Radio Drama: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glamorgan
Department Name: Creative and Cultural Industries

Abstract

I have secured a contract to write a monograph entitled Listen in Terror: British Horror Radio from the Advent of Broadcasting to the iPod for Manchester University Press to be published in 2012. The research for this project builds upon my experience and expertise in research, most directly upon the work I undertook for Terror on the Air: Horror Radio in America, 1931-52 (McFarland 2006): the first full-length study of US horror radio which was researched and written with support from an Arts and Humanities Research Board Small Grant in the Performing Arts awarded in 2004. Terror on the Air has enjoyed extremely positive reviews, being described as 'a well written, highly documented, greatly researched book' (Illustrated Press 342, September 2006), an 'excellent study' (Gothic Studies 9.2, 2007), and 'a masterful' work which 'fills a vital niche in broadcasting history' (Journalism History, July 2007). Terror on the Air has also given me a media profile with regard to radio drama and since its publication I have made appearances on radio news and documentaries for the BBC (World Service and Radio 4's Today programme) as well as on Australian, German, and American radio. My new monograph will be another groundbreaking book this time offering the first full-length study of horror radio and 'spoken word' horror performance in Britain. From experiments in pre-radio audio cultures, the pioneering days of live radio broadcasting (1920-50s), through the era of pre-recorded broadcast drama to the digital audio cultures of our own time, this volume will offer an historical, critical and theoretical exploration of horror radio and 'spoken word' horror performance in Britain. The book will look at key issues such as writing and narrative, performance practice (actor, director, sound effects and music) and reception throughout the history of that most neglected of popular art forms: radio drama and 'spoken word' auditory cultures.

The completion of the output requires research to be conducted primarily using archival resources and theoretical engagement, but as an accomplished practitioner having written and webcast/broadcast two experiments in live horror radio drama I intend to underpin my written research with an element of experimentation within drama and radio studios.

Planned Impact

I anticipate that this research project will benefit three key groups outside the academic research community: the media; organisations and individuals in the creative and performing arts; and the wider public in general. Although radio drama and spoken audio culture is a somewhat neglected area in academic study, it continues to have a significant place in the popular imagination and activity. The publication of my first book on radio drama led directly to keen media interest, including guest-spots and interviews on national and international radio stations (including BBC Radio 4, BBC Wales and the BBC World Service) as well as several programmes in Germany, Australia and National Public Radio in the US. It also led directly to contact with organisations and individuals in the creative and performing arts ranging from professional theatre companies interested in adapting radio drama to the stage. I also developed a link with Neoflux Productions, a professional film production company, which is planning to produce an animated film based on classic radio drama and asked for my opinion as to what might be suitable radio recordings for adaptation. My radio drama research also led to me being appointed as a consultant for Tinderbox Broadcast who approached me with an interest in developing a radio documentary based on my monograph. I was also appointed a committee member of the British Library Archival Sound Recordings User Panel for its First Phase (2005-2007) and Second and Final Phase (2007-2009). A video interview with me about the Archival Sound Recordings has been used on the British Library's website. I have also been contacted by individual collectors and fans of radio drama expressing enthusiasm for my book. As I hope is evident, the impact of my first radio drama book has been tangible and continuing. I anticipate that the publication of Listen in Terror: British Horror Radio from the Advent of Broadcasting to the iPod will lead to a similar impact in the media, creative and performing arts, and the wider public. This is not least because I have extended the range of the research to look at contemporary manifestations of audio culture in our contemporary world as well as maintaining an historical 'long view'. In addition, the new research project will look at British radio drama. As the UK continues to be the most prolific and ambitious radio drama culture in the world, I expect the research to be relevant, welcomed and 'taken up' outside academia. I will be sure to follow-up on the well-established links and relationships I have nurtured with various individuals and organisations.

Publications

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Title 'O'er the Hills and Far Away: The 1812 Siege of Fort Detroit Bicentenary', 
Description Following my work in audio drama research practice I was commissioned by Cardiff Castle to coordinate audio play production to accompany public bicentenary re-enactment 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact This was performed at this large-scale public event 
URL http://tim-riley.co.uk/?page_id=755
 
Title Diane Lake's The Casebook of Violet Strange: The Inseparables, An experiment in the re-creation of live radio drama, 
Description As part of practical research into live radio drama informed by my AHRC award I was director of a script sent to me by the Boston-based Hollywood screenwriter Diane Lake (most famous for Frida (Julie Taymor, 2002). Lake was a listener to our podcasts who was inspired by our all-live ventures and gave us a script, The Casebook of Violet Strange 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact Placed as free download on iTunesU 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/murder-mystery-and-mayhem!/id633557923?mt=10
 
Title Graveyard Voices: Podcasting the Heritage of Cathays Cemetery 
Description Since 2011, the Drama Department at the University of South Wales (USW) has been commissioned by Cardiff City Council to produce public performance work. This has included collaborations in the Cathays Cemetery Heritage Walks. These highly popular community events have taken place for many years but USW was brought in to add a new element of performance: in addition to the local history approach of recounting anecdotes and information, USW Drama brings 'history to life' with performers enacting short dramatic scenes and monologues relating to the stories of the people buried in the UK's third largest cemetery, ranging from the rich and influential, the philanthropic and heroic to the profoundly tragic and emblematic. The success of these projects led to a successful grant application to the AHRC to participate in the 2015 Being Human Festival, the UK's only national festival of the humanities. USW's contribution Graveyard Voices: Podcasting the Heritage of Cathays Cemetery enjoyed high research impact and extensive media coverage and permitted an enhancement of the drama work with original musical compositions played in situ and the creation of a rolling collection of studio and binaural recordings freely available on iTunesU. The projects have reimagined Cathays Cemetery as a space for public performance, creating historical and contemporary narratives amidst the Cemetery's 225,000 tombs. In addition, the podcasts have begun a process of digital commemoration: memory need not just be carved onto stone but alive in the digital realm. In this paper, the speakers will elucidate the Cemetery heritage projects in their live and digital form using particular case studies and performance examples. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This is leading to subsequent projects for Cathays Cemetery in 2016; a similar project for Pontypridd Lido in 2016; and a commissioned visit to the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome in 2016 to scope a similar project there in 2017. I am also working on a commissioned audio adaptation of Dracula for the 2016 Vampire Art Festival in Transylvania. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtQn8pUn0PI
 
Title Kate Mandalov's The Fantastical Adventures of Percival van Cleef 
Description I was director and actor on this production for The Drama Pod, Australia who commissioned me to produce the work on back of my practice as research into audio drama 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2011 
Impact freely available on iTunesU and The Drama Pod 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/murder-mystery-and-mayhem!/id633557923?mt=10
 
Title Puppets 
Description Following my research into radio drama and also Grand Guignol theatre, I was invited to be a voice actor on Seattle-based podcast drama 19 Nocturne Boulevard by Julie Hoverson 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact 19 Nocturne Boulevard is a popular podcast audio drama site 
URL http://www.19nocturneboulevard.net/all_show_pages/19Nocturne/previous_episodes/Puppets.htm
 
Title Two audio plays: The Comeback and Zachariah 1864 
Description Richard Hand's radio play Zachariah 1864 was a winner of the 2014 Chatterbox Audio Theater's feature play competition and was performed as part of the company's live Halloween performance last week. In addition, his play The Comeback came second in the company's flash horror category and was also produced live on air. Tennessee-based Chatterbox Audio Theater is a world-leading producer of live radio and podcast dramas. The Halloween recordings will be freely available on the company's website and on iTunes 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Now have bio on Chatterbox website and liaising further creative writing 
URL http://www.chatterboxtheater.org/
 
Title Wireless Zombies: Lover's Lane 
Description Radio and audio research at the University of South Wales (USW), across a range of disciplines, includes the practical recreation of the performance practices of Golden Age radio as simultaneously theatrical and on-air broadcast productions. For the Plymouth Zombie symposium (2013), USW performed 'Lover's Lane', an all-new zombie radio play in the 1940s style for both theatre and online audiences. In this article, the notion and manifestation of the audio zombie from the Golden Age to the present day is considered. In addition, the creative team provide insights into their respective areas of practice in order to explain how they created a zombie horror play in the 'old style' for a twenty-first century audience. This includes a discussion of: context and writing (Hand); production and broadcast (Traynor); music composition and performance (Challis and Smith); sound effects (Dean); and voice acting (D'Arcy). 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact it was broadcast live on community and university radio and is now freely available on iTunesU 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/murder-mystery-and-mayhem!/id633557923?mt=10
 
Description This grant has resulted in two major publciations. Primarily the award will lead to the forthcoming monograph Listen in Terror: British Horror Radio from the Advent of Broadcasting to the iPod to be published by Manchester Univ Press.

The support from the grant also assisted Hand in developing and publishing The Radio Drama Handbook: Audio Drama in Context and Practice (with M Traynor) by Continuum 2011. Both projects have included research into radio history, radio archives, radio practice, radio studios and extensive interviews with podcasters. Radio studies are a neglected filed and these works have enhanced and expanded the field.

In addition, and unexpected at the time of the grant award, the project facilitated impact heavy research with the live and recorded audio work for Cardiff City Council's Bereavement Services and iTunesU presence.
Exploitation Route Yes, both books are of use and interest to the radio industry and enthusiasts as well as academics. The public project Graveyard Voices in partnership with the City Council is also becoming a paradigm for Impact work.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtQn8pUn0PI
 
Description Yes. Radio Drama Handbook cited and used by professionals and amateurs in audio drama field (including podcast). I have published numerous affiliated radio/audio drama analyses. My subsequent monograph Listen in Terror: British Horror Radio from the Advent of Broadcasting to the Digital Age Manchester University Press, 2014 has been well-received with a great review in Times Higher Education and it led to media interviews such as 2015 BBC Radio 4 Extra: guest panellist on A Date with Dyall; 2015 Interview on Audio Drama production Podcast (12 February 2015) http://audiodramaproduction.com/2015/02/episode32/; 2013 BBC Wales guest interview re 75th anniversary of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds on Good Morning Wales (30 October 2013); 2014 BBC Radio 4 "The Exorcist on radio" interview with Eddie Mair on PM (3 February 2014); 2014 BBC Wales: guest interview on horror radio on The Jason Mohammad Show (4 February 2014); 2014 BBC Scotland: guest interview on horror radio on The Culture Show (19 February 2014). The practical expertise has ramified into further funding such as participation in the 2012 Dylan Thomas AHRC/BBC Collaborative workshop (paper "Under Milk Wood and Aurality" (with Mary Traynor) selected and funded by AHRC). I also secured Arts and Humanities Research Council support to participate in the 2015 'Being Human' Festival, the UK's only national festival of the humanities. Our winning project was Graveyard Voices: Podcasting the Heritage of Cathays Cemetery a live-meets-audio public project which enjoyed high research impact and extensive media coverage and permitted drama work with original musical compositions played in situ and the creation of a rolling collection of studio and binaural recordings freely available on iTunesU. This project was created in close partnership with Cardiff City Council's Bereavement Services and community music organisation Wonderbrass.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

 
Description Being Human Festival
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2015 
End 11/2015
 
Description Graveyard Voices: Podcasting the Heritage of Cathays Cemetery 
Organisation Cardiff Council
Department Bereavemnet Services
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Since 2011, the Drama Department at the University of South Wales (USW) has been commissioned by Cardiff City Council to produce public performance work. This has included collaborations in the Cathays Cemetery Heritage Walks. These highly popular community events have taken place for many years but USW was brought in to add a new element of performance: in addition to the local history approach of recounting anecdotes and information, USW Drama brings 'history to life' with performers enacting short dramatic scenes and monologues relating to the stories of the people buried in the UK's third largest cemetery, ranging from the rich and influential, the philanthropic and heroic to the profoundly tragic and emblematic. The success of these projects led to a successful grant application to the AHRC to participate in the 2015 Being Human Festival, the UK's only national festival of the humanities. USW's contribution Graveyard Voices: Podcasting the Heritage of Cathays Cemetery enjoyed high research impact and extensive media coverage and permitted an enhancement of the drama work with original musical compositions played in situ and the creation of a rolling collection of studio and binaural recordings freely available on iTunesU.
Collaborator Contribution The Council led the walks and we collaborated in the dramatic works and recordings.
Impact Live performances and iTunesU podcasts We are appearing at a conference together later in 2016
Start Year 2015
 
Description Graveyard Voices: Podcasting the Heritage of Cathays Cemetery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact series of public performances in collaboration with Cardiff City Council Bereavement Services
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtQn8pUn0PI
 
Description media interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact 2013 BBC Wales guest interview re 75th anniversary of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds on Good Morning Wales (30 October 2013)

2014 BBC Radio 4 "The Exorcist on radio" interview with Eddie Mair on PM (3 February 2014)

2014 BBC Wales: guest interview on horror radio on The Jason Mohammad Show (4 February 2014)

2014 BBC Scotland: guest interview on horror radio on The Culture Show (19 February 2014)

2014 Interview with Heston Blumenthal on Sweeney Todd and pies on Heston's Great British Food (Channel 4)

2015 Interview on Audio Drama production Podcast (12 February 2015) http://audiodramaproduction.com/2015/02/episode32/

2015 BBC Wales: guest interview on heritage walks and Being Human festival

2015 BBC Radio 4 Extra: guest panellist on A Date with Dyall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2015