Studio Theatre, The Library of Birmingham
Friday 4th April 2014
This year the annual conference that celebrates the radio feature – past, present and future – took place in the newly opened Library of Birmingham where the extensive Charles Parker Archive is stored. A brief coverage of the event was broadcast on Midlands Today, and here are some photos from the event. It was followed by a concert featuring Peggy Seeger and Jez Lowe.
It’s 50 years since the last of the eight innovative radio features made by Charles Parker, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger The Travelling People was broadcast. So this year’s Charles Parker Day celebrated this ballad about travellers and examined the legacy of the whole series of Radio Ballads.
For this special occasion we were joined by one of the original creative team Peggy Seeger – in an illustrated conversation with Peter Cox (author of the definitive book on the Radio Ballads Set into Song) reflecting on the making of the ballads and in particular The Travelling People.
But have attitudes towards travellers changed during the intervening 50 years? Heritage writer and consultant Sarah Baylis had been listening to the original Travelling People recordings in the Charles Parker Archive and reported on their relevance for travellers today. Rural Media’s Nic Millington and Damian Le Bas (traveller, playwright and editor of the Travelling Times) talked 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 is a former BBC radio reporter/producer who re-trained to work in oral history – she demonstrated how oral history recording differs from radio interviewing and examined the pitfalls and opportunities of working in oral history.
In the afternoon we explored the important legacy of the Radio Ballads – in music, radio production and drama. Folk historians and archivists Ken Hall and Doc Rowe examined how songs from the Radio Ballads turned into traditional folk songs. Award-winning radio feature makers Alan Hall, Sara Parker and Sally Goldsmith investigated the legacy of the Radio Ballads in radio production. After he ‘left’ the BBC, Charles Parker founded Banner Theatre and it’s still going today – we were joined by Banner’s director Dave Rogers who described their Video Ballads, and by playwright Rony Robinson who explored the work of Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent in creating plays that adopted some of the Radio Ballad techniques.
At the end of the day the 10th Charles Parker prizewinners were announced – Gold, Silver and Bronze for Best Student Radio Feature 2014.
In the evening Peggy Seeger took part in an exclusive concert along with Jez Lowe (who wrote many of the songs for Radio 2’s new series of Radio Ballads) and the young fiddle player Charlotte Andrew, granddaughter of Charles Parker.