Exhibition rewinding John Peel’s record collection

As part of Norwich Sound & Vision, the contents of John Peel's legendary record collection is being celebrated in an exhibition ahead of the first-ever John Peel Festival of New Music. SIMON PARKIN reports.

With 100 exciting and upcoming bands and artists playing across 10 venues, Norwich Sound & Vision is just the sort of event that the late, great John Peel would have loved.

After two successful years, the 2012 festival, between October 11 and 13, will be double the size and, as well as the live performances, will again include film screenings, live debates and 60 speakers, including from the United States, giving performers an insight into the music and multi-media industries.

Fittingly the festival will also host the first-ever John Peel Festival of New Music.

The Fall and The Undertones, two of the favourite bands of the legendary DJ, who died in 2004, will appear at Epic, in Magdalen Street, to raise money for the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts.

But the festival will be kick-started by Norwich Arts Centre hosting a special exhibition of work from the team behind the John Peel Archive — an ongoing project to make the contents of John Peel's personal record collection — one of the most important and eclectic modern music collections in the world — available to the public for the first time.

Each week the project has been releasing details of the first 100 records from each letter of the alphabet, along with John's accompanying hand-typed cards, asterisk ratings and notes.

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John's wife Sheila has selected a featured artist from each letter for which they have produced short documentary films.

In addition, the Arts Council funded and BBC supported project have selected one particularly interesting record from each letter to take an in-depth look at.

The Norwich exhibition, which begins on October 6, will include original photography by Dave Guttridge and video installations from Dan Tombs celebrating music from the initial 100 records of each letter being made available online at www.thespace.org

'With the help and support of John's family, we have been taking the first steps in making John's amazing record collection available through an interactive online archive,' said John Peel Archive director Tom Barker. 'This exhibition showcases photos taken in John's home studio and record rooms during the archive process, along with selected album sleeves and some of the many 'extras' found inside the record sleeves.

'John's vast record collection contains over 26,000 LP's, 40,000 singles and many thousands of CDs — it really is quite awesome.'

The exhibition is the latest effort to make this unique collection available to the public and compliments the online archive which deliberately echoes the weekly show format of the late DJs legendary Radio 1 shows.

'We did a lot thinking and talking with John's family about how best to make his unique collection available within the constraints, and how we can do it in a way that people can really engage with,' said Tom. 'After some deliberation we decided that the best way to start the process was to release the details of the first 100 albums, listed alphabetically, from each letter of the alphabet each week. So on May 1 we released the first 100 A's, on May 8 the first 100 B's and so on.

'We hope that by doing it on a week by week basis, people will keep coming back week after week, eager and excited to explore more of John's collection.'

Stuart Hobday, director of the Norwich Arts Centre, said the exhibition would be a taster for the John Peel Festival of New Music event at Epic on October 10, which would help raise funds for John Peel Centre for Creative Arts

'They were doing separate fundraising for the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket, they came to us to do a fundraiser in Norwich and we said we could do it.'

? John Peel Archive, Norwich Arts Centre, October 6-November 10, daily 10am-6pm free admission, 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk