Podcast #60: Delia Derbyshire

In this episode, we’re going to hear about a woman sometimes called a sculptress of sound —  “the unsung heroine of British electronic music” —  Delia Derbyshire, ably presented by our very own DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire.  

A working-class girl from Coventry, England, Delia studied music and mathematics, and went on to work at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. If you’re a SciFi fan, you’ve probably heard one of her best known works — the otherworldly theme tune to the TV show Doctor Who. A true pioneer of pre-synthesizer electronic sounds, Delia created music for more than 200 projects, but remained anonymous due to the BBC’s bureaucratic structures. She also set up studios making electronic music for soundtracks, festivals and theatre productions, until she left the public eye in 1975. 

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens joins producer Susan to set things up. 

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast. You can download the transcript, created by Rachel Pronger, here.

Show notes:

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Dead Ladies Show #33: Berenice Abbott & Delia Derbyshire

We couldn’t let this hectic year come to a close without one last DLS! This time we don’t have any funding, so there are only two talks, both in English, by your beloved co-hosts Florian Duijsens and Katy Derbyshire. Learn all about two impressive pioneers in their fields, women who pushed boundaries and gave us great work.

The aim of the show is to raise money for more podcasts, so we’ve adjusted the non-reduced price to €10, but reduced tickets still cost €4. Doors open 7.30 pm – come on time to get a good seat! We have limited space, so please book in advance.


BERENICE ABBOTT learned photography from scratch with Man Ray in 1920s Paris, where she did portraits of all the cool kids, alongside sculpture and poetry. Back in New York she switched to documentary photography, capturing the changing city with a sociologist’s eye. That work has been called “the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.” She lived with her partner, the art critic Elizabeth McCausland, for 30 years, invented various pieces of photographic equipment, and later moved into scientific photography, with her studies of light and motion contributing to the understanding of physical laws and properties of solids and liquids.

DELIA DERBYSHIRE (no relation) pioneered electronic music in the UK’s BBC Radiophonic Workshop – if you’ve ever watched Doctor Who, you’ll remember her stunning theme music. A working-class girl from Coventry, she studied music and mathematics. At the BBC, she worked on music for some 200 programmes but remained anonymous due to the corporation’s bureaucratic structures. She set up studios making electronic music for soundtracks, festivals and theatre productions, until she largely gave up music in 1975. She left a large archive of sound material and papers, and has been hailed as “the unsung heroine of British electronic music” and a sculptress of sound.

Dead Ladies Show #3

Another show jam-packed with dead ladies of the impressive kind, this time a quadruple double whammy: three dead ladies, two languages, two Florians, two electronic music inventresses and two Derbyshires.

So shimmy into your sequins or dress down and dirty to celebrate ethnographer Mary Kingsley – who explored Africa in full Victorian mourning dress and criticized missionaries – Bebe Barron – who literally cut and pasted hours of tape to compose the soundtrack for Forbidden Planet – and Delia Derbyshire – “the unsung heroine of British electronic music”.

All presented by your beloved hosts, Katy Derbyshire (no relation) and Florian Duijsens, plus special guest stars Susan Stone (NPR, WWD) and Florian Sievers (Spex, Groove).

And we’ll wind up the evening in time-honoured Dead Ladies Show style with a spot of socializing over special futuristic cocktails. Or perhaps a Victorian-style beverage? All will be revealed.

€4 on the door, or free entry for anyone appearing in full Victorian mourning dress.