Finally, it features 14 newly-filmed interviews with leading BBC figures which form the Sussex - BBC Centenary Collection.

Interviews are available in a mix of video and audio-only formats and are normally accompanied by transcripts. Please appreciate that the views and opinions expressed in oral history interviews are those of the interviewees, who describe events from their own perspective. The interviews are historical documents and their language, tone and content might in some cases reflect attitudes that could cause offence in today’s society.

The Connected Histories of the BBC project was based at the University of Sussex. Project partners included the BBC, the Science Museum Group, the British Entertainment History Project, and Mass Observation.


  • The Principal Investigators for the project were Professors David Hendy (2017-21) and Margaretta Jolly (2022).
  • Co-Investigators were Professor Tim Hitchcock, Dr Ben Jackson and Dr Alban Webb.
  • Web development and implementation was undertaken by Dr Ben Jackson and Mike Hammond, with the assistance of Tim Hitchcock.
  • The project administrator was Denice Penrose.
  • Interviews for the Sussex BBC-Centenary Collection were undertaken by Professors David Hendy and Margaretta Jolly and Dr Alban Webb. Filming and editing for the Sussex-BBC Centenary Collection was done by Catalina Balan, Louisa Streeting, Josh Harris, Lee Gooding, Luke Finn and John Hughes.
  • Transcription of new interviews was done by Kerry Cable at Business Friend, overseen and checked by Denice Penrose, Prof Margaretta Jolly and John Hughes.
  • Meta-data development was done by Denice Penrose.
  • The post-doctoral research fellow was Dr Anna-Maria Sichiani.
  • Web text and background material were written by the project team.
  • Helpsheets and training materials were created by Denice Penrose.
  • Additional project work was undertaken by interns John Hughes, Mathilde Davidson, Madhushala Senaratne and Madhubhashini Rathnayaka.
  • Additional technical assistance was provided by Dr Louise Falcini of the Sussex Humanities Lab; and Rob Cooper, Matt Haynes, Chris Newell at BBC Research and Development.
  • The collation and transfer of the BBC’s oral history material was facilitated by Robert Seatter, the Head of BBC History, and John Escolme, the BBC History Manager, who worked closely with the project team throughout.


The Connected Histories of the BBC project worked with four external partners, each of which provided a substantial contribution-in-kind between 2017 and 2022.

  • The BBC undertook the digitisation of all analogue recordings and original transcripts from the main BBC - Oral History Collection, the BBC - History of North Regional Broadcasting Collection, the BBC - World Service Moving Houses Project, and parts of the Alexandra Palace Television Society collection. BBC Research and Development also provided the new Speech-to-Text transcripts that accompany most of the interviews.
  • BBC Research and Development also provided the new Speech-to-Text transcripts that accompany most of the interviews.
  • The Science Museum Group provided interviews from its BBC - Horizon at 50 collection, offered curatorial expertise when it came to featuring BBC-related objects held in its own collections, and hosted public events at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the Science Museum in London. The partnership was managed for SMG by Dr Tim Boon.
  • The British Entertainment History Project – previously known as the ACTT and subsequently BECTU– provided recordings from its extensive collection of oral history interviews, both for the 100 Voices that Made the BBC and this website. Curatorial assistance and advice was supplied by Sue Malden and Mike Dick.
  • Mass Observation provided extensive curatorial support and advice and supported a public event at The Keep. It also covered the royalty fees that allowed us to feature a selection of its archive material on several editions of the 100 Voices that Made the BBC. The partnership was managed for Mass Observation by Dr Fiona Courage.
  • Although not a formal project partner, the British Library offered additional support. Its former Head of Sound and Vision, Richard Ranft, was a member of the project’s Advisory Board and the British Library hosted a public event in June 2018 linked to the launch of the 100 Voices that Made the BBC: ‘People, Nation, Empire’.

Additional Outputs

Beyond this website, the project supported a range of public events, and two further outputs:

  • A major monograph on the history of the Corporation: David Hendy, The BBC: A People’s History (Profile Books Ltd, 2022).

And a series of BBC-hosted websites – 100 Voices that Made the BBC:

  • ‘Inventing the Future’, by Prof David Hendy (curator/lead writer), Dr Alban Webb, Dr Vicky Ball, Prof John Wyver, Dr Rupert Cole, Prof Jean Seaton, Dixi Stewart and Bill Thompson
  • ‘Entertaining the UK’, by Dr Jamie Medhurst (curator/lead writer), with Dr Anthony McNicholas, Professor Richard Haynes and Dr Siân Nicholas
  • ‘The BBC and the Cold War’, Dr Alban Webb with (curator/lead writer), Dr Will Studdert, Prof Margaretta Jolly and John Escolme
  • ‘The BBC and World War Two’, by Prof David Hendy (curator/lead writer) and Dr Alban Webb, with contributions from Lyse Doucet
  • ‘Pioneering Women’, by Dr Kate Murphy and Dr Jeannine Baker (curator/lead writers), Dr Emma Sandon, Professor Helen Wood, Dr Kate Terkanian, Dr Sejal Sutaria, Professor Lucy Robinson, Dr David Butler and Martha Kearney, with additional contributions from Dame Jenni Murray
  • ‘People, Nation, Empire’, by Prof David Hendy and Dr Alban Webb, (curator/lead writers), Dr Jeannine Baker, Prof Jamie Medhurst, Professor James Procter, Aasiya Lodhi, John Escolme, with contributions from Samira Ahmed
  • ‘Radio Reinvented’, by Prof David Hendy and Dr Alban Webb (curator/lead writers) with contributions by John Escolme and Ken Garner
  • ‘The Birth of TV’, by Prof David Hendy (curator/lead writer), Dr Alban Webb, Dr Jamie Medhurst, Prof Helen Wood, Dr Jilly Boyce Kay, Dr Elinor Groom and John Escolme
  • ‘Elections’, by Dr Alban Webb and Prof David Hendy (curator/lead writers) with contributions by Sue Inglish and John Escolme.


The project web resource is composed of two separate components. First, an HTML5 website allowing the oral history collections to be filtered, watched or listened to, and associated transcriptions (both Speech-to-Text and human generated) to be read. And second, a comprehensive catalogue of these materials, including a full index and archival metadata.

The website, and its associated components were designed and implemented by Dr Ben Jackson and Mike Hammond. Additional graphical design work was undertaken by Phipps Design.

The website was built as a LAMP installation, and consists of XHTML, ECMAScript, PHP, MySQL & CSS. It gives access to six types of data:

  1. Programme code used to create the tools that capture, store, analyse, manage and present oral history interviews.
  2. Digital audio and video files containing oral history interviews and ephemera. For audio we use the OGG Vorbis format and provide mp3 versions for older devices; video is in mp4 format using h.264 compression (ISO/IEC 14496-10 – MPEG-4 Part 10, Advanced Video Coding).
  3. Computer generated metadata.
  4. Human generated metadata – records created by volunteer groups and project staff containing transcriptions and additional metadata from a set of fixed taxonomies.
  5. Computer generated speech-to-text transcriptions created by KALDI.
  6. Human generated transcripts of oral history interviews in PDF/A format (ISO 19005).


The Connected Histories of the BBC project follows the guidelines and procedures of the University of Sussex and is subject to the University’s ethical review processes.

The Project Advisory Board and Digital Users Group provided invaluable support and guidance for the project.

Project Advisory Board (PAB)

Prof David Hendy (chair) (University of Sussex)
Dr Vicky Ball (De Montfort University) University of Lancaster
Prof Caroline Bassett (University of Cambridge)
Dr Tim Boon (Science Museum Group)
Prof Hugh Chignell (Bournemouth University)
Peter Collier (ITS, University of Sussex)
Rob Cooper (BBC R&D)
Dr Fiona Courage (Special Collections & Mass Observation, Library, Sussex)
Mike Dick (British Entertainment History Project/BECTU)
Prof John Ellis (Royal Holloway)
John Escolme (BBC)
Prof Tim Hitchcock (University of Sussex)
Prof Matt Houlbrook (Birmingham University)
John Hughes (University of Sussex)
Dr Ben Jackson (University of Sussex)
Prof Margaretta Jolly (University of Sussex)
Sue Malden (British Entertainment History Project)
Prof Peter Mandler (Cambridge University)
Dr Jamie Medhurst (Aberystwyth University)
Dr Kate Murphy (Bournemouth University)
Dr Siân Nicholas (Aberystwyth University)
Denice Penrose (Project Administrator, University of Sussex)
Prof Simon Potter (Bristol University)
Prof Lucy Robinson (University of Sussex)
Dr Emma Sandon (Birkbeck)
Prof Jean Seaton (Westminster University)
Robert Seatter (BBC)
Dr Anna-Maria Sichani (University of Sussex)
Bill Thompson (BBC)
Dr Alban Webb (University of Sussex)
Prof Helen Wood (University of Lancaster)
John Wyver (Westminster University)

Digital Users Group (DUG)

The Digital User Group provided advice on technology, and offered specialist technological advice to support the project.

The Digital User Group (DUG) consisted of

Prof Tim Hitchcock (chair), (University of Sussex)
Peter Collier (University of Sussex)
Rob Cooper (BBC R&D)
Mike Dick (BEHP)
Adam Harwood (University of Sussex)
Prof David Hendy, (University of Sussex)
Eirini Goudarouli (National Archives)
Dr Ben Jackson (University of Sussex)
Mahendra Mahey (British Library)
Denice Penrose (University of Sussex)
Dr Anna-Maria Sichani (University of Sussex)
John Stack (NSMM)
Bill Thompson (BBC)
Dr Alban Webb, (University of Sussex)
Dr Sharon Webb (University of Sussex)
George Wright (BBC)