Invitation to Tender to conduct up to three life story interviews capturing diverse voices

The National Life Stories team strives to include diverse voices in all of our ongoing collections; in the projects we run from the department and the projects with whom we act as archival partners.  There are several older legacy oral history collections which are currently ‘complete’ which would greatly benefit if augmented by recording life stories of peoples of colour and those whose experiences are hitherto underrepresented in the collection.  The collections which we see as a priority for this work in 2021/2022 are:

  • An Oral History of the British Press – interviewing key people involved in Black, Asian and other community publishing
  • Leaders of National Life – interviewing several key figures who have specialised in Black and South Asian collections in the heritage sector. 

Adding these voices to these existing collection is a small, but important, step to gather more diverse voices into older legacy projects.  The funding for these interviews will be largely met through the departmental budget of the oral history section at the British Library, in which National Life Stories (NLS) is based, with some additional funding from NLS as required. 

We actively encourage applications from oral history interviewers with varied backgrounds, outlooks and life experiences, which will help us in our mission to gather a broad range of material into the national collection of oral histories. The NLS and oral history team also benefits from people bringing different insights and perspectives to our work. 

This tender is for an interviewer to record up to three one-to-one audio life story interviews.  NLS will accept tenders for one, two or three interviews.  All three interviews need to be complete by 20 March 2022.  Depending on the applications received NLS may contract more than one person to work on this project.  We aim for interviews to be conducted in-person (adhering to the NLS Policy on interviewing in-person), but could also accommodate interviews conducted remotely.  The oral history team have already compiled a list of potential interviewees.

Each recording is likely to average eight to twelve hours in length made over several sessions, the content of which will range broadly over each individual’s career history, education, background and family. This biographical, or life story, approach has proved rewarding for previous projects and enormously valuable for researchers seeking a more rounded view of an individual.  The interviews will be archived and – subject to interviewee permission – made available onsite at the British Library and online, for consultation by researchers, historians and biographers. 

The brief

National Life Stories seeks to engage at least one freelance oral history interviewer to conduct up to three life story interviews for the oral history collections in the BL Sound Archive.  It is expected that the interviews will each be between 8 and 12 hours in length.  The interviews need to be completed by 20 March 2022. 

It is essential that we recruit an experienced interviewer with a background in oral history.  Ideally they will have experience interviewing people from a range of backgrounds reflecting the diversity of the UK’s population and it is desirable that they have an understanding of the heritage sector and/or the UK press and publishing industry. 

The interviewer will report to the NLS Director, and will need to attend regular progress meetings, held remotely and onsite at the British Library.  NLS will supply recording equipment, ongoing support, and monitoring for the initial interview sessions. 

Terms and Conditions

As a freelance interviewer, the interviewer will be paid for the time spent on the project.  There is an allocation of a maximum of 13 days per interview, with a ceiling fee of £2,028 for each interview.  The majority of the fee will be met from the departmental budget of the British Library oral history section, with any further days and travel expenses to be covered by National Life Stories, after discussion with the NLS Director.

We welcome applications to tender to complete one or more of the three interviews, mindful that these need to be completed by 20 March 2022. 

Interview fees (plus all travel and other expenses incurred) are payable on completion of each interview and the receipt of the following:

1. Interview summary front sheet (fully completed)

2. Interview content summary to BL standards

3. Signed Participation Agreement and Recording Agreement for each interviewee

4. Sensitivity review form for each interview

5. Copies of any letters and emails pertinent to the interview

6. Downloaded .wav files with .mp3 copies

7. Invoice detailing interviewee name, length of interview and all expenses incurred (including proof of expenditure)

8. Copyright in the interviews will be held by the British Library

This contract is to conduct interview(s) on a self-employed basis, where successful candidates will take responsibility for their own tax and National Insurance contributions, and will invoice upon delivery of each completed interview.  The interviewer does not need to be based in London, but will need to be prepared to make some trips to the British Library in St Pancras to upload audio material and attend progress meetings. 


To apply you should send a CV and a covering statement of no more than 1 A4 page explaining how your experience and skills meet the requirements specified in the project brief to:

Mary Stewart, National Life Stories, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB (email applications with attachments as PDF documents are preferred)

Please indicate how many interviews (one, two or three) you would be able to conduct by 20 March 2022 and where you found this position advertised. 

All applications must be received by 5.00pm on Monday 15 November 2021

Interviews are expected to take place via Zoom on Friday 26 November 2021.

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