A petition to the BBC Trust to have the BBC publish Delia's unknown music ran from 13 october 2013 to her 77th birthday, the 5th May 2014 and collected 1229 signatures by the closing date. Since then the total has risen to 2,225 signatures.
Most of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire's music exists in a single copy in the archives of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Many dozens, if not hundreds, of pieces of her beautiful work are mouldering unheard.
Delia's music broke new ground on several fronts: technological as she pushed what was possible with the equipment of her time, rhythmical as she experimented 11- and 13-note bars, and tonal as she freed herself from the 12-tone scale and voyaged into soundscapes and pure sound. Of Delia's work, only a tiny percentage is known to the public, whereas by far the majority of it is on tape in the Archive of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the custody of Mark Ayres.
We petition the BBC Trust to apply pressure to the BBC so that these recordings be swiftly published on traditional audio media (CD, DVD) so that the public, and in particular the British public who paid for it to be produced, be able to learn from and develop this woman's amazing musical visionary style.
The petition's closing date, the 5th of May 2014, is Delia's 77th birthday.
BBC Trust reply
30 May 2014
Thank you for your letter to the BBC Trust. I am responding as a member of the Trust Unit which supports the Acting Chairman and the Trustees.
I have noted your request for the publication of the works of Delia Derbyshire, and the petition which you have sent along with your letter.
I would like to explain that the Trust has no role in day to day operational or editorial decisions, such as the publishing of BBC Archive material. Although the Trust sets the overall strategy for the BBC, responsibility for the BBC's editorial decisions rests with the Director- General as Editor-in-Chief.
As the Trust is therefore not in a position to involve itself at this stage, I have forwarded your letter to BBC Audio and Music so that they can provide you with a response on behalf of the BBC's management. Having identified the appropriate department, they have confirmed that they are preparing a response for you which you should expect at some point next week.
I hope this will be helpful.
BBC Worldwide reply
From: Dominic Walker
Sent: 09 June 2014 17:20
Subject: RE: Delia Derbyshire
I am writing to you in response to your letter to the BBC Trust.
As Director of Radio and Music for BBCW, commercial exploitation of Radiophonic Workshop is handled by us. We have released a lot of the RWS work including Delia’s and in fact I have just agreed a deal to release "The Delian Mode" and "Blue Veils and Golden Sands" on seven inch vinyl.
I should point out that the section of the RWS archive loosely referred to as ‘Delia’s archive’ is in fact a collection of tapes, most of which are simply ‘make up’ tapes – they are not ‘masters’. Of the many hundreds of tapes that Delia left very little has been catalogued, transferred to digital media or restored.
Importantly, my understanding from some of those who worked with Delia is that she was very protective of her work and incredibly concerned with quality control. The reason she removed her make up reels in the first place was because she didn’t want anything being released that she hadn’t sanctioned.
We continue to work with the RWS catalogue with integrity and respect and as such do our best to maintain tapes and continue to catalogue and digitise work as and when financial constraints permit. We appreciate some fans’ frustration when perhaps under the misconception that there are many unreleased albums – this simply isn’t true.
I hope this makes the position a little clearer.
23 August 2014
To: Director of BBC Worldwide.
Dear Mr Walker. Many thanks for your courteous and informative reply, but I regret you have been misinformed!
I've now gone through the catalogue of the Radiophonic Archive, or rather the 300 entries credited to Delia, comparing each with my pages for known pieces by Delia and integrating the catalogue's notes into the wikidelia. Sorry the reply has been so long coming; it's required a couple of months' work.
There are the tapes of the final master versions of Delia's unpublished music for 124 (one hundred and twenty-four) BBC TV and Radio programmes and two unpublished interviews.
The tapes for a further 31 programmes are missing but over the years I have recovered the audio for four of these from other sources.
By comparison, the published pieces (on the BBC records) now number 21, though the "124" above counts not pieces of music but BBC programmes, for which Delia often created serveral pieces. To put it another way, there is all the unpublished music for four BBC programmes for every single published piece.
See http://wiki.delia-derbyshire.net/wiki/Category:TRW in which the third column summarises the piece's status: see the legend just before the main table for the symbols' meanings.
Of course, there's a lot more to say about the individual pieces... for which they can see the wikidelia's page for each individual item. Going from here to a track list for publishing is relatively straightforward, if tedious.
As regards Mark Ayres, I am told he quotes people 500 pounds per tape digitization, which would total 500*124 = 62,000 pounds. I'm sure he'd like that, but I'm also sure that a professional tape digitizing outfit would both be cheaper and do a better job. Interestingly, Delia tried to get her own music published in the 90's: "I asked the BBC how much it will be to license certain tracks - half a minute long - and they just say "All tracks are £500 each!" Strange coincidence, that figure, and we know that Mark and Delia did speak on the phone in the 90s. Furthermore, Mark has a history of doing exactly what Delia hated: he started out producing "stereo remixes" of her mono tracks and recently went even further, including his own mangled version of "Dance from Noah" in which he prefixes it with the rhythm makeup track blasting out alone before Delia's music starts. Trusting this work to such a person would be expensive and potentially destructive. I wonder if any of the National Archives would be interesting in doing this before it all rots.
Sent 28 October 2014; no reply ever received.
Mailing list to receive updates
There is a Google Group to which you can sign up to receive news of the petition's progress at the web page Petition to publish Delia Derbyshire's music or by sending email to email@example.com