Repost: Delia by Karen Harte

I was thinking about my favourite female creators (as it’s International Women’s Day) and immediately thought of Doctor Who’s early producer, Verity Lambert, but was then reminded that she was not the only female creator who put an early stamp on the show and I thought of Karen Harte’s book about Delia Derbyshire so I decided to give this a re-post.

A month or so ago, as part of my trying to overcome my shyness and general awkwardness around people, I volunteered to do a review for the Comics Lab. They duly called my bluff and so I had to pick a book to review. I ended up picking Delia by Karen Harte for a number of reasons. Mainly, it seemed, to me, to fit in with the overall philosophy of the Comics Lab itself. That being that you can make comics about anything and that that they don’t all have to fit into the same box. This going to be a different kind of review as I am going to go into the personal reasons why I enjoyed the book.

Back in 2013, as part of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC produced a documentary, An Adventure in Space and Time, about the beginnings of the show. Not only did I gain a love of the old Doctor Who from it, I discovered that there was a pioneering woman behind the scenes. Producer Verity Lambert, a lady I have come to greatly respect for her contribution to the show and television in general, was an integral part of its initial success.

Verity Lambert – the founding producer of Doctor Who

However, she was not the only pioneer. Kind of overlooked in the documentary (I think she appears briefly in one scene) was Delia Derbyshire, who electronically realised a score by Ron Grainer for the theme tune of Doctor Who. I actually nearly missed her contribution entirely.

Delia Derbyshire works in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Cut to the ‘Festival of Comics’ in March 2016 (coincidentally a Comics Lab event, with Alliance Française de Dublin), and I spot “Delia” on Karen Harte’s table. After a brief explanation of who “Delia” in question was, I immediately had to have a copy. The book itself is pretty interesting. As well as being a short biography of Delia’s life, it also covers her philosophy as a creator. Karen Harte cleverly captures the essence of musical creativity and the mechanics involved in Delia’s processes with her art. You actually get the physical feeling of the activity of cutting and splicing involved. The following images kind of show what I mean.

This is cleverly mixed in with Delia’s own words to capture the ideas behind her life’s work. It is a beautiful way to highlight the work of such a pioneer. As a Doctor Who fan, I really welcomed someone shining a light on Delia as well as clueing me into her part in the history of the show. I’d like to see more of a spotlight on her. If you can get your hands on a copy of this book, I’d highly recommend it. I’ll leave you with the piece that Delia Derbyshire is most famous for. Untouched by modern hands which is the way she preferred it.