What I enjoy most about tuning into radio is that you feel like you’re in the company of others. Radio predates the internet, mobile phones and other social media devices that are our norm of today. I am listening to the news, listening to conversations, I am hearing updates and catching up on cultural and political conversation. I can phone in and have my own say (though sometimes Jeremy Vine is a bit risque!). I still write letters quite regularly and only recently have I finished a collaborative mail art project with my zine friends. When I visited Sandwich Guildhall a few months ago for a Drawing and Stitching workshop with Marcia and Rosie, we were taken to see their collection of World War 1 objects. Something that has stuck with me was the soldier’s correspondence postcard on display. It’s design is to suit soldiers that didn’t have the time or that could have been incapacitated by war wounds. It’s the simple words of ‘I am quite well’ and the various options for communication (see below) that capture my attention. I reflect upon the tragic 2015 Nepal Earthquake and how the ‘safety check-in’ feature of Facebook compares to the printed correspondence of 1914. Not too different when you think about it! The only translation being technology and also the small fee that a soldier back then would have had to have paid for having his ‘I am quite well’ update delivered to home, offering peace of mind to family. It amazes me how the postal workers, often having many thousands of letters to dispatch everyday, still managed such an efficient mail service.
How does all of this relate to radio and the Dover Transport Museum? Perhaps it’s the messenger service, the army correspondent i’m suggesting I can narrate with the WW1 bike (or a similar vehicle). I’m also thinking of making private letters and postcards into public matter with the use of an FM transmitter. When we use social media like Facebook we update and make public our feelings, our ‘status’, how does that compare to the WW1 postcard or a letter written home? All of these things connect and I feel that from printed matter to wireless and the pedals on a 3 speed Sunbeam bike, i’m ever so close connecting the various dialogues between technology of 1914 to today.
An interesting insight into letters from the front is in this book: Men of Letters by Duncan Barrett – featuring true combat stories fro the start of military training to being on the front.
Here’s the Marconi Bellini-Tosi Direction Finder, by Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd, c.1916. It was designed for detecting the positions of enemy wireless stations, it was used by the Royal Navy and British Army to trace the position of German submarines, surface naval vessels, and Zeppelins. An amazingly capable machine!