The Green Lampshade : A Celebration of Delia Derbyshire

Manchester Museum

Spet 2015

Live review


Polymath, musical genius, Cambridge mathematician, medieval historian and electronic music pioneer and the creator of the timelessly brilliant Dr. Who TV theme music in 1963  Delia Derbyshire is one of the great musical pioneers who nearly slipped through the cracks of history.

In some ways a victim of the backward sexist attitudes of the late fifties/sixties her role in her ground breaking work in electronic music was partly ignored for decades. In recent years, though,unfortunately after her death she has begun to find the credit for some remarkable, ground breaking, pieces of music and sound that saw her remarkable imagination combined with a mathematical approach create stunning pieces of music that were way ahead of her contemporaries.

Born in Coventry and living for some time in Preston she was perhaps most famous for the  creating the Dr Who theme, when she was working for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, she as very much key part of the BBC backroom staff who came up with those mind blowing squiggly bits of music that were so much part of our TV youth. Within a matter of months of joining the BBC she had created her recording of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme, one of the most famous and instantly recognisable TV themes ever. On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: “Did I really write this?” he asked. “Most of it,” replied Derbyshire.

Typical of anyone groundbreaking she was partly ignored and eventually lost interest in her medium and ended up working in a bookshop until she was rediscovered by a younger generation of new musicians like Sonic Boom before she died in 2001.

In the 21st century she has become a cause celebrate for the electronic music scene leaders like Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers and this event is a fitting celebration of her work.

Brilliantly named after a lampshade that she use to create sound college from, the six hour celebration sees covers of her diverse catalogue by various artists each matched to a playful course for a meal served up by acclaimed Mancunian chef, Mary-Ellen McTague  in the new Grand Hall of the museum. it’s like a sixties happening with nibbles and a  celebration of Derbyshire’s diverse and great work that she would have approved of.

Held upstairs in Manchester’s museum in a Victorian hall in the dying embers of summer the all day long  with different musicians each covering one of Delia’s works in very different way from Naomi Kashiwagi’s use of scratching 78’s on old turntables with other contributions form Huw Bunford (SuperFurry Animals), Caro C, Geth Griffiths & Gary Farr (performing Ailís Ní Ríain’s composition), and Denis Jones delivering versions that range from free jazz improv to further electronic takes on the originals in a diverse and experimental evening that was hypnotic and mind boggling ambitious.



Previous articleInterview: We talk to Ewan Grant from WOMPS / Algernon Doll about recording with Steve Albini, his debut 7″ and the Glasgow music scene
Next articleThe Winter Passing: A Different Space of Mind – album review
Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. When the British Library built their new sound archive centre at St Pancras, the named the various rooms after different people who had contributed to sound/music. It was suggested by various people on the staff that one be named after Delia Derbyshire since there were no women “candidates”.
    Needless to say the BL in their wisdom ignored them!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here