A Brief History of Tape Recording Clubs

At one time there were tape recording clubs dotted all around the country – dedicated amateurs would meet and swap tips, exchange recordings, enter competitions and arrange activities such as field recording trips. Eager members would lug heavy reel-to-reel recorders around the countryside, to church concerts, fire stations, airports and carnivals to capture the sounds around them. Many experimented with their recording techniques, putting together their own documentaries, plays or pre-recorded slide-show commentaries. Different clubs would exchange tapes they had produced featuring greetings, summaries of their activities and audio quizzes - annual competitions were organised and regular bulletin tapes were distributed to all members of the British Federation of Tape Recordists - Brit Fed for short.

The clubs had their heyday in the 60's and 70's but had mostly died out by the 80's when people's interest turned toward film and video. By today's standards the production values leave a lot to be desired, the voices are unsure or overly self-conscious and the end results amateurish - but here-in lies the charm. The naivety and innocence that is apparent in many of these recordings is something we have lost through our (over) familiarity with technology.

Archival recordings and interviews gathered from tape recording clubs based in the East Midlands have been worked into a series of radio programmes that have been broadcast on stations around the world. In 2009, images and sound from the archives were also used to create an installation for 'Cut & Splice', a festival of sound art themed around the domestic soundscape, co-curated by BBC Radio 3 and Sound & Music.

To find out more about the individual clubs and to hear examples click on one of the menu headings to the left.


© MMXIV Mark Vernon: All rights reserved