Charles Parker Day 2019

This year’s annual conference celebrating the radio feature – past, present and future, named after the famous radio producer Charles Parker, returned to Bournemouth, the town where he was born exactly 100 years ago on 5 April 1919.  Click here to read or download the programme for the Day.

Parker was responsible, with musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, for a series of innovative radio programmes known as the Radio Ballads which combined actuality, speech and song to capture the extraordinary nature of people’s lives. In this centenary year we looked back at his work, explored contemporary audio feature making and introduced new opportunities for creative audio producers.

Sean Street and Andy Cartwright at the beginning of the 2019 Charles Parker Day

Sean Street and Andy Cartwright

Bournemouth University’s Emeritus Professor of Radio, writer and broadcaster Sean Street gave his  own personal reflection on Charles Parker, and award-winning radio producer Sara Parker will had stories of her own to tell as she reflect edon growing up with a radio producer obsessed with actuality and editing. 

We welcomed back Peggy Seeger, one of the original creative team behind the Radio Ballads who talked about the making of ‘Singing the Fishing’ with Gillian Ford, one of the original studio managers who worked on the programme.

The Day also hosted the launch of the new Audio Content Fund (ACF) as Sam Bailey and Will Jackson announced this new scheme supported by the UK Government to provide funding for original radio and audio production. The ACF is responsible for distributing a grant of up to £3 million, which will be used to produce distinctive, public service radio programming that is traditionally more difficult to support on a commercial basis including documentaries and features.

Andrew Wilkie from the Prison Radio Association talked to BBC Three’s Andrew Efah, the composer Jon Nicholls and producer Hugh Levinson from the production team responsible for the brilliant Ballad of the Blade feature broadcast last year on BBC Radio 4 and National Prison Radio.

BBC Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor, Mohit Bakaya, examined changes in contemporary feature production, the opportunities for engaging a younger audience and introducing new production talent to the station. And with Simon Elmes he announced the winners of the 2019 Centenary Charles Parker Prize.  This prize is awarded each year to the best audio feature productions made by students across the UK. But in this centenary year, beside the coveted Gold Award, the leading FIVE programmes submitted in competition will all receive a broadcast premiere on BBC Radio 4.

Ken Hall explored why Parker was so keen on using folk music in his programmes and investigated the legacy of the songs originally written for the Radio Ballads.  The day ended with a screening of the Andrew Johnston’s new film ‘The Runaway Train and the Radio Revolution’ which tells not only the story of the railway accident that became the subject of the very first Radio Ballad, but also the evolution of this new innovative radio form.

Charles Parker Day 2019 was a rich festival of music, voices and art, a milestone for the Charles Parker Trust, and a mustn’t-miss occasion for all who love powerful, passionate and beautiful radio.  There are some photos here, or you can listen to an account of the Day as a radio programme from BIRST

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