I cannot part with John's records, says Peel's widow

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The Independent Culture

Sheila Ravenscroft denied rumours that she would imminently be donating the collection to the British Library, because it would be "just awful" to part with the music her husband, who died a year ago this month, loved.

The collection, believed to be the biggest private archive of recorded music in Britain, includes music from Mongolian "throat singers", African railway station bands and a recording of Bill Oddie singing the Yorkshire folk song "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At". It consists of 26,000 LPs, 40,000 singles and 40,000 CDs in total, currently housed in a purpose-built extension at Peel Acres, the family's home in Suffolk.

Mrs Ravenscroft, who married the late DJ in 1974, and has four children by him, William, 29, Alexandra, 27, Thomas, 25, and Florence, 23, says she will one day give up the music collection, because nobody could possibly listen to it all.

"At the moment, I've absolutely no intention of doing anything with his records. The records here are John and I simply can't imagine how we all would feel if, for whatever reason, they were suddenly removed from us. It would be just awful," she told the BBC World Service.

Peel died aged 65 from a heart attack on a working holiday in Peru on 25 October last year.

"At the moment, it makes us feel rather good that they're all here. And we do play them," she said. "But I've got to be realistic and I know that there will be some time when we've got to say, 'Come on, be sensible.' There's simply no way we can play them all or appreciate them all. But it definitely won't be happening yet."

Peel spent his life encouraging unsigned bands and giving airplay to emerging acts, including Nirvana, the White Stripes and Led Zeppelin.

He had had discussions with the British Library about leaving his collection to the nation. Andy Linehan, the archive's curator of pop music, visited Peel to examine the stacks of records. The Library's music collection relies on donations and acquisitions because there is no legal requirement to deposit copies of recordings with the British Library, unlike books.

Peel's collection was once rivalled by Sir Elton John's 25,000 LPs and 23,000 singles, but the singer sold them in 1993, raising £181,000 for the Terrence Higgins Trust.

In the 12 months since Peel's death Mrs Ravenscroft and her children have completed Margrave of the Marshes, the autobiography Peel was working on.

More than 300 concerts took place last week to mark John Peel Day on 13 October, with performances by some of his favourite acts, including New Order, The Fall and Super Furry Animals.