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The Space: John Peel's Record Collection

  • Date: 25 July 2013
  • Artform: None
  • Area: National
DJ John Peel in his record collection John Peel Centre for Creative Arts has unveiled 2,600 albums from this legendary DJ’s record collection, photographer: Andy Abbott.

John Peel's Record Collection is a website based on John's home studio which allows viewers to browse virtually the shelves of his vast collection.

Each week for 26 weeks, the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts presented on The Space site the first 100 albums from every letter of John's alphabetically ordered collection of LPs, from A through to Z.

In addition, John's family selected a single artist or band to be the focus for a short feature film each week, introduced by John's wife, Sheila Ravenscroft. The artist or band was interviewed about their experiences and recollections of John, his influence on them and what they are doing now.

A special one-off film was also produced for the 40th anniversary of the 1972 John Peel Session by Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, and a fundraising gig, featuring The Fall and The Undertones, was organised to raise money for the centre.

Key challenges and learnings

The key challenges and learnings for the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts were:

  • Understanding that rights clearance can be time-consuming and expensive
  • Managing a project of international acclaim with a limited (albeit committed) team of volunteers
  • Working within the technical limitations of The Space
  • Dealing with the intense media interest in the collection and the drain on resources that created
  • Underestimating the cost of the project and so having to rely on huge amounts of good will

Tom Barker from The John Peel Centre for Creative Arts was delighted to discover the public's continued appreciation of John Peel: "We learnt that there is still a lot of love out there for John and the influence he had and that people are really interested in the collection".


  • Increased the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts' profile both nationally and internationally, attracting interest in the collection from all across the world
  • Built a network of over 10,000 social media followers and provided insights into the ways people interact online

"We have had to raise our game", said Tom Barker.  "As a fledgling organisation we have learnt just how much energy it takes to meet people's expectations...The project has also helped confirm how important John still is to so many people, and the feedback has given us the confidence and self-belief to know that we are on the right path."


Successes of the project include:

  • The creation of a widely acclaimed online archive
  • Delivering a project of such scale
  • Retaining a strong identity with John and his family who were involved in the project
  • Interaction with the public, such as tweets from people who said they never thought they would discover new music through John again, but now they are
  • New exposure for some bands through being in John's archive

On being a part of The Space, Tom Barker said: "...we found the diversity and sheer range of different projects on The Space incredible and were proud to be part of it".


Other organisations who were commissioned to make content for The Space highlighted John Peel's Record Collection as one of the stand-out projects, in terms both of quality and of innovation. It provided a compelling audience experience that made clever use of Spotify, and gained strong user figures and press coverage.  "It's a wonderful archive, and it's interactive - audiences can play and explore." (Quote from the summary evaluation of The Space pilot).

The project represented a step-change in achievement for the small, newly-formed John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, who see the project's legacy as an ability to think big, be ambitious and take risks. Tom Barker says, "We certainly hope to continue working with The Space in the future and that the John Peel archive will continue as one of the main projects on The Space."