It's always interesting when somebody asks you to become involved in a new Voice Over project, and particularly so if the request comes from an unusual source. So you can imagine how intrigued I was earlier this year when my old friend Professor Hazel Hall asked me to meet her in the cafe of the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh so that she could have a chat about a series of historical podcasts which her University was about to produce.
Over coffee and cake Hazel told me about a diary written in the early months of World War II by a young woman called Lorna Lloyd (pictured above), a 25-year-old schoolmistress and poet living at that time in the Worcestershire town of Malvern. It was unusually well written, with vivid details about the progress of the war and local life between September 1939 and January 1941. Hazel felt that the diary deserved to be better known, and so it had been decided to perform and broadcast a series of podcasts with extracts from the diary. These episodes were to be produced by a team of third year students at Edinburgh Napier University as part of an AHRC/Creative Informatics funded project ‘Platform to Platform’ led by Hazel, Dr Bruce Ryan, and Dr Iain McGregor. Lorna Lloyd was to be played by her 25-year-old great-great niece, Bethany Ray.
So, what was to be my part in all this? Hazel explained (she likes to explain things). She felt that the audience would understand the diary extracts better if they knew exactly what was going on in Malvern at the time. So a collection of genuine newspaper articles and BBC broadcasts, dated on the same days as the diary extracts, had been put together, and these would be used to introduce each extract. Would I like to perform them, in the stentorian, upbeat tones of that time? Would I like to? I could hardly wait!
Making the recordings was loads of fun, and listening to the podcasts in May 2022, where I first heard Bethany"s wonderful performance as Lorna, was even more so, although the content was sometimes deeply harrowing.
If you'd like to listen to these wonderfully evocative, and hitherto almost unknown slices of English rural wartime life, the Podcasts can be heard on the Diary of the War website, here.