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Trailblazer: Delia Derbyshire

An exhibition and festival of sound and moving image commissions, workshops, talks and performances celebrating the work of Delia Derbyshire.

Trailblazer: Delia Derbyshire


Delia Derbyshire was a trailblazer as a female figure in the development of electronic music in the twentieth century. Working from the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, she is best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer’s theme music to the British science fiction television series Doctor Who.

On leaving the BBC, Delia moved to Gilsland, Northumberland to work as a radio operator for Laing's Engineering in Hallbankgate, during the laying of major gas pipeline infrastructure project. She then worked and lived with Li Yuan-chia at his home and art gallery at Banks, on the line of Hadrian’s Wall, 2 miles away from our base at Green Croft. Derbyshire’s creative activity during these years saw her working with visual artists, most prominently Madelon Hooykaas and Elsa Stansfield furthering her long-standing interest in the relationship between electronic music and the visual arts.

Trailblazer Festival - from 23rd November 2023

On the 23rd November 2023 (Delia Derbyshire Day) it will be the 60th anniversary of the first episode of Dr Who broadcast on TV. To commemorate we are planning a festival of sound inspired and influenced by Delia Derbyshire, her work and her connection to Gilsland and the surrounding area. The festival will feature new artistic sound commissions, community engagement activity, open workshops, talks, performances screenings and a podcast.

25th & 26th November - Trailblazer will be a family friendly weekend of workshops, talks, performances centred around a new Trailblazer exhibition at The Sill Landscape Discovery Centre, Northumberland National Park. 

Thursday 30th November - January 2024 - Trailblazer exhibition will move to the gallery at RSPB Geltsdale, Cumbria.

The Creative Team

Creative Producer 

Amanda Drago

Sound Artist 

Kit Haigh 

Sound Artist / Composer 

Kate Halsall 

Sound Artist / Performer 

Victoria Macarte 

Visual Artist / Exhibition Designer 

Imogen Cloët

Marketing Consultant

Charlotte Furness, Leviart Marketing  

Science Fiction Musuem Curator / Artist / Musician

Neil Cole

Podcast Contributor / Delia Derbyshire Biographer 

Dr David Butler 


Northumberland National Park 

North Pennines Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Fellfoot Forward Landscape Partnership Scheme

RSPB Geltsdale 

Twice Brewed Planetarium 

Museum Of Classic Sci-fi

What actually happened after you left the BBC?

Crazy, crazy, crazy! I was the best radio operator Laing Pipelines ever had! I answered a job in the paper for a French speaking radio operator. I just had to sleep - everything was out of tune, so I went to the north of Cumbria. It was twelve miles south of the border. I had a lovely house built from stones from Hadrian's Wall. I was in charge of three transmitters in a disused quarry. I did not want to get involved in a big organisation again. I'd fled the BBC and I thought - oh, Laing's... a local family firm! Then I found this huge consortium between Laing's and these two French companies.

Delia Derbyshire, BBC Radio Scotland interview, 1997

Thank You

This project has been financially supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, North Pennines AONB Partnership, through the Fellfoot Forward LPS,The Sill - National Landscape Discovery Centre, Northumberland National Park, RSPB Geltsdale and New Writing North: Sounds Good.

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