Introduction from Sheila
“The reading of books and short stories has been the one constant factor in my career as an actor. It all began with the BBC in the days when they broadcast a short story every day of the week and there were two permanent slots for serialised books – Woman’s Hour and Book at Bedtime as well as one replacing the early morning parliamentary report when they were in recess. If you were lucky enough to be on certain producer’s lists there was plenty of work around and I was one of the lucky ones. But policies can change and the appointment of a new Director General meant that producers were instructed to employ ‘star’ names or ‘youth’, so those of us who were not stars and not in the inexperienced category were out.
It was fortunate that at about this time commerce saw an opportunity and began recording books, largely for libraries to begin with although this very quickly changed and there is now a huge market in sales to the general public. The productions were different from those done by the BBC which were abridged into upwards of only fifteen episodes whereas the new product was unabridged allowing the listener to hear every word of the book. Another major difference was that the BBC offered the reader ample time for rehearsal and generally aimed to record only three episodes in a day. In the world of commerce there was no time allocated for rehearsal and just two or three days for the actual recording. Even now, some forty years later, actors are not reimbursed for those hours of preparation they do at home. Campaigning continues for better conditions but in the meantime we continue to accept contracts for what can be one of our most satisfying jobs. From the 1980s onwards more and more companies have sprang up and the audience has expanded from libraries to the general public until now the audiobook industry has become big business.
If it had not been for the covid crisis that would have been the final stage in my own history of book recording but faced with all the difficulties particularly travel and staying away from home, I decided to join the few who for some time have been recording books from their own home studios. Not an easy thing to do for someone not brought up in the age of new technology but with the help from younger family members and friends and the guidance of a highly professional producer, Neil Gardner, I have now recorded two books for which I had been contracted and hope to do more.”