28th Jun, 2022

Coventry-born electronic artist brings Coventry Music Museum to life

Shaun Reynolds 6th Jan, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE AMAZING story and works of a Coventry-born electronic artist has been brought to life by The Coventry Music Museum.

Delia Derbyshire, who prematurely passed away from kidney failure in 2001, was described as a “legend” and someone who “set the benchmark” for other music writers.

Derbyshire is hailed as one of the most important figures in the history of electronic music in the UK and is best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer’s theme tune to the hit BBC science-fiction programme Doctor Who.

Now, visitors to the museum will be able to learn more about the hidden Coventry legend after a permanent display of Delia’s greatest work can now be viewed by the public.

After being educated in Coventry, Delia went on to secure a degree in mathematics and music before being rejected by Decca Records recording studio as a potential employee as she was a female.

She was instrumental in the birth of the ‘golden age’ of the radiophonic workshop after creating the instantly recognisable TV theme tune for Doctor Who.

The city girl gained a reputation for successfully tackling the impossible.

She also created the soundtrack ‘Great Zoos of the World’ – which was described as “the most accurate set of animal noises ever created electronically.”

Delia’s works from the 60s and 70s continue to be used on radio and TV today, and her music has given her legendary status with releases in Sweden and Japan.

Derbyshire was also involved in several of the earliest electronic music events in England where she performed with Paul McCartney.

McCartney adored Derbyshire’s work and even visited her house on one occasion to remake one of the Beatles’ most famous songs, Yesterday.

The museum has reconstructed a part of the radiophonic workshop, the place where Delia often used everyday objects to create unique musical masterpieces – including the famous Doctor Who theme.

Pete Chambers, Coventry Music Museum director, explained that the display features various items that belonged to Delia herself.

Her personal tape recorder is on show, as is her personal copy of the Doctor Who theme – all loaned by her partner, Clive Blackburn, who opened the exhibition.

Pete added: “It’s been a labour of love to make this happen – but it feels very much like ‘mission accomplished’.

“Finally having a place that celebrates her genius in her birth city is a great feeling, and one that hopefully our visitors will enjoy.”

The majority of Delia’s archive now belongs to The University of Manchester.

In her own words, Delia said the sound of the air raid sirens and the crackling of burning buildings during the Coventry Blitz helped open her ears to ‘found sounds’.

In tribute, Mr Chambers said: “It’s great that Coventry will finally celebrate Delia’s work after an extensive period of time where no one has really celebrated her in any great capacity.

“As a Coventry music historian I use the work legend a lot.

“However in Delia’s case, legend is the appropiate word to use.

“The music she created has set the benchmark for other music writers.

“Her legacy continues in the city and we now have a fantastic display to celebrate her work.”

Clive, Delia’s partner, said: “The Coventry Music Museum have done a great job on this.

“The display looks very authentic and staff deserve praise for their efforts.”

The Coventry Music Museum is open Thursdays to Sundays – 10.00am to 4.00pm.

Entry is £3 for adults and £1 for children aged 5-15.

For more information on the Coventry Music Museum, visit: www.covmm.co.uk

Support community journalism by making a contribution

The Coventry Observer's team of journalists provide a trusted source of news, sport, entertainment and events going on in your area and issues which matter to you - both via our free weekly print edition and daily updates on our website.

Every contribution, however big or small, you can make will help us continue to do that now and in the future.

Thanks for reading this and the Coventry Observer.

Support Us

Are you on Facebook?

Like or follow our Facebook page - facebook.com/CovObserver to get daily news updates straight to your news feed.


Weddings, Birthdays, Bereavements, Thank you notices, Marriages and more.

Buy Photos

Buy photos online from the Coventry Observer newspaper.

Business Directory

From plumbers, to restaurants, we can provide you with all the info you need.

Reader Travel

Check out all of the latest reader travel offers to get your hands on some free gifts.