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Introductions

Currently, I am in the third year of my PhD at Queen’s university, Belfast. Based within the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities my project involves a collaboration between QUB and BBC NI. My project brings together the vast radio archives held in Cultra, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, to explore a cultural history of the BBC NI. Radio, being a new medium in the 1920s, became increasingly popular with the general public in Northern Ireland. Funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) the preliminary title of the PhD is ‘The peoples' voices and the public broadcaster: towards a cultural history of BBC Northern Ireland 1924-1956’.

BBC programming, with its specific public service ethos, developed in its initial stages, the ability to broadcast to a nation. My research traces the development of this medium within a Northern Ireland context, addressing drama and features radio programme output. Key questions of the study will address what identity the BBC in Northern Ireland were broadcasting between 1924 and 1956. Beginning to broadcast, two years after the partitioning of Ireland, (Irish Free State, twenty-six counties, and Northern Ireland six counties) the political decision had a drastic impact on the people living there, and consequently, the BBC set about broadcasting radio programmes within this historical period. Commenting on Belfast as a broadcaster, the BBC’s official historian, Asa Briggs, wrote that the station developed independently, as opposed to the other UK based radio stations. In particular, then, my PhD interrogates why and how the BBC NI developed more locally, linking together policy, staff autonomy, local difficulties, technology and social contextual information, to conclude whether this statement relates to the programme output. In relation to this statement, I will also consider to what extend the BBC NI developed a Northern Irish identity for their output, or whether the local difficulty, (politically and historically) problematized the definition of a ‘Northern Irish’ identity. The PhD draws together a commentary on what has been commissioned by the broadcaster, who influenced the programming, and the relationship between the urban and rural setting within Northern Ireland. It will predominantly address arts, literature and drama programming from the establishment of the BBC in Northern Ireland from 1924.

Confining my research area to drama and feature programmes created, I am interested in the production, reception and overall identity of the transmissions. Through the discovery of the surviving BBC sound programmes, in the BBC NI Community Radio Archive, my PhD assesses these productions. Addressing the sound is somewhat under researched as in many cases sound existed in an ephemeral quality alone, without any examples surviving. Utilising this archive to reassess and re-examine the programming output, from a sound perspective, qualifies, but also challenges, some of the previous scholarship existing on the BBC NI’s output. Considering the programmes in this way, re-investigating the kind of regional programming produced within Northern Ireland, can assist in re-addressing the relationships many artists, contributors and local people had with the BBC in Northern Ireland. Adding to the overall argument that the institutions in Northern Ireland shaped the identity of the place, the research aligns itself with the scholarship requesting a re-assessment of the cultural identity omnipresent in Northern Ireland pre-1960. In many ways, the PhD responds to comments by Heather Clark and John Wilson Foster, that a cultural presence for Northern Ireland solely existed in institutions: Queen’s University, the Ulster Museum and the BBC. Arguing, if the aforementioned did not exist, the artistic development in Northern Ireland would have be considerably underdeveloped and perhaps non-existent.

One of my interests in becoming a HASTAC scholar is to address the interdisciplinary nature of academic study, focusing on how best to adapt methodological and theoretical approaches, to further explore the various commonalities. My own personal interest is to meet those working within media studies, popular culture, radio studies, languages, areas of postcolonial and identity theory. Other aspects of my study which intrigue me are the nature of collaborative projects, especially those institutions outside of the higher academic institution which I am studying in. I am also keen to develop new digital humanities processes to showcase digital material and display archived sources through alternative electronic mediums online. Considering approaches to digital approaches to teaching within the classroom, engaging students in the discussion of media literacy and programing, alongside archiving techniques and investigation, are all areas which have informed my learning experiences.

 

Contact: pelliswoods01@qub.ac.uk
Research Interests: Radio; Archival research; Cultural history; Broadcasting; Identity; Urban; Rural; Arts Programming; Digital Humanities. 

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