Gallery: Posy Simmonds : Video interview with Clive James |
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Posy Simmonds : Video interview with Clive James

Another case of Internet Amnesia! Trying to recover video clips from a deleted website is almost always a frustrating experience. Looking back beyond ten years or so, there was no HTML5 video streaming, YouTube was just getting going and carried mostly users' personal trivia, and dedicated video servers were an expensive option. Flash (Shockwave Flash, later Adobe Flash), Apple Quicktime (later Quicktime) and RealVideo (later RealMedia) were popular options among Web designers: they displayed video in the user's browser window, but required an unfriendly intermediate step, the downloading and installation of an application, 'applet' or 'plug-in' to work in conjunction with the browser. Also, the cost of Web hosting capacity climbed steeply with capacity and bandwidth demands, to the extent that designers needing to host large (as in high resolution) video files, or needing to serve many concurrent streams (as with popular material) found their ambitions curtailed, else they had to stump up for specialized third party media server capacity.

By 2018 video hosting had become much easier and more affordable on a local basis: most video clips were now served directly from a personal or corporate website, or handed off to a free, advertising-supported service such as YouTube or Vimeo with bandwidth to burn. The old browser plug-ins (always a security risk) were retired, and are no longer supported by modern browsers. The content-delivery and video-server accounts were closed, their content lost.

Clive's Internet video presence was always a little haphazard, even while his original was extant. Copyright restrictions and poor quality dogged his material on YouTube. Users wanting to upload their favourite episodes of Clive's various late-night entertainment shows frequently found them blocked by copyright claims: there are scores of clips out there, but few are 'official' and even fewer are in quality even as good as (say) VHS. Clive's recent webmasters uploaded some of his material to YouTube, but often several generations down the line from viewable. The rest of's own videos were served via accounts on third-party servers, or by publishers such as Slate who carried his material on their sites. Most of these sources, in the early days of the website, used Flash, and when the plug-in became obsolescent they simply removed the material. Web-archiving resources, including the redoubtable "Wayback Machine" usually carry a copy of the page linking to a video clip, but they don't archive the actual media item itself: not only is it unplayable — it's not even there.

And that's the situation with the interview referenced here. The old site's menu had, as we reproduce on the left (it points to this page), an item entitled "Posy Simmonds — video interview with Clive James". Pursuing it through the surviving chain of clues, we find it was linked to the Slate magazine "specials" website at, as a Flash file on the Washington Post's media server at That dead ends were encountered hardly needs to be stated. The 'plug-in required' error text from Slate in 2007 refers to it as "The Clive James Show". This suggests that the clip wasn't from Clive's own "Talking in the Library" (in Series Four of which he interviewed Posy for 2006 broadcast on the "artsworld" channel), but from one of his popular network TV shows. I haven't been able to find the relevant programme on YouTube, but then I note (see Clive's note HERE, third paragraph) that Slate's Webcasts of the Library interviews were re-titled, sonmewhat arbitrarily it seems, "The Clive James Show". So we might have the right (perhaps the one and only such) interview after all!

All of which attempts to explain why I'm offering here a link to Clive's "Talking in the Library" conversation with Posy, as uploaded to YouTube by one of my predecessors (in arresting 240-line resolution — JLB lives!) and collected here along with the 32 other available "Library" video dialogues:

— Archive Editor, December 2020

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