The extensive Charles Parker Archive [ref. no. MS 4000] stored at Archives, Heritage and Photography at the Library of Birmingham, comprises the papers and tape recordings collected by Charles Parker (d. 1980). Parker was a BBC radio producer in Birmingham until the 1970s, was an activist and co-founder of the Birmingham and Midland Folk Centre, Grey Cock Folk Club and Banner Theatre of Actuality. He was a tireless campaigner for the voice of ordinary people to be heard on radio, and the folk music and song which originally came from the working classes to be preserved and re-used for contemporary campaigns.
The 10th Charles Parker Day, the annual conference that celebrates the radio feature – past, present and future – will be held at the Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham on Friday 4 April, 2014.
The first Charles Parker Day was organised by the Centre for Broadcasting research at Bournemouth University on 5 April (Charles Parker’s birthday) in 2004. It included the launch of the Charles Parker prize for students of radio features.
For the last eight years, the main theme of the conference has been the Radio Ballads, for which Parker and his collaborators, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger became famous.
It’s 50 years since the last of these eight innovative radio features – ‘The Travelling People’ – was broadcast. So this year, the Charles Parker Day celebrates this ballad about travellers and examines the legacy of the whole series of Radio Ballads.
For this special occasion one of the original creative team, Peggy Seeger, will attend the day and will reflect on the making of the ballads, in particular ‘The Travelling People’, in an illustrated conversation with Peter Cox (author of the definitive book on the Radio Ballads ‘Set into Song’).
But have attitudes towards travellers changed during the intervening 50 years? Heritage writer and consultant Sarah Baylis will examine the relevance for travellers today of the original recordings for the ‘Travelling People’ in the Charles Parker Archive.
Rural Media’s Nic Millington and Damian Le Bas (traveller, playwright and editor of the ‘Travelling Times’) will talk about how they have ‘moved on’ from the radio ballad format to an online interactive magazine.
When making the Radio Ballads, Ewan, Peggy and Charles recorded hours of material – real stories from real people. Helen Lloyd, a former BBC radio reporter/producer now a freelance oral historian will demonstrate how oral history recording differs from radio interviewing and examines the pitfalls and opportunities of working in this medium.
The Charles Parker Day will also explore the important legacy of the Radio Ballads – in music, radio production and drama. Folk historians and archivists Ken Hall and Doc Rowe will examine how songs from the radio ballads turned into traditional folk songs.
Award-winning radio feature makers Simon Elmes, Alan Hall, Sara Parker and Sally Goldsmith will investigate the legacy of the Radio Ballads for radio production in discussion with Felicity Finch.
Banner Theatre’s artistic director, Dave Rogers, will discuss how the documentary multi-media forms Banner first used have developed into ‘Video Ballads’ and playwright Rony Robinson will explore the work of the late Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, in creating plays that also adopted some of the radio ballad techniques.
The 10th Charles Parker Prizes – Gold, Silver and Bronze – will be presented for the Best Student Radio Feature 2014 .
In addition to Peggy Seeger speaking at the conference, in the evening she will be giving an exclusive concert along with Jez Lowe (who wrote many of the songs for Radio 2’s new series of Radio Ballads) in the CBSO Centre, Birmingham.
CHARLES PARKER DAY CONFERENCE TICKETS are £30 (£20 students/concessions) and are booked via the Birmingham Rep Box Office.
PEGGY SEEGER CONCERT TICKETS are £15 (£12 concessions) and available from WeGotTickets.
The Charles Parker Day is supported by: