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November 01 2017

10:10

'Step Child': a play about the surveillance of First World War Indian dissenters

The British Government promises that all British subjects are equal before the law. But when America begins blocking the growing number of Indian Sikhs seeking to enter the US reneging on an Anglo-American treaty, will the British step in? A British spy and his wealthy Parsi informant discuss the potential revolutionary ramifications if the British do not.

This podcast is one of five short plays produced in response to documents held at The National Archives relating to the experiences of people from South Asia at the time of the First World War. The series was created by five playwrights from the Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA) programme and funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

Written by: Amy Ng

Directed by: Anthony Simpson-Pike

Performed by: Naveed Khan, Balvinder Sopal and Peter Singh

Recorded, edited and sound designed by: Robbie MacInnes

Photo credits: Bettina Adela

With thanks to Iqbal Husain and Sara Griffiths at The National Archives; and Fin Kennedy and Mina Maisuria at Tamasha Theatre.

10:00

'Smile': a play about Indian soldiers at the Brighton Pavilion Hospital during the First World War

Three Indian soldiers recover at the iconic Brighton Pavilion hospital. Every detail is provided for but something isn’t quite right. The soldiers question why the plentiful food and high quality care is served in the shadow of guards and bars across windows. Will they be honoured as heroes as the British had led them to believe, or are they merely prisoners being readied again for war?

This podcast is one of five short plays produced in response to documents held at The National Archives relating to the experiences of people from South Asia at the time of the First World War. The series was created by five playwrights from the Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA) programme and funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

Written by: Melanie Pennant

Directed by: Anthony Simpson-Pike

Performed by: Peter Singh, Naveed Khan, Jag Sanghera and Jim Conway

Recorded, edited and sound designed by: Robbie MacInnes

Photo credits: Bettina Adela

With thanks to Iqbal Husain and Sara Griffiths at The National Archives, and Fin Kennedy and Mina Maisuria at Tamasha Theatre.

09:50

'The Radicalisation of Vir Singh': a play about the challenges of serving as an Indian soldier in the First World War

Arjun sits restless and scared as he prepares to enter the battlefield for the first time. Inspired by compatriot Vir’s legends of mighty Sikh warriors, Arjun becomes resolute in his determination to bring honour to his family. But with false reports of cowardice emerging, what story will history remember?

This podcast is one of five short plays produced in response to documents held at The National Archives relating to the experiences of people from South Asia at the time of the First World War. The series was created by five playwrights from the Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA) programme and funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

Written by: Amman Paul Singh Brar

Directed by: Anthony Simpson-Pike

Performed by: Peter Singh, Naveed Khan and Sid Sagar

Recorded, edited and sound designed by: Robbie MacInnes

Photo credits: Bettina Adela

With thanks to Iqbal Husain and Sara Griffiths at The National Archives, and Fin Kennedy and Mina Maisuria at Tamasha Theatre.

09:40

'Cama': a play about a female Indian revolutionary at the time of the First World War

In a trench in Marseille the loyalty of three Indian soldiers is tested when the legendary Madame Cama asks them to surrender for the good of the motherland. Will carrying on the fight really prove their loyalty to the crown? Or is the battle for Indian independence the real fight that should be had?

This podcast is one of five short plays produced in response to documents held at The National Archives relating to the experiences of people from South Asia at the time of the First World War. The series was created by five playwrights from the Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA) programme and funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

Written by: Sharmila Chauhan

Directed by: Anthony Simpson-Pike

Performed by: Peter Singh, Naveed Khan, Sid Sagar, Balvinder Sopal and Jim Conway

Recorded, edited and sound designed by: Robbie MacInnes

Photo credits: Bettina Adela

With thanks to Iqbal Husain and Sara Griffiths at The National Archives; and Fin Kennedy and Mina Maisuria at Tamasha Theatre.

09:30

'Corner of a Foreign Field': a play about the burial of Indian Muslim troops at the time of the First World War

It is October 1914 and Maulana Sadr Ud-Din is battling with General Barrow, the Military Secretary to the India Office, over the appropriate burial grounds for Muslim soldiers. With Turkey entering the war on the side of the Central Powers much could rest on the decision that is made.

This podcast is one of five short plays produced in response to documents held at The National Archives relating to the experiences of people from South Asia at the time of the First World War. The series was created by five playwrights from the Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA) programme and funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

Written by: Hassan Abdulrazzak

Directed by: Anthony Simpson-Pike

Performed by: Naveed Khan, Jag Sanghera, Sid Sagar and Jim Conway

Recorded, edited and sound designed by: Robbie MacInnes

Photo credits: Bettina Adela

With thanks to Iqbal Husain and Sara Griffiths at The National Archives; and Fin Kennedy and Mina Maisuria at Tamasha Theatre.

September 11 2017

09:30

Unfolding the court case that banned a 1920s lesbian novel

In 1928 Radclyffe Hall wrote 'The Well of Loneliness', a novel that featured female characters in same-sex relationships. Shortly after it was published, the Sunday Express called for the book to be suppressed and urged the Home Office to censor it. Despite attempts by writers including Vera Brittain, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf to defend the novel as a book of literary, sociological and psychological significance, it was banned later that year.

In this podcast, we look at files from the obscenity trial to find out why a lesbian novel that lacked any lewd imagery or language was classed as obscene. Hear what the novel meant to sexologists such as Henry Havelock Ellis; which side of the trial Rudyard Kipling offered to stand on; and the alternate plot lines that the magistrate believed would spare a novel with gay characters from censorship.

August 29 2017

09:30

The Sexual Offences Act 1967. Part 2: Wolfenden's silent women

On 27 July 2017, The National Archives held a day of talks to mark the 50th anniversary of the royal assent of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In this recording, Caroline Derry looks at how the Wolfenden committee (whose 1957 report laid the ground work for the passing of the Sexual Offences Act) barely mentioned women and instead focussed almost exclusively on homosexual men.

09:00

The Sexual Offences Act 1967. Part 1: The lives of men from 1953 to the 1967 Act

On 27 July 2017, The National Archives held a day of talks to mark the 50th anniversary of the royal assent of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In this recording, Sammy Sturgess discusses the lives of gay men in London in the lead up to the 1967 Act: from legal rights and social spaces, to employment and living arrangements.

August 15 2017

09:00

Tudor trials: Confessions from the Star Chamber

Medieval records specialist Euan Roger gives us a taste of the kinds of disputes dealt with by the Star Chamber, one of the highest Tudor courts.

The tens of thousands of Star Chamber records kept at The National Archives reveal a wealth of information about Tudor life. In this podcast, we uncover a few of the more unusual cases put before the King's council, including a murder cover-up, a child maintenance complaint, and a marital dispute.

Credits: this podcast uses an excerpt from 'Stabat Mater', performed by the Tudor Consort.

August 09 2017

09:00

Jane Austen: from beginning to end

To commemorate the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death in 1817, Professor Fiona Stafford delivered a talk on Austen's life and work at the The National Archives, where Austen's original will is held.

Fiona Stafford is a professor of English Language and Literature at Somerville College, Oxford, specialising in Romantic literature from Keats and Wordsworth to Austen. She is editor of 'Emma' for Penguin and 'Pride and Prejudice' for Oxford World's Classics, and has written on many aspects of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature, including 'Brief Lives: Jane Austen'.

August 01 2017

09:00

A tormented Tudor queen's treasonous 'love letter'

In this episode, Neil Johnston and Christopher Day discuss a letter written by Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, to Thomas Culpeper, a groom of the King's Privy chamber. The document was part of a body of evidence collected against Catherine and Culpeper that ultimately led to their execution. It is now preserved at The National Archives.

Here Neil Johnston explains how it is crucial to examine this letter in the context of Catherine's sexual past in order to understand how the queen accused of living "an abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous, vicious life" was effectively blackmailed into a path of action that led to her untimely death.

July 18 2017

09:00

Sexuality under scrutiny in 1930s Soho

In 1934, homosexual acts between men – in public and in private – were illegal in the UK. Police surveilled a number of social spaces across London suspected of permitting what the state then considered to be 'immoral activity' and in August conducted a raid on a venue in Soho called the Caravan Club. Possessions such as cosmetics and personal correspondence were confiscated from attendees and later offered as evidence in court.

Vicky Iglikowski, The National Archives' Diverse History Records Specialist, discusses the content and context of a love letter found in the Caravan on that evening, and considers the difficult position it occupies now as both an important piece of LGBT history and a document that wasn't intended for publication.

This podcast was produced as part of a series where archivists talk about the documents they think you should know about. You can view the rest of the series here.

Music:

'Sam, the Old Accordian Man' by the Williams Sisters

'Night Latch Key Blues' by Virginia Liston

July 14 2017

09:00

Oscar Wilde's trial and imprisonment – a short play

This short play explores the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. In 1895 the celebrated author and playwright was found guilty of gross indecency and sentenced to two years imprisonment, with hard labour. The words are taken directly from records held by The National Archives, particularly the petition that Wilde made to the Home Secretary seeking early release, and letters written about him to the governor of Reading Gaol.

This play was first performed as part of The National Archives;' Victorian Crime night in October 2016 and was subsequently performed as part of 'Museums Showoff', 'OUTing the Past Festival' and a 'Queer and the State' event. Find out here how we brought Oscar Wilde's words to life.

By Caroline Osborne-James

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Lucy Fletcher
  • Oscar Wilde: Gary Thorpe
  • John Sholto Douglas (Marquess of Queensbury): Kevin Chambers
  • Lily Wilde: Fleur Soper
  • Chaplain: Liz Bryant
  • An Irishwoman: Clarissa Angus
  • More Adey: Jon Ryder-Oliver

July 04 2017

09:00

Bombs, bulls and civilian bravery

In this podcast The National Archives' Principal Military Specialist reveals some of his favourite stories about civilian gallantry from the First and Second World Wars, from the bravery of the youngest recipient of the George medal to a bizarre tale involving a bomb and some table tennis bats.

June 16 2017

09:00

'A Bit of a Scratch', a radio drama about the battle against Venereal Disease during the First World War

'A Bit of a Scratch' explores the first recorded prosecution under the Venereal Diseases Act 1917. The legislation was introduced due to the large numbers, roughly 5%, of UK troops returning from the First World War with venereal diseases and to ensure that treatment was undertaken by qualified medical professionals. The last century has seen remarkable developments in sexual health, however with rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections and the emergence of antimicrobial resistant disease, the provision of high quality sexual health services are more important than ever.

This podcast was produced jointly with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH). More information on the issues contained within this podcast can be found on the BASHH website and @BASHH_UK.

By: Debbie Manship

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Stephen McGann
  • Billy: Louis Cardona
  • Edie: Lowri Amies
  • Chemist: David Jarvis
  • Doctor: Peter Wickham
  • All other parts were played by members of the cast.
  • Composer: Chris Madin
  • Studio Engineer: Holly Parris
  • Director: Paul Dawson

Produced by Role Call and iD Audio in association with M & F Health Communications"The British Army's fight against Venereal Disease in the 'Heroic Age of Prostitution'" by Richard Marshall is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

June 15 2017

09:00

Medieval treason and magic

In this podcast, two of our records specialists tell us about treason and necromancy in The National Archives' medieval records.

The first part, narrated by Paul Dryburgh, tells the story of a band of men from Coventry who planned to kill King Edward II and his supporters, the Despencers, with a plot that involved wax effigies and pins. In the second part, Sean Cunningham discusses one of the earliest English language statements in legal history; a tale involving a mole catcher and a magical dismembered hand.

May 18 2017

09:00

'Dadland': the father who was also an undercover guerrilla agent

Keggie Carew discusses her book 'Dadland', a story about a madcap English childhood, the poignant breakdown of a family, and dementia. The novel centres upon her father Tom Carew, an enigmatic, unorthodox character, who was an undercover guerrilla agent during the Second World War.

'Dadland' is the winner of the Costa Biography Award 2016 and a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

April 25 2017

00:03

Black British politics and the anti-apartheid struggle

In 1948, from the introduction of apartheid in South Africa, racial discrimination galvanized the international community into protest. British people and black communities in particular attempted to lead the global opposition against apartheid.

Historian Dr Elizabeth Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London) will discuss aspects of the documents she looked at while writing her book 'The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Apartheid Struggle' (2015).

Please note, due to a technical error this recording ended a few minutes prior to the end of the talk.

April 18 2017

09:00

From the Somme to Arras

Andrew Lock discusses the progress made by the British Expeditionary Forces between the battles of the Somme (1916) and Arras (1917). Although lessons were learned during the Somme campaign, Arras clearly exposed command and preparation deficiencies, leading to setbacks and the highest casualty rate of any British offensive in the war.

March 29 2017

09:00

Bureau-cats: A short history of Whitehall's official felines

Public interest in the cats of Whitehall began long before Larry, Palmerston and Gladstone graced our front pages and Twitter feeds.

In this podcast, records specialist Christopher Day reveals his favourite anecdotes from the 'Home Office Cat' files, including the story behind the naming of Nelson, Winston Churchill's favourite cat; the controversy surrounding the behaviour of Peta, the first 'Chief Mouser' gifted to the UK government; and the verses exchanged between staff regarding the cats' upkeep.
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