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Julie has the voice of an Angel (and other Tube stations)

PUBLISHED: 18:20 20 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:55 21 February 2019

Voiceover artist Julie Berry

Voiceover artist Julie Berry

Archant

David Clayton has a love of loud speaker announcements and thinks he's found the face behind the voice that he's become rather familiar with in recent weeks

After a lifetime of talking into microphones, you won’t be surprised to know I take more than a passing interest in announcements over loud speakers.

It all stems from my early days as a DJ, gigging my way around village halls and Norfolk’s plentiful RAF camps – remember those? When I acquired my disco gear someone said, “Spend as much as you can on the microphone.” I did. For the aficionados among you, a Shure SM58. You’ll be heard on a much cheaper mic, but will you be understood?

I’m doing a good bit of travelling by rail right now and announcements on trains are a bit hit and miss, to say the least. Sometimes they’re barely audible, so you hope you’re not being told something vital, at other times you get the sense the guard (or whoever it is) is less than happy to be “performing” into a microphone. Respect to those who add a bit of wit and repartee.

However, I was in audio heaven a few days ago as I travelled on a train from Norwich to Cambridge. As we approached each stop a perfectly modulated and clear female voice prepared us for Attleborough, Thetford and so on. She was pre-recorded, but calm and warm with not a wasted word. She reminded me to take all my personal belongings with me (I always do) and thanked me for travelling with her.

The appreciation of voices is very personal. I’m sure there are fans of Janet Street-Porter’s vocal chords, but I’m not at the front of that queue. Accents can play a part in whether you like a voice, or not. Personally, I warm to a bit of north-eastern Geordie, pet. I find an Irish accent soothing, but that’s just me. You may well be different. Accent-wise, the disembodied lady on the train was quite neutral, but a joy to hear. She could have announced the end of the world and I’d have been quite happy to face it, “The next stop is Armageddon. Please mind the gap between the train and oblivion.” The next stop was, in fact, Brandon and there was no similarity.

A further part of my journey had me on a train between Sheffield and Manchester where the guard simply announced in a no frills, northern way, “Hathersage” or more accurately,“’Athersage.” I didn’t mind his bluntness, at least I could hear him, while out of the train window I was enjoying the magnificent vista of the ‘Ope Valley. Jumping on a tram at Manchester another warm and clear female voice greeted me announcing the stations, but this time with an appropriate northern accent.

So, it got me thinking, who are these people, stored for all time on a microchip? Well, I’ve found one. I think I’ve found THE one. A quick search on the internet and one woman’s name kept popping up. Julie Berry.

Was she my voice? “I’m pretty certain. It rings a bell,” she said. “I’m sure I remember doing stuff for that line. You know how it is with voice-overs – in through the eyes, out through the mouth and generally I find it bypasses the memory banks.” I helpfully gave her a sequence of stations between Norwich and Cambridge and there was a hint of recognition. After a personal, mock announcement over the phone, which I have to say I enjoyed enormously, I was sure. Julie is the voice of many railway companies and the Piccadilly line. The recordings can stay the same for years, so I forgive her for not instantly remembering ours. I hasten to add she doesn’t just do transport announcements. Julie is a versatile actress and voice-over artist for adverts, corporate presentations and the like.

We’re about to get some long-overdue brand-new trains. Whoever is in charge, if I can persuade Julie to go, “Testing – one-two,” on the microphone while I run through the train listening in each carriage, would that be of any help?

I said, “WOULD THAT BE OF……”

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