The Friends of Charles Parker

The Friends of the Charles Parker Trust will hold their annual general meeting on Thursday 20 October 2016 in the Heritage Learning Space, Floor 4, Library of Birmingham,    3.30pm – 5.00pm.

Phil Maguire, a new Trustee of the Charles Parker Trust will speak about his work as founding chief executive of the Prison Radio Association (PRA). The PRA is a charity set up in 2006 following pilot project based at BBC Birmingham and HMP Birmingham (better known locally as Winson Green prison). In a feature on literacy and publishing in prisons on 17 Feb 2008, the Independent reported that the Prison Radio Association had been launched at Winson Green in July 2006, with the aim of providing training to prisoners to help with communications and literacy within prisons.

H.M. Prisons, Winson Green, Prison Library [WK/W16/123]

H.M. Prison, Winson Green, Prison Library.

The Prison Radio Association aims to contribute to a reduction in reoffending by using the power of radio. The National Prison Radio is the world’s first national radio station for prisoners; made by prisoners, for prisoners. The most important issues faced by prisoners are featured in daily programmes and social action campaigns which focus on issues of particular importance or urgency. Campaigns have included drug and alcohol awareness, smoking, learning to read. Partnership projects have included provision of information and advice on issues of domestic violence, housing, employability, keeping healthy, etc.

Charles Parker’s connections with Winson Green  go back to 1960 when he was asked by Birmingham Education Committee to give a preliminary series of six lectures/discussions to a group of inmates at Winson Green Prison on Folk Song and Culture. Parker chose the theme of ‘English Songs and Ballads’, asking ‘What do we mean by the word English?’ and was keen to encourage some of those who attended to write their own songs from their experience of life.

Classes of books kept at H.M. Prison, Winson Green. [MS 4000/1/3/1/3]

Classes at H.M. Prison, Winson Green.
[MS 4000/1/3/1/3]

In a file of correspondence and papers concerning this project at the prison (which he went on to teach as a course at Handsworth and Ladywood Institute of Further Education, Handsworth Wood Centre from September 1960) it is interesting to see the programme of classes held at the prison by H&LIFE. They covered Basic and General Education, Homecrafts, Handicrafts, Music and Appreciation of Music, Shorthand, First Aid, Mathematics, Art, Chess, English, Social Studies, Metal Modelling and Parentcraft. The file also indicates that Parker was taking an interest in the education and rehabilitation of prisoners, with several newspaper pieces about prisoner aftercare, and a piece from the Evening Despatch in 1962 about a house in Moseley run by the Margery Fry Memorial Fund, a voluntary body which helped ex-prisoners ‘get on their feet again’ in a practical way by providing a temporary home to help people adjust to their new lives.

The lecture courses were, of course, extra to Parker’s main work producing radio programmes. 1960 included the broadcasting of ‘Singing the Fishing’, the third Radio Ballad, which won the ‘Prix d’Italia’ for the BBC for a documentary programme and the Potter’s Gift, about the potters’ craft and experiences in Stoke on Trent. That year also saw Parker  involved with ‘A Meditation for Good Friday’, a multimedia performance event with music, song, film and poetry, on the theme of Easter, performed by ‘the Levellers’ at St. Peter’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham.

Fiona Tait



One response to “The Friends of Charles Parker

  1. Reblogged this on keithbracey and commented:
    #Birmingham #HMPBirmingham #WinsonGreenPrison #TheGreen #TheBlueBrickBirmingham #PrisonRadio #SortsRadioBirmingham

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