Hush and listen closely to the history of meat

Hundreds of hours of recorded memories of the meat trade have been deposited in the British Library's sound archive collection as part of a wider project looking at the history of the food industry.

Some 40 recordings centred on the meat industry make up about a fifth of the entire content of 'Food: From Source to Salespoint', which, in turn, now forms one of the key collections in the Library's 20-year-old ongoing National Life Stories project that records first-hand experiences of as wide a cross section of present-day society as possible.

Each recording consists of in-depth interviews plus content summaries and transcripts. The summaries are available on-line while transcripts are available to Library visitors. The majority of recordings can be bought. Eventually it is hoped many will be published on the internet.

The food project closes next month after nearly 10 year's of recordings and to mark the occasion a reception and lunch for Library sound-archive staff and many of those from the meat trade who made recordings was held at Butchers' Hall in London. Those attending who had helped with the project were each presented with CD's of their own recordings. The Worshipful Company of Butchers' provided support and help with the project, and non-embargoed recordings are available for listening to at its library.

National Life Stories project manager Cathy Courtney said typical recordings were made over several sessions lasting between six to eight hours although many are longer. Past Company Master Colin Cullimore recorded 21 hours of interview, for example, while recordings with David Lidgate took place between 1999 and 2005.

Ms Courtney said "We usually begin by asking about family history and memories of grandparents, and then move forward gradually to the present day, all the time encouraging anecdotes and diversions - the paths which so often lead to the jewels, detailed material which would otherwise be lost to history." Her favourite tale, she said, was of Bill Knapman taking bankers into a meat freezer. "Bill Knapman became immensely wealthy." she said. "One anecdote on our tapes is how he and his wife would drive from shop to shop in their Bentley collecting the Friday takings before visiting the local fish and chip shop, and returning to their car to eat their supper."

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