A British Voiceover Artist – The Iconic Sound of London
21st Sep 2020
She’s the sound of the London Underground – Elinor at Great British Voicesdiscusses her career as a professional voiceover artist – being the voice of London Transport ‘mind the gap’ – and setting up her own VO business along with her late husband, ‘The voice of reason, radio, and railways,’ Phil Sayer.
The Journey Begins…
Elinor was a radio presenter in her home town of Leeds. The very short version is that 16-year-old Elinor phoned a DJ and asked for a song because her school friend was far too shy, and thus began a very long friendship (with the DJ, not the school friend – Elinor laughs ‘I haven’t seen her for years but she was a great pal at the time’). In her early twenties she studied at Manchester University, and on my first day presenting for a local station, the guy on the show before hers was there to show Elinor around. They got married a year later.
And if you don’t recognise the name, then you’re sure to recognise the voice of Phil Sayer. A a VO as well as a presenter, when Elinor and Phil married they decided to join forces while Elinor was at university;
I’d always planned to head to London for further studies after I’d finished my degree, but we never looked back. By the time I graduated I had hundreds of clients, was pregnant with twins, and about to negotiate a contract to provide the London Underground announcements which would change the direction of my career – again…
A professional Voiceover Artist for over 15 years, Elinor speaks with Great British Voices about her voiceover career since Phil’s passing, how she keeps his memory alive, and why she’s still such a popular artist amongst clients to date…
Hi Elinor, so lets dive straight in with what has been your best voiceover achievement to date?
It’s not so much a single thing. It’s more that I’ve been able to reshape my business and keep it going since Phil died. I’ve found ways of adapting and responding to the changes in my own life as well as in the industry, and I’m proud that I’ve kept a roof over my kids’ heads through some really tough times. I love running my e-learning service because it means I can work with a wider number of clients and a lot of other amazing voice artists, but the thing I love doing the most is my podcast series, which tells the real life human stories behind the voices we hear every day.
Listen to their outtakes reel below;
Do you think there is something that makes you truly unique in the VO industry?
I don’t think there’s another married couple announcing trains on the London Underground (or indeed anywhere) – and even more unusually, I love that we’re still heard together every day, even though Phil has been gone for over four years.
Style and sound-wise I don’t think I’m unique.. and that’s a good thing. I will always try to be the best VO that I can be, but I’ve never tried to be too different. Fashions change, and the secret to a long career is to not be in or out of fashion. We’re all replaceable… the trick is to make sure your clients don’t WANT to replace you!
You’re the voice of the London Underground, do you get asked to voice a lot of announcements and corporate reads?
Yes, most of my work is corporate. It turns out that I have a real flair for highly technical, specialised, or medical narration. Of course I love doing the radio and TV ads too, but they’re the icing on the cake. My bread and butter is corporate and I think I get so much of it because I genuinely enjoy learning about new things and that comes through in the work I do, and my work for the London Underground was a fantastic spring-board for the career I have today.
What do you feel you can offer clients as a voiceover artist?
I’m a big fan of being human. By which I mean, there’s a lot of talk about robotic voices taking our jobs, but I think our jobs are safer than ever. The added bonus of using a real human means that you get to form a great relationship (hopefully one that lasts long term) and really get to know the client (and their material) inside out. I’ve worked with some of my clients for years, and feel like I’m an extended part of many different teams. Business is as much about building relationships as it is about being good at the job you do.
And what’s the strangest VO request you’ve received – if any?
I don’t tend to get many weird requests (except perhaps to announce somebody’s birthday in the style of ‘the Tube Lady’) but I’ll never forget how many people rang on the day my husband’s death was announced, to ask if they could be the new Mind the Gap man. No. No, no, no!
And finally…What’s the best thing about being a voiceover artist?
Every day is different. One day I’m teaching kids to read, and other days I’m describing the mechanism of action for a new and exciting drug. Every now and again I pop up on the TV or the radio. I can’t always talk about a lot of the things I record because I’m under NDA, but it’s exciting to know about medical treatments in early development – especially during a pandemic.
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