The 7th Charles Parker Day was hosted by the University of Sunderland and organised by Andy Cartwright at the National Glass Centre.
The following report is by Professor Seán Street, Chair, Radio Academy, South Branch and Director, Centre for Broadcasting History Research, The Media School, Bournemouth University.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Prix Italia-winning Singing the Fishing, the day started appropriately with Professor John Storey, Head of the Centre of Research into Media and Cultural studies welcoming delegates on a bright spring morning as fishing boats were coming in with the tide up the River Wear.
In the absence, through illness, of the Charles Parker Trust Chair, Tim Blackmore, Gillian Reynolds began proceedings and Andy Cartwright talked to Gillian Ford, one of the studio team who had worked with Parker, MacColl and Seeger on Singing the Fishing and The Big Hewer. Gillian’s faultless memory gave fascinating insights into the process of making the programmes, with technologies now long gone in the digital age.
This was followed by Ian Parr, Honorary Secretary of the Charles Parker Trust, who discussed the effect that being a part of Singing The Fishing had on one of its key characters, Ronnie Balls. Research showed that Balls was quite a broadcaster in his own right, beyond his involvement with this iconic programme.
Ken Hall examined Philip Donnellan’s television ‘ballad’ The Shoals of Herring, giving us an extremely useful comparison between sound and vision. The theme of Singing the Fishing continued with Matt Thompson, who discussed his own response to the programme, in his feature, Gone Fishin’. This linked to the work of Sheffield community musician and Sony Radio Award nominee Sally Goldsmith, who played extracts from the feature she made with Matt, Now Wash Your Hands, about Izal toilet paper.
The afternoon began with TV journalist Chris Jackson taking us on a detective trail, to explore the origins of a cylinder recording by American sound recordist James Madison Carpenter, of a sea shanty, made in 1926, possibly within yards of the very spot where we were sitting.
Then Piers Plowright and Alan Hall treated delegates to a masterclass in “Transcendent Radio”, with headings cleverly beginning with letters which spelt out the words “CHARLES PARKER”.
My own contribution this year was a discussion of the correspondence between George Ewart Evans and Charles Parker, drawn largely from material in the Charles Parker Archive itself. The afternoon continued with producer Vince Hunt, reflecting on the making of the new Radio Ballad, The Ballad of the Miners’ Strike recently broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
The day concluded with the announcement of the winners of the 2010 Charles Parker Prize for Student Radio Features. This year the winner was Edwina Pitman from Goldsmith’s College, University of London for her short feature, Memories of a Marriage, a portrait of a relationship breaking down as the result of alcohol abuse. Edwina’s prize was £500 jointly from the University of Sunderland and The Charles Parker Trust, a SADiE 6 Sound Suite and a two week placement in the BBC’s Radio Documentaries and Features Department.
For the first time since the prize was inaugurated, there were also two “Silver” awards, to Danielle Wilmot of Sussex University for Insomnia, and Adem Waterman.