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The Real Accent Project: England Travel Blogs

Mid/East/West: Birmingham, Nottingham & Bristol

Our trip to Birmingham was extremely quick, primarily because we had all three recording subjects lined up before we’d even stepped into the Midlands. A dancer/actor, whom I’d worked with on a musical, donated her whole family to our app. Mum (Anthea) and Dad (Frank) live in Great Barr, about five miles from the centre of Birmingham, which is where we ended up on a chilly Midlands afternoon. Sister (Kelly) joined us there with her young son, Bradley, who was fascinated by all our recording equipment. All three accents were absolutely perfect for our app plus we enjoyed hearing their wonderful stories (and learnt quite a bit too). Anthea and Kelly talked about their experiences with ballroom dancing; Frank about his time as a Communications Engineer in UK prisons. With so much to tell us, the recording sessions went on late into the evening.

Nottingham was a short trip as well because of our pre-organisation. David and Alan came through a contact at Boots, the pharmaceutical company whose head office is based in Nottingham. David is a Boots’ Customer Analyst while Alan used to work there but now works for a gas and electricity supplier. Laura, our third recording subject, is David’s fiancé and a Staff Nurse at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

David and Laura live in West Bridgford, a suburb in the southern end of Nottingham so that’s where we headed on our first morning. Laura’s accent is stronger than David’s so they were a perfect balance. We tried to enlist the help of David’s father as well, who had a wonderful set of Nottingham sounds, but he was a little shy about recording (can’t win them all). In the afternoon, we recorded Alan at our hotel in the centre of Nottingham where he soon relaxed back into his natural accent. Alan gave us an extra sentence for our app that covered many idiosyncratic features of the accent (in particular the heavy/dark l and the fabulous final ‘ee’ vowel, which is more like a short ‘e’): ‘Tony Hadley out of Spandau Ballet’. Listen out for it under ‘Key Consonants’ on our app.

Given the distance from our homes in London, we took two trips to Bristol: the first to record Lauren and the second to record Louise and Simon (again all pre-arranged through a friend of Gavin’s who used to work there). Bristol is known for its art and foodie scenes so fabulous that we were able to record two artists and a restaurant manager.

Lauren is a children’s book illustrator and lives in Bedminster, a suburb in the south of the city and, colloquially known as ‘Bemmie’. We love Lauren because she cooked the most amazing brownies for our visit. Not that we don’t love all our other recording subjects but those brownies were pretty special. Her recording session was a happy one with a great deal of laughter (or laughter suppression so we didn’t disrupt the sound files).

Louise and Simon recorded together at our hotel. Louise is also an artist but specialises in wood block printing and street art. She revealed a big secret during the recording, which we’ve included on the app: how she created a six metre drawing of the engineer, Brunel, and secretly hung it on a cliff face near the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Simon works in a restaurant but he has a collector’s eye for vintage furniture and crockery: fascinating to hear about all his recent purchases. Louise and Simon’s recording session was full of fun and laughter as well. We can’t help thinking that Bristol is a very happy city.

Final Thoughts

Birmingham, Nottingham and Bristol were the three easiest trips to date on our accent-collecting journey. First, because we know these cities well and, secondly, because all our appointments were pre-arranged: no mucking about. Thank you to all the native speakers who were so generous with their time: Anthea, Frank, Kelly, Alan, David, Laura, Lauren, Louise and Simon. Also, massive thanks to the people who helped us find them: Kate-Emma Portlock (dancer/actor), Di Mayze (Boots) and Kath Cockshaw (Planet First). Thanks too for all the laughs.