What is your role within the project?
Designing and building the archive.
How did you and Klik come to be involved in the project?
It was Charlie from Eye Film and Television’s project initially with Tom from the Arts Centre (John Peel Centre for Creative Arts)… I fixed a problem with the Eye website, getting it to work on mobile devices and Charlie asked my advice on what was technically feasible for the (John Peel Record) Archive to get it up and running. I just outlined what I thought it should look like and how it should function… but it was such a short time scale I think Charlie said “just get on with it!”
How big is the team involved with Klik?
We work a lot with outside consultants but the core team is just myself and Sam Parmenter, coding wizard! And then we pull various other people in so we have a sort of wider umbrella that’s known as Norwich tech which we tweet under. This includes all the people who are variously involved in Klik projects so there’s Michael Howes, he’s a Photoshop wizard. There’s Leon Nockolds who’s an old friend of the Peel family anyway but he’s a vinyl head and has got a quite a large vinyl collection himself… so he was someone I immediately thought we should get involved from the point of view of actually handling the records. So it’s a bit of dream team actually in terms of the people we have actually pulled together to do it. And Iain Lowery is “the voice of the John Peel Archive!” through all the social media. It’s just about getting the right people who are sensitive to the project, to the family and to John’s legacy really. Another person who is involved is a guy called Dave Gutteridge who’s a very good photographer and someone I’ve known for 10 years or so through the local music scene who photographs a lot of bands. He’s a Shellac lover, he plays 78s (78 rpm records) he also grew up listening to John so he was an obvious choice to go into the family house and do the shooting, all the pictures of John’s studio and all the vinyl is down to him. So it’s a really nice team actually… it’s a bit like Mission Impossible around here really!
What is your professional background?
I come from a background of programming and software architecture, I’ve always programmed, since I was about 8. I love programming and I think people don’t realise how enjoyable it is, if you like Lego, you like programming basically, I’ve always liked building stuff. I worked as a software architect at Royal Bank of Scotland looking after the design and strategic direction of banking systems, which sounds like it wouldn’t be that useful for other stuff, but generally speaking if you’re doing software architecture or systems design I think it’s vital that you understand how all the different technologies work. We spend a lot of time discussing and investigating new technologies as they come out, new things that people are doing, so we always know roughly what’s new and available and what works and what doesn’t work for particular things. Every project we get is different so when we get something to do we can quickly say “this is possible, this isn’t” and give an idea of how long something might take.
Do you think this experience has helped you with the John Peel Archive?
How did you come up with the concept for the Website’s layout?
We wanted to do something that was a bit different to your normal website, it really fell into place when we went to the house and saw the collection and just thought this needs to be something very tactile. I knew that it needed to be photographically quite heavy and I didn’t want to have normal menus, navigations system, any of that… we’ve had a few people saying they wanted menus and navigation but I didn’t want it to be like that, I wanted the browsing of records to be as close as possible to running your finger along the shelf. That’s where the idea of the record spines came from. We made an infinitely running record shelf which is basically a combination of Mike’s photoshop skills and we used the actual real shelves and then stitched them together so instead of them being scattered all over the house, they now run into each other. I’m really chuffed with how it turned out.
Was the level of interactivity on the website difficult to create?
Yeah it was more of a challenge than I thought it was going to be, like with iPads, you have a certain idea of how a website’s going to work but running your finger along the screen means a drag or in this case a highlight, so we had to fight the technology to get it to do what we wanted it to.
What do you hope people will get out of the web site?
I hope they get a feeling of being there. Of actually looking through a small part of what is probably one of the most important record collections that exists, culturally anyway.