‘The Sound and the Fury’


If you find yourself on the Euston Road and with some time to kill then I recommend – nay, insist – that you pop into the British Library to visit ‘The Sound and the Fury’. This exhibition demonstrates the power of public speaking by giving visitors the chance to listen to a vast selection of famous voices and celebrated speeches from the library’s humongous audio archive. It’s brilliant, and free, and so extra-brilliant!

From the days when Prime Ministers were not afraid to sport impressive facial hair

From the days when Prime Ministers were not afraid to sport impressive facial hair

Upon entering the exhibition room you will sit down infront of a computer and be presented with a choice of public speaking categories.  There’s something for everyone: historic addresses, classic theatrical performances, comedy clips (including young William Hague telling Conservative Conference how much he loved Maggie!).

Being so inclined, I went straight to politics and listened to a very fuzzy William Gladstone speaking in 1888. 1888 I tell you! Granted, it was not an especially exciting speech. Infact he was simply recording a message of congratulation to the inventor of the phonograph. Not exactly a piece of thrill-a-minute oratory. But it’s not everyday you get to listen to a nineteenth century Prime Minister!

Other nineteenth century recordings included famous nurse Florence Nightingale. I suspect the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ found all the newfangled phonograph-recording-thingies a load of mumbo jumbo and she talked very…..very……slllooowwwllly about something or another.

Loved his party and his nukes.

Loved his party and his nukes.

Labourites with an enthusiasm for party history will be as excited as I was to hear the full recording of Hugh Gaitskell’s speech to the 1960 Labour Party conference where he declared: “There are some of us who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love”. Reading the speech on paper can’t express the full emotion of Gaitskell’s words, nor convey the tension in the conference hall as delegates variously hissed and booed or wildly cheered their leader whilst he implored them not to endorse unilateral nuclear disarmament. At times it sounds like it’s going to descend into violence. Nothing like a good old fashioned conference policy bust-up!

‘The Sound and the Fury’ is on at the British Library until the end of September. Go there. Go there now!


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2 Responses to “‘The Sound and the Fury’”

  1. voteredgogreen Says:

    Gladstone = Flintshire man, and therefore A Good Thing in my book. Even if he was a filthy Liberal.

  2. Paul Says:

    I was disappointed that there was neither Kinnock nor LBJ, but listening to a FDR with his ridiculous patrician accent made up for it.

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