Research and what can inspire a idea

Now this isn’t just something that just applies to Audio. It can apply to anyone creating any media piece. In my recent project I found the importance of letting anything inspire you and the amount of research you need to do. For this particular blog I will use a radio piece I created called 100 years ago, based on WW1.

This idea sparked from two events, a personal experience and a TV episode. Now my own experience was whilst visiting Amsterdam when I was 15. We visited a Holocaust memorial site and even though I didn’t have family that were tragically killed in this part of the world, I saw my Grandmother’s maiden name. Suddenly the life of a person I  never knew, even though we were not related, flashed in front of my eyes.  Years later, well last year to be exact, over a relaxing Christmas break I found myself watching old Downton Abbey episodes. During the WW1 period they covered an extremely powerful storyline about shellshock. I found myself inspired and then found myself linking these two moments together and then a radio drama was born. With a project like this going back in time you can’t possibly have an idea and expect something amazing from it in one go. It took a lot of research.

Blood sweat and tears went into this project, including many many many hours researching over a few months. Now I can’t provide you with all my research, so instead here are snippets from it.

TV and Audio research

As we are entering 100 year anniversary there has been a great deal of television and radio documentaries on different aspects of the war, along with historical TV drama. These have helped with the research for my drama, ensuring the details are correct.

 TV Documentaries

Jeremy Paxman- Britain’s Great War:

War Comes to Britain

  • Sound of the drums
  • 11:00 in the evening
  • 11:20 telegram sent
  • Politicians in tears
  • August 5th people wanting to see the King
  • Anxiety and excitement about war
  • “War to end Wars”
  • Private John Parr, first soldier to die was there to better himself
  • National Duty
  • Joining made public business
  • “Just because they were in uniform didn’t mean they were soldiers”
  • 6 months training
  • “Great German War machine”
  • “Join with your friends”
  • “Dare I stand aside”
  • Germans executing women and children in Belgium, rumors in Britain
  • “Clock being stopped forever”
  • “Ran holding hands”
  • King visiting soldiers in Hospital

 The War Machine.

  • Ordinary people dragged into war
  • Anti German riots
  • Press banned from reporting things
  • “Britain was learning to do what it was told”
  • Smell of death
  • A new family made in the trenches
  • Censor mens’ letters home
  • “Duty to King and Country”
  • “Good bye my loved ones don’t cry” (Letter back home from a soldier to his wife and children)
  • Battle of the Somme hoping to decide the outcome of the war, 7 days and 7 nights.

 Downtown Abbey

Shell shock story line

The character Henry Lang suffers from shell shock and is invalided out of the war early. However, the reasons for him leaving are never discussed. Characters are confused about how to treat him while some seem partly afraid, apart from one whose nephew was shot for “Cowardice.” The scenes where he relives the battles are extremely powerful and help the audience understand how it was still a problem even after leaving the frontline However, in the British upper classes it was dismissed and a subject which would never be mentioned.

 Goodbye and Praying

Two helpful scenes where a character says goodbye to a loved one followed by a scene where she can be seen praying for him. These scenes helped with the language women used towards loved ones at the time. While there is a lot of information about soldiers saying their goodbyes it is more difficult to find the equivalent for women. This information was important when writing for the WW1 scenes as it was essential to give them hope of returning to their homelife once the war was ended.


“Duty to King and Country”

“The big push”

“No man’s land”

“Going over the top”

These were expressions frequently used in Black Adder Goes Forth.

WW1 terms

Big Bertha- German guns

Big Push- Reference to Battle of the Somme

Blighty- England

Brass Hats- Higher ranking officers

Bunker- Overhead protection ground level

Eleventh hour- Just in time

Fritz- Sympathetic nickname for German soldiers.

The Great War- WW1

Enlist- signing up to fight in the war

Push up the daisies- To be killed and buried

Tommy- British frontline soldier

Trench fever- sickness around the trenches

Hun- Harsh nickname for Germans

My top 5 tips for research are:

  1. Work out exactly what you need to research.
  2. Put your research into categories, for example, History, Language, Film and Audio and Images.
  3. Be organised, set aside a few hours for a couple of weeks to get it done.
  4. Make sure all your facts are correct.
  5. Last of all give yourself time to take it all in before the next step.

If you are interested in the piece it can be found on my soundcloud.


Downton Abbey (2010) [DVD] series 2, episode 1. Universal.

Downton Abbey (2010) [DVD] series 2, episode 2. Universal.

Jeremy Paxman- Britain’s Great War:  The War Machine (2014) [online off air-recording] BBC One. 3rd February. Available from [Accessed February 2014].

Jeremy Paxman- Britain’s Great War: War comes to Britain:  (2014) [online off air-recording] BBC One. 27th January. Available from [Accessed February 2014].



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