This post has been updated and includes a correction: 200 tapes, not 200 scores as previously stated, will go on display.
The lost tapes of the Doctor Who theme tune composer, Delia Derbyshire, are to go public for the first time, thanks to the work of a several year archiving project.
Some of over 200 tapes from the archive of one of the most talented, early
British electronic music pioneers, will be available to listen to at
John Rylands Deansgate Library in Manchester, from later this
It marks an important step forward in terms of finally turning Delia,
who helped to revolutionise BBC soundtracks by creating electronic
music through recording everyday sounds and cutting, splicing and
distorting tapes, into the household name she deserves to be.
One of the team working on the archive is David Butler, a screen
studies lecturer at the University of Manchester, who has been
working since 2007 to help archive and digitise the fragile tapes of
Delia’s work, which were found stashed in large cardboard cereal
boxes in her attic after she died in 2001.
As many of the labels were missing, he and his colleagues have
arduously been trying to match the recordings to her known works,
as well as solve the mysteries surrounding her partially or un-
The research has helped to unearth music that was created in the
early 1980s, an important find that puts to bed the common belief
that Delia stopped creating electronic music after she left the BBC
Radiophonic Workshop in 1973 due to an increasing disillusionment
with the way the genre was heading at the corporation.
The archiving has also led to the discovery of the enigmatically
titled ‘Ron Grainer’s Bread’, an astounding three minute 30 piece of
synthpop, which is thought to have been created in the early 1970s,
almost a decade before the genre became prominent.
David said: “Much of the work on the archive has been done in my
spare time but it’s been an incredible project to work on.
“I’m really thankful to all the people who have contributed to the
archive and helped us to confirm what some of the pieces are. It’s
been wonderful to rediscover the breadth and talent within her work.
“There are always going to be some question marks over some
aspects of her archive and the only person who could have
provided all the answers was Delia but I’m really pleased with what
has been achieved so far, even though there is still plenty left to do!
“Delia’s archive was entrusted to the composer Mark Ayres who
is also the archivist of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. When
we received the tapes from Mark some of them were in a fragile
condition and had not been played fully for over 30 years. Digitising
the tapes was a lengthy process and much of the credit there goes
to Louis Niebur.”
Thanks to funding from the library, the plan is to allow members of
the public to listen to Delia’s archive on laptop listening stations in
Until now, only those lucky to attend events such as the 2013 Delia
Derbyshire Day at Manchester’s Band on the Wall have been able
to hear its contents. Others have been restricted to listening to her
published works, which were released through the BBC, and under
other aliases, such as Li De La Russe.
Although Delia’s available work has influenced numerous
musicians, such as Aphex Twin, Orbital and 808 State, it is hoped
that being able to showcase her wider work in this way will grant her
a much wider fan base.
David said: “Being able to finally let people listen to her work is a
really important step forward in demonstrating why Delia’s music
was so important.
“As the saying goes, writing about music is like dancing about
architecture: the only way to allow people to really appreciate
something is to let them experience it for themselves.
“When I have played her music to audiences in the past it has had
such an effect on them – people are often taken aback at the music
she was able to create with the resources available to her at the
time she was working – so it’s fantastic to be able to share it with
“Her music is so full of creativity that it feels as if she is still here;
it’s not dated at all, which I think makes what she did even more
“We still have to solve a few issues, there are security factors which
have to be resolved as there are still a lot of copyright restrictions
around Delia’s music, but we hope that the listening posts will be up
and running by the end of the year.”
To find out more about the Delia Derbyshire archive at Deansgate,
To read about her life and listed works, click here.
A celebration of Delia’s life and work, hosted by the Delia Darlings,
will take place this Saturday from 7.30pm at the Anthony Burgess
Institute. For tickets, click here.