Audio Archives

Off the Page

Person Describing Archive

Celyn Harding Jones (2010); Chelsea Obodoechina (2020)

Is this primarily a poetry audio site?


Sponsoring Person or Institution

University of Southampton, The British Academy, EPrints

Site URL

Site Last Updated
Date Visited


General Description of Archive

This is an online archive of British poets reading their work from the 1960's to today. A range of reading and poetry styles are represented, with the attempt to study the value of performance. All recordings are live, and attempt to retain all introductions, explanatory remarks, audience interruptions, etc. The recordings are not in full: three poems from each reading have been excerpted and put online. There are also links to other sound/poetry recordings, historical resources, etc. (These are very vague and don't relate specifically to readings).


UPDATE (Chelsea Obodoechina): Link is no longer functional and website appears to be down. To view this archive, visit

Description of archive history or URL

Created at the University of Southampton from funding from the British Academy, carried out by Peter Middleton, Nicky Marsh an Victoria Sheppard. Material was digitised, for computer-based analysis (spectrographic sound analysis) but also uploaded online to reach a larger public interested in the history of poetry readings.

Contact information

English Department, Humanities, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK,

Searchable options

You can browse lists organized by poet, date, location, event. (always shown on left side bar). Search options are available: enter a search term (Title, Poet, date) with the option to Match All, or Match Any; Full Text/Title/Poets/Date (match all, match any); Poet (match all, match any); Date or date range; Order the results by: year, author's name, by title.

Relation from the audio to the text

unfortunately, none.

Date/Time/Length/Context info about the audio items

Author's name, date, poem title and extract are indicated, but nothing else is given. Even when the recordings are organized by an event (poetry reading festival, or series) it won't be mentioned unless you have browsed to the recording through the Event browsing list. (eg. When searching by Event, you find Edwin Morgan's 2 poems, and the title of the recordings will be Event: Edinburgh International Festival, then it will list both of Edwin Morgan's poems. When searching just by Poet, the page's title will read Poet/Reader: Edwin Morgan and does not mention the festival at which the two poems were read). The same applies for the Location browsing option.

Author bios and context within literary history

None, unfortunately. Many of these poets are reading live at particular readings or events, and no information about other readers, or the event are given. Big loss, especially if this site claims to be interested in the history of poetry readings.

Audio file type: streaming, download, file format, audio file compression quality (WAV, MP3, bitrate)

The poems are in MP3 format. streaming


UPDATE (Chelsea Obodoechina): Audio was not archived by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

Multimedia integration (pictures, video, etc.)


Audio playback setup (opens in Flash player, on new blank screen, etc.)

The play back bar opens in a new black screen.

Mobile access (i.e. accessible on smart phones, tablets, etc.)

UPDATE (Chelsea Obodoechina): Mobile access is possible through Internet Archive Wayback Machine, but audio was not archived.


Browsing is simple and easy, as there are clear categories (poet, date, location, event) to search by. However, not all of the recordings are shown in each category (for example, if the location is unknown, the recording will now be shown in the Location section).

Discovery features (pre-made playlists; dynamic lists: lists of recent additions, featured items, related items, etc).
Interactivity and Web 2.0 features


Other notes

This is an interesting site because its aims ( are similar to ours. They hope to build an archive available to the public; they claim they want to focus on the history of live poetry readings; and attempt to document the history of British poets from 1960's onwards. This is a good example of a project falling short of its potential--while the site offers the recordings, oversights with categorization and a lack of documentation of the history of these recordings (as well as no regard to new digitial technological possibilities) keep this site from achieving a status of invaluability.