The fourth annual Charles Parker Day Conference was held on Friday, 30 March, 2007 at the University of Central England’s Birmingham Perry Barr campus, under the auspices of the Centre for Broadcasting History Research in The Media School, Bournemouth University.
As in previous years it was a packed day, bringing together like minds from the world of media and academe. The day got under way with a welcome from Gillian Reynolds and Seán Street, and we were pleased to welcome Professor Bert Hogenkamp from the University of Utrecht, who introduced film maker/producer Derrick Knight. He and Bert discussed Derrick’s acclaimed 1966 film about The Watersons, Travelling for a Living. Folklore chronicler ‘Doc’ Rowe also spoke, and gave an idiosyncratic presentation which provided some unique insights into what it was like to work with Charles Parker in the studio and on location.
This year there was a new development in the presentations, in that contributions were invited from writers and scholars working on subjects of interest to Conference. Thus Peter Cox talked about his planned book on The Radio Ballads, Ben Harker discussed research behind his eagerly awaited biography of Ewan MacColl, and Bournemouth PhD student, Ieuan Franklin outlined his initial work on Vernacular Radio and Community. Since the Conference Ieuan has spent a fruitful time in Newfoundland, further exploring his subject.
Each year the Centre for Broadcasting History Research at Bournemouth awards The Charles Parker Prize for Student Radio Features. The judges, led once again this year by the BBC’s Simon Elmes, were producer Julian May and Sunday Times radio critic, Paul Donovan. This year the prize of £500 and a placement in BBC Radio Documentaries and Features was awarded to Katie Burningham, a Masters radio student from Goldsmith’s College, University of London, for her touching and amusing short feature, Lieutenant Pigeon about people from various classes, brought together by their desire to feed illicitly the pigeons in London’s Trafalgar Square.
For many, the highlight of this years conference was the presentation by Siân Roberts and her team from the Connecting Histories project, which brought together a number of fascinating strands of on-going research, and movingly demonstrated the value of the Parker Archive and its associated areas in Birmingham Central Library to the perception and interpretation of contemporary social issues. The session eloquently demonstrated the value of this pioneering work, which sets a model other archival resources of national importance would do well to emulate.