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A Day In The Life of an Oral Recording Team

It was a wet evening in January, the team had gathered in Melton Mowbray, prior to venturing out into the wilds of Leicestershire to interview an ex employee of the Auster Aircraft Company. In the rear of the car is the recording equipment painstakingly checked and polished a carefully complied checklist supplements it. The interviewers have been trained and are ready for any eventuality. The team has now completed several of these missions and have been completed hence the patter is well rehearsed

The interviewee lives in a small village, the team have the usual problem finding the venue, navigation via pubs the team eventually locate the house. The equipment is removed from the car boot and the door knocked nervously, the door opens to revel a cheery faced gentleman inviting us in and offering tea and a comfortable settee near to the fire. It looks as if this could be a difficult mission, tea, a hot room and the need to focus on events many years ago can be the cause of sleep. The equipment is set up and the microphone carefully set up not to pick up the clanking of teacups and the crackle of the fire.

The interview begins, could you give us an idea how you became involved with the Auster Aircraft Company, what were your first reactions to the company, what contacts with aircraft did you have, what did you earn, how did you get there from home, what about the weather, do you have any funny stories, what about the canteen, do you remember Mrs Reed?

Why and when did you leave Auster, what sort of aircraft did you work on or remember, did you ever fly. What bits of the company did you work in, what contacts did you have with other companies. Which people do you remember? Did you travel on the firm’s bus, who says company transport is new?

Too soon the interview is over, information recorded. More memories but too late, the disc has stopped, more tea. The evening comes to and end it is considered a good way to spend a winter evening. The interviewers take our leave and go back into the cold night. The return trip is lightened by the discussion about the evening and the new information gained. Our own latent memories stirred by the interview. Plans for the next interviews and the logistics to arrange the venue and planning needed.

The next day the processing of the discs transfer to tape, the essential chore of making backup copies and the distribution of these to a second safe site. The additional transfer of the disc to CD and preparation of the second tape to go for transcription. All this forms the stuff that oral interviewing and compilation oral archives are made of. We tell ourselves it will all be worth it in the end.

Mike Preston and Mick Ames (The Auster Time Team)

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