'Discotheque' to explore the lost world of vinyl wildlife recordings

16 August 2017

"a fun, unique listening experience for visitors of all ages..."

Image: Michael McHugh of Tyneside Sounds Society and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums looks forward to the Wildlife Discotheque at the Great North Museum: Hancock

A new event at Newcastle University’s Great North Museum: Hancock will delve into the esoteric and forgotten world of vinyl nature recordings.

The Wildlife Discotheque – which takes place from 6-9pm on Friday 1 September – promises an evening of non-stop high fidelity wildlife recordings as well as a craft beer bar, board games and nibbles.

Visitors on the night can expect to hear obscure 1970s vinyl releases such as Songs of the Humpback Whale and British Wild Birds in Stereo alongside other oddities from the fringes of easy listening: BBC sound effects LPs; poetry compilations; children’s albums; and instructional recordings.

They will also discover the vinyl records of Sparkie Williams, a famous talking budgerigar of yesteryear whose legend went on to spawn an opera. The loquacious bird died in 1962 and is now preserved in the museum’s natural history collection.

The Wildlife Discotheque is the brainchild of Soundart Radio founder Chris Booth and his DJs Nathan Carter and Tony Whitehead. It started life as a successful social at Dartington Arts Centre in Devon and the three have now joined forces with Michael McHugh of Tyneside Sounds Society to take the concept on the road for the first time.

Tony Whitehead, of Soundart Radio, said:

“Not knowing if there was an audience for such an eclectic and obscure mix of sounds, we were pleasantly surprised when our first night attracted a crowd; an appreciative bunch who filled the room, sat, chatted, drank local ale and cider, listened and had a good time.

“I didn’t notice dancing, but we did have a couple of requests. We’re really excited to be taking this on the road and the Great North Museum: Hancock will be a fantastic venue for it.”

Michael McHugh, of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Tyneside Sounds Society, added:

“The Wildlife Discotheque will be a fun, unique listening experience for visitors of all ages.

“It will be perfect for people wanting to enjoy an after-work social or warm up before their Friday night out; a great way to finish off the summer holidays before the schools go back.”

Image: a BBC sound effects vinyl LP, one of many that will feature at the Wildlife Discotheque

The history of nature sound recording is often overlooked and neglected; yet, its pioneers spent hours in the field with cumbersome equipment and an ear for song to create the fascinating discs which have inspired the Wildlife Discotheque.

The event will shine a light on recordists such as Ludwig Koch, Eric Simms, Victor C. Lewis, John Burton and David Tombs. Some more familiar names will also feature, including Johnny Morris of Animal Magic and Tales of the Riverbank fame.

The ‘Discotheque’ (literally, record library) has been amassed following decades of scouring charity shops, car boot sales and records fairs around the country.

Advance tickets for the Wildlife Discotheque are available now via the Great North Museum: Hancock website costing £3. Tickets on the door will cost £4 and children aged under 16 go free. 

Media enquiries

Please contact Jonathan Loach - Jonathan.Loach@twmuseums.org.uk 0191 277 2168