Radio Ballads 50th Anniversary, 4 April 2014
Fifty years ago in April 1964 the brilliant ground-breaking Radio Ballad series, made in Birmingham by the revolutionary radio producer Charles Parker, came to an end with Travelling People. Written by Ewan MacColl, orchestrated by Peggy Seeger, still only in her twenties, and produced by Charles Parker, it told the stories of traveller communities in their own words and the songs Ewan MacColl fashioned from their memories. Several rapidly became folk classics – Moving On Song, Freeborn Man, Thirty Foot Trailer – to join those from the other famous series of Radio Ballads, such as Shoals of Herring.
To mark that anniversary on 4 April this year, the Charles Parker Archive Trust will hold its annual Charles Parker Day in the new Library of Birmingham – the city where Charles Parker worked as a radio producer and the place where his extensive archive is held – featuring Peggy Seeger herself. In conversation with Peter Cox, Peggy will talk about the innovative series of Radio Ballads and in particular The Travelling People.
The conference will be followed by a concert at the CBSO Centre featuring Peggy Seeger and Jez Lowe. Peggy, who herself became a prolific songwriter and radical activist, as well as interpreter of traditional American folk song, is still touring and in top form. Jez Lowe is one of the most accomplished writers and performers in the folk tradition. In 2006 he wrote and sang several songs for the revival series of Radio Ballads created by John Leonard and John Tams, followed by the Ballad of the Miners’ Strike, the 2012 series on the Olympics, and a new series for the centenary of World War One.
The Charles Parker Day Conference begins at 10.30am and will also explore the legacy of Peggy, Ewan and Charles in terms of music, radio features, oral history, film and theatre. There will be music, drama and great pieces of radio. And as the conference celebrates the radio feature (past, present and future) Peggy will present the 10th Annual Charles Parker Prize for the Best Student Radio Feature 2014.