Post-War sweets & ‘Unclaimed Babies’

jelly-babies

Writing a piece set in Coventry in the early 1920s was guaranteed to need thorough  research into the history of the city, but I didn’t realise it would also lead me to researching confectionery from that time period too.

After a lot of reading I’ve discovered that this particular decade gave us many sweets we still enjoy today including; Fruit Salads, Black Jacks, the Cadbury’s Flake, Sherbet Fountains and the classic Fruit and Nut bar.

I’ve also learnt about the rather unusual history of Jelly Babies, alleged to have been invented back in 1864 when a badly made jelly bear mould resulted in confections that looked more like toddlers and so was christened with the unlikely name, ‘Unclaimed Babies’. Although this sounds like a terrible marketing move now, historians assure us that back in Victorian times it wouldn’t even have raised an eyebrow:

“Unclaimed babies were a part of life back then – people would leave them on church steps and it’s possible that people even found the name amusing,”

Tim Richardson, Sweets: A History Of Temptation.

There’s much discussion around Unclaimed Babies becoming ‘Peace Babies’ in the 1920s, possibly to celebrate the end of World War One, and there are certainly images of Victorian packaging showing ‘Victory Babies’, along with adverts listing “dollies” and “totties” for sale.

Whatever you like to call them, I’m sure you can guess what I’m now wishing I had in the cupboard 🙂

Resources to thank:

Coventry Colliery

I’ve recently reached out to David Fry from the Coventry Society to find out a little more about the history of Coventry Colliery. Unfortunately due to lockdown he currently doesn’t have access to his postcard collection to share any visuals with me for a while yet, but he was able to share some great information with me and point me in the direction of some brilliant research resources.

Research links:

https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Mines/Coventry-Coal-Mine_8793/

“Wyken Collieries Ltd had started to extract coal from coal seams within the Warwickshire Coalfield from 1862, across three mining developments in North Warwickshire:[1]

  • Wyken Colliery: served by the Oxford Canal, in 1862 the London and North Western Railway built a short connecting mineral railway to its own Coventry to Nuneaton Line. This mine was worked out by 1881
  • Alexandra Colliery: started at the same time as the Wyken, it was also served from the same LNWR railway. Miners moved to this pit after the closure of the Wyken, but it too became exhausted by 1919
  • Craven Colliery: started after the other two mines, it also was served by the same LNWR branch

In 1902, the company commenced trial excavations at Keresley north of Coventry, and soon discovered a viable coal seam. The sinking of a new mine was sanctioned by an Act of Parliament, but not started due to economic problems.”

Above extract from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Colliery

https://www.ourwarwickshire.org.uk/content/subject/mines

https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/lifestyle/nostalgia/look-back-coventry-colliery-12650553

Coal Mining

https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/schoolforcross-facultystudies/networksandinitiatives/oralhistorynetwork/ongoingprojects/binleycolliery/

https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1963/feb/21/coal-mining-coventry-subsidence

http://www.localhistories.org/keresley.html

T glottaling and H dropping

accent

To try and make my story as authentic as possible I have not only been looking into the history of our city but also at how Coventry’s accent has changed over time.

In December, last year, I attended a talk at the Herbert Art Gallery’s Archives with Dr. Christopher Strelluf, a sociolinguist at Warwick University, who played us a beautiful selection of local sound recordings from the archive’s collection so we could hear exactly what Coventry’s accent sounded like many years ago.

accents2

The recordings we heard varied from some very strong accents, that you had to really listen carefully to decipher, to a dialect much closer to the Coventry accent of today, but with a definite Black Country twang.

Dr. Strelluf pointed out particular words, sounds, and grammatical features that are very specific to the Coventry accent in the past and how some of those features still remain in today’s local dialect.

Back in the 1920’s T glottaling and H dropping were very common.

If you’ve not heard of t glottaling before then this video below explains it far better than I can hope to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHaN4jHBGVk

‘Were’ was also used a lot as a replacement for ‘was’ and dropping ‘the’ from sentences was very common, i.e.  ‘going pub’
Getting to listen to this secret window into the past, through simple sound recordings, felt like a real privilege and I hope the Archives are able to put on more events like this, once they can safely reopen.
Further resources to explore:
West Midlands English:Birmingham and the Black Country
Accents of England
English Dialects
The English West Midlands : Phonology
A handbook of varieties of English : A multimedia reference
Ideology
Surveys of English dialects

 

 

Binaural recording equipment

I’ve been looking at several different techniques for binaural recording from budget ideas using acupuncture ears and inner ear microphones up to a 6.3k dummy head mic system.

Below you can see the budget system in action. I really like the sound of this and it appeals to the maker in me, putting the whole thing together, plus i am intrigued to see what acupuncture ears look like in real life!

 

This is the mid range kit which you can get from around ÂŁ400 – ÂŁ700

And this is the kick ass 6k Neumann rig:

neumann-ku-100_953x953

 

 

 

 

 

Binaural recording examples

Here are a few great examples of how binaural recording has been used.

Please wear headphones to listen to these.

I found that whilst listening to some of these recordings I experienced a little queasiness/disorientation at points which I think comes from moving too quickly from one sound direction to the next, so I need to be aware of this in my recordings.

This effect could be used to great effect when brought in at the right times but shouldn’t be an unwanted side effect.

Virtual Nest Residency

nests

So excited to let you know that I have been accepted by Talking Birds for their Virtual (Fledgling) Nest Residency which offers support and mentoring to artists developing a new project.

During lockdown I have been drawn to revisit a piece of creative writing I drafted a few years ago entitled, Hide and Seek; a short drama which tackles themes of confinement and domestic abuse.

I’d always hoped to develop the work and now feels like an important time to do so, within the context of the coronavirus lockdown.

Over the past month I’ve been taking part in a virtual documentary sound workshop with experienced artist, Duncan Whitley, developing my field recording skills. Duncan recently introduced me to the technique of binaural recording used alongside head tracking. This technique seemed the perfect partner to my written piece and would allow me to totally immerse my audience in the setting and situation.

Ideally, if all goes well, I am planning  to reconfigure this piece of writing as an experimental immersive audio drama, performed by actors, captured in 3D audio and played back via headphones, to be exhibited during Coventry UK City of Culture 2021.

During my Fledgling Nest Residency I hope to experiment with different types of binaural sound recording – as it is a totally new technique to me – continue adapting my script and explore how I can ensure the final piece I produce is as accessible as possible to all.