This year we decided that we would introduce you to some of our lovely narrators who work mainly behind the scenes, but without them our books would not be recorded, and we would not be able to provide the service that we do. Our June offering is Bob Rollett, one of our longest serving narrators.
Here’s the script, now lift it off the page, learn it, make the character and story live.
Bob Rollett recorded his first book for Calibre in June 2006; it was 364 pages and was called Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly. He has just recorded his 321st book for Calibre: Max the Detective Cat (coming soon to the collection).
His passion for reading and narrating began as a child, inspired by his Granny Emily, who constantly read to him and taught him to read himself before he even started school. Bob credits Granny Emily with encouraging and nourishing his love of books. And as a child he also listened to stories on the radio: Children’s Hour, Uncle Mac and other children’s programmes, experiences which taught him to listen, to the wireless and to people, to hear and understand their accents, lisps, stammers and ways of communicating. To hear how to make books talk.
Looking back, Bob acknowledges that his life always included reading. Throughout school he read, and in secondary school, his favourite teacher, a Mr E Howard Bartley (Bart) read to them once a week. During those lessons, Bart made the books talk. His pupils, including Bob, were also encouraged to read aloud.
This love of reading stories aloud led him to acting; playing Colonel Lancelot Crupper in the school play and then into local theatre with roles such as Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows and Lord Fancourt Babberley in Charley’s Aunt. Still making books talk. It was in local theatre that he met his wife Ann. Playing one of the convicts in My Three Angels, he had to collect a basket from backstage. Every performance it seemed to get heavier. He soon discovered that one of the prop girls, Ann, thought it would be funny to see how much he could lift and was adding more weight to it each performance.
From school he went to University and trained to be an English lecturer – still making books talk. And then came a big life decision; Bob was ordained as a vicar and served for twenty years in the church of England. Twenty years, 1000 sermons and the privilege of making a very special book talk.
It was after he retired that Bob responded to a headline in The Times in February 2004. The headline read: ‘It’s the Way You Tell Them –could yours be the next great recording voice’ and was advertising a voice of the year competition. With encouragement and support/persuasion from Ann, he entered and out of 900 applicants he made it to a shortlist of 10. Two weeks later in The Times he discovered he’d won second prize and the chance to go into a studio and record some short stories. He soon found himself in a professional recording studio in London with a script and a producer. The book he recorded was The Brave Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson and he loved it!
Over the next few years, Bob would take on several different recording projects, many of which involved travelling into professional studios and although he still enjoyed the work, the travelling was often tiring. So, when he saw an advert for Calibre asking for volunteers to narrate from home, Bob applied. He travelled into Buckinghamshire for his induction at the Calibre offices and has been narrating for us ever since. He began recording on tapes, with a big chunky tape recorder, but just two years later Calibre switched to digital and Bob began recording onto memory sticks, earning him the accolade of being the person who narrated our first digital book. Working from home Bob is both actor and producer so honesty is required. He tends to record early in the mornings, usually between 7.30 to 8.30am and makes sure he has water, apple juice and throat sweets to hand to keep his voice in good condition.
To date Bob has recorded 320 books for Calibre which equates to around 2,600 hours. He easily reached his centurion award with Calibre for narrating 100 books, which was awarded to him by Gervaise Phinn and sped through the Silver Centurion award (150 books), reaching the Gold Centurion several years ago (two hundred books), which was presented to him by Hugh Fraser, Captain Hastings in Poirot.
As one of our longest running narrators, he has received many lovely letters from members thanking him for his time and dedication. He has raised funds for Calibre by selling a CD of his own poetry and also attended a Calibre-organised book groups with his wife Ann in Lincolnshire a few years ago, where they were reading one of the books Bob had narrated. It was, he says, a hugely moving experience to see how much the books meant to the people in the group.
Outside of books, he turns his hand to wood carving, and has presented a Welsh dragon to Denise at Calibre, our editorial co-ordinator and patriotic Welsh colleague. Looking back Bob reflects that he is delighted to see and hear that what started with Granny Emily and then Bart has made him very grateful for the gift that enables him to go on making books talk.
And finally, the last word, as always must go to his wife Ann who wants all his listeners to be aware that they really don’t know how lucky they are. When they’ve had enough, they can just switch him off!
Bob’s podcast for us where he talks in more detail about himself and his work as a narrator is here.
If you want to listen to the books that Bob has recorded in our collection, please follow this link.