Tape Letters radio documentary series

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Presenting a six-part radio documentary series from the Tape Letters project which explores the use of audio cassettes tapes as a mode of long-distance communication by families in Britain and Pakistan.

Drawing from first-hand interviews with over 100 participants, and the informal and intimate conversations found on the cassettes themselves, the project seeks to unearth, archive and represent a portrait of this method of communication, and explores their experiences of migration and identity, unorthodox uses of cassette tape technology, and the use of language in the recordings.

The series allows for a glimpse into this hitherto unknown aspect of communication between families touching on themes of memory, migration, relationships, language and diaspora.

Episode 1
Communicating On Cassette
Hear from first-wave Pakistani migrants who recall their childhood memories associated with cassettes and share some of their advantages

Episode 2
The Power Of The Voice
An exploration of the power of the voice and the emotional family memories that were captured on a cassette tape. Interviewees recall further unique childhood memories with cassette tapes.

Episode 3
A Cassette Tape Love Story
Hear the unique story of a couple who fell in love with each other entirely through exchanging cassette tapes. We also discuss the retention and loss of cassette tapes over time.

Episode 4
Migration from Pakistan to the UK
Interviewees remember their experiences of migrating to Britain. They also recall the desire to share their new lives and surroundings with their families back in Pakistan through cassette tapes.

Episode 5
Spoke and Unwritten
An investigation into the evolution of Pahari language, the class differences associated within it, as well as struggles on letter writing.

Episode 6
Generations On Tape
A contextualisation of the past and future of cassette tapes and their value as technology continues to develop. With a look at the shift in languages, identities, and experiences across generations.

Audio Producer, Leona Fensome, speaking on the motivations for creating the radio episodes states:

“Last year, during South Asian Heritage Month and the East Midlands Oral History Archive Talks, Wajid’s (Tape Letter’s Director) enthusiasm for sharing British-Pakistani migration stories made me realise, as a fellow child of migrant parents, that these lived experiences needed to be accessed by a wider audience. Coming from a community radio background, it felt like a natural progression to produce and broadcast these cassette stories. When you sit in the car transfixed, unable to turn off the radio because what you are hearing is so compelling, that feeling is what I knew the Tape Letters oral history project could achieve as an audio series.”

The documentary allows for the listening of first-hand accounts of migration stories through original cassette tape recordings, interview snippets and commentary by Tape Letters founder and director, Wajid Yaseen. Content Editor and Audio Producer, Oliver Sanders commenting on maintaining sensitivity during the careful editing process mentions:

“The cassette tapes are such personal documents, spoken letters sent between families and in those terms we’re all outsiders. So, when it came to working with the Pothwari audio, I took my lead from the
people who experienced these recordings first-hand and went with the feeling of the material. Listening for sections of the cassettes that conveyed an emotion that is relatable to any of us, whether in direct experience or empathy. But most importantly, emotionally recognisable to the generation who first took out a cassette tape from a suitcase or envelope and heard the voice of a distant loved one.”

By exploring the lived experiences of Pakistani migrants when they first settled in the UK, the series also explores key themes associated with migration on a larger scale. These themes include language, communication methods, intergenerational relationships, identities, divided families and more.

The project has been produced by Modus Arts and is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Arts Council of England, and the Audio Content Fund.