Thursday, 28 February 2013

I wanna tell you a story...

It must be great being little, having a story read to you every evening. I'd love it if someone would read to me. Actually, they sometimes do (via the medium of the wireless); I'm a fan (if intermittently) of Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio Four and especially like the ones read by the authors themselves.

The entire BBC commercial archive (or much of it, including many classic BBC Radio recordings) is now available on line via AudioGO, the UK's leading audiobook publisher and retailer. The Sherlock Holmes audiobooks, for instance, contain famous readings from the BBC archive by such luminaries as Carlton Hobbs as well full-cast dramatisations.

Formerly known as BBC Audiobooks, AudioGO's breadth and range is huge, numbering over 5000 titles by authors as diverse as Ruth Rendell, Bernard Cornwell, Dick Francis, John le Carré, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Bram Stoker and Daphne Du Maurier. No wonder the site has won Audio Publisher of the Year six times.

In addition to a growing range of new titles the vast range of downloads and CDs derived from BBC Radio features over than 800 titles in itself and includes landmark recordings such as Under Milk Wood (narrated by Richard Burton), The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy (with the wonderful Peter Jones as The Book), Doctor Who, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and the BBC Radio 4 John le Carré dramas.

Hearing a story read well can have a lasting influence. My personal renditions of Winnie the Pooh borrow heavily from the readings (originally broadcast on BBC Radio Four) by Alan Bennett: Eyeore sounds a little like Philip Larkin; Roo is an excitable Australian ('did ya see me swimming?'); Pooh himself sounds, well, not a little unlike Alan Bennett.

I first heard the Bennett broadcasts on Radio Four in the 'eighties. I was at university at Norwich at the time. The fifteen minutes episodes made me miss the bus on more than one occasion and years later - with children (and therefore an excuse) - I hunted down an audio cassette of the readings (which I finally located in the old BBC World Service shop on The Strand, of all places).

Now, of course, thanks to AudioGO, the entire performance is downloadable in seconds. And you can even listen to a sample. Go on. It really is quite marvellous...

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