Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow
Friday 27 March 2015
To celebrate the centenary of Ewan MacColl this year’s Charles Parker Day was held in his spiritual homeland, hosted by the excellent Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow. We were pleased to be joined again by Peggy Seeger to help mark this event along with friends and fellow musicians Bob Blair, Jimmie Macgregor, Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre who acknowledged the Scottish influence on Ewan’s life, music and in the Radio Ballads.
We were also pleased to be joined by presenter and oral historian Alan Dein and producer Simon Elmes who demonstrated how they made a number of BBC Radio 4 ‘Lives in the Landscape’ programmes about the Craigmillar Estate in Edinburgh – The Doo Men of Burdiehouse – about pigeon racers and Craigmillar’s Caravan Converts about evangelical Christianity in the Travelling community.
The day also examined the work of radio producers working for BBC Scotland who make programmes for the BBC networks that reflect the lives of individuals with fascinating stories to tell. Matt Thompson, from North Berwick based Rocket House Productions, chaired a discussion with Liza Greig (The Meaning of Mongol), Peter McManus (The Digital Human) and Dave Howard (Being Edan) which were illustrated by extracts from their programmes.
The conference also explored two key features of both Charles Parker’s and Ewan’s lives – ‘political theatre’ and ‘political song’. The curator John Powles introduced us to The Janey Buchan Political Song Collection which is housed in the University of Glasgow and examined the relevance of the collection today and revealed his own personal connection to the radio ballads – as a distant relation of the legendary Sam Larner from Singing the Fishing.
We were also joined by Dave Anderson who, in an interview with writer and producer Pam Wardell, examined the glorious history of 7:84 Scotland and Wildcat Theatre – he also entertained the audience with a selection of political songs from their shows.
The day was bookended by two talks exploring the meaning and memories of sound from radio programmes from the past to contemporary sound art. Opening the conference Sean Street, Emeritus Professor of Radio at Bournemouth University and the founder of the Charles Parker Day, introduced the ideas in his new book ‘The Memory of Sound’ exploring the importance of sound and music throughout our lives. At the end of the day sound artist Mark Vernon previewed ‘Radiophrenia’ a sound-art radio station which broadcast from the CCA during April.
This year the winners of The Charles Parker Prize for the Best Student Radio Features were announced just before the lunch break so that the winners could celebrate their success with the professional radio producers present. This year’s winners are:-
Joseph Ovenall: Black Shuck – Hellhound of the East
(University of Westminster)
Peter Cernik: Both Sides of Dying (University of Sunderland)
Weidong Lin: Trace of a Cloud in a Chest (Goldsmith’s College)
Tom Glasser: See Without Seeing (Goldsmith’s College)
All these features were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and can be heard via links on the page announcing the winners.
The Charles Parker Day is a must for all listeners and students of radio, and in 2015 was supported by: