Sounds of London

At the Field Day Festival
 Tessa Elieff

Sound archivist Tessa Elieff continues her staff exchange at the British Library Sound Archive. She meets inspiring archivists, attends the Field Day Festival and shares some great sound-based websites.
'Songs of Wild Birds’ by EM Nicholson and Ludwig Koch – one of the items Tessa viewed on a general site tour. Photo by Tessa Elieff

My first week on exchange at the British Library Sound Archive has been notably active and rewarding. I am fortunate enough to be working primarily with fellow sound curator Cheryl Tipp – who shares similar passions as my own, regarding the preservation and curation of field recordings and environmental sounds. Under her guidance and encouragement, I have been able to begin researching my key points of interest for the exchange project. These include Cheryl’s archival and curatorial methods developed for her curatorial area and answers to more general fundamental questions involving the British Library Sound Archive’s use of metadata.


Interwoven amongst these informative and factual discussions, Cheryl and I often find ourselves brainstorming new ideas and inspirations to assist in the growth and development of these genres within our independent archives. While I feel it is important to exchange information regarding current activities and achievements between our two archives, I also take a great interest in discussing potential future projects that would involve both institutions.

The questions I bring with me from the NFSA are easy to ask but not easy to answer. Answers from the specialist individuals within the British Library that I am directed to are more often than not incredibly detailed and involve final conclusions of a 12-month project specifically developed and completed for the purpose of tackling near identical concerns. A perfect example of this is my research into the British Library’s use of metadata in their archiving work methods.

Without going into too much detail I will say thank you to analyst Adam Tovell for his one-hour intensive relating to the above and to Antony Gordon (System Administrator and Metadata Coordinator – Sound) for further filling in the gaps! Cheryl’s generosity with both her time and her knowledge has been invaluable. I am definitely not for want of contacts to email and events to attend both internally and externally, as Cheryl constantly (and patiently) points me towards fellow staff members to further discuss more technical aspects. External events are a considerable part of Cheryl’s work commitments.
Caught by the River tent at Field Day Festival, London. L-R: Rob St John, John Western, Cheryl Tipp, Ian Rawes, Jonny Trunk, Chris Watson. Photo byTessa Elieff

The first weekend after I commenced work at the British Library Sound Archive was spent attending the Field Day Festival at Victoria Park.

Here at the Caught by the River stage, Cheryl was chairing two sessions. The first was a panel of practitioners and industry experts who had been invited to discuss the art of field recording, its origins, history and personal anecdotes; the second was the London Sound Quiz.


Ian Rawes is another in-house expert of the British Library (Sound and Vision Reference Specialist) that contributed to the stage events including the field recording panel. His work at the British Library Sound Archive includes editing their award-winning UK Sound Map. His independent work includes the infamous London Sound Survey website. Together and as part of the panel, Cheryl and Ian provided quite a bit of inspiration for me regarding my work at the NFSA.

With my final week fast approaching it is becoming harder to juggle meetings, seminars and general work demands in my calendar. London has much to offer and having made the trip from Australia I don’t want to miss a thing. On 6 June, on invitation from Dr Cathy Lane of CRISAP, I am heading to the Chelsea College of Art and Design for their Sounding Space Symposium.

The following Monday I will make the journey up to Pitt Rivers Museum to hopefully discuss their Reel to Real project. Tuesday is my in-house presentation at the British Library and Wednesday, I depart for the Netherlands. There is not much time left and still so much to discover.

Listen to some of Tessa’s field recordings from the festival. You can explore more recordings from Tessa on Freesound.

                                          'Near the festival – by the canal', recorded by Tessa Elieff

                                                         'Festival inner', recorded by Tessa Elieff