Charles Parker Prize – Winners 2020

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2020 Charles Parker Prize.

The Gold Award, as announced on 3 April, goes to Alexandra Morgan. The other four prizewinners are Gabriel Green, Lewis Harrower, Charlotte Hurrell and Richard Queree. The five winning programmes have been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 for broadcast on the network this coming summer, as part of their New Storytellers strand.

We are hopeful that the programmes from the runners-up, Bruce Guthrie, Chantal Herbert and James Montague, will be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra as in previous years.

Here are full details and the judges’ citations for all the prizewinners and runners-up.

The Charles Parker Gold Award for 2020 goes to ALEXANDRA MORGAN of BIRMINGHAM CITY UNIVERSITY for her programme THIS AIN’T MY LIFE

This is a raw piece of campaigning journalism centred on one homeless man, Kane, who died on the streets of Birmingham.  The material is very strong and the programme’s sheer documentary power packs a real punch.  One judge said she’d had a “very immediate connection”; it was “well-researched, cleverly edited; urgent and important.”  “This presenter is a real talent”, commented a second judge, “the writing, presentation and authorial voice are a cut above all the other entries.  And the forefronting of the incredible, heart-wrenching piece of audio where Kane shouts “this ain’t my life” is reassuring of a producer who knows what they’re doing.”  Non-judgmental, this programme doesn’t deal with homelessness as a ‘problem’ but confronts it head-on as part of lived experience.  It was, concluded another judge, “powerful and authentic, a ballad / tale of our time.”

On hearing she’d won Alex Morgan commented: “Thank you for this honour.  I am incredibly grateful for the judges’ kind comments.  This is an amazing opportunity and I am very excited.”

Four other prizewinners (in alphabetical order)

Gabriel Green – University of Westminster – Palores, the Bird of Cornwall

The judges were generally very taken with this production: “I liked the ballad style”, with its “very sophisticated sound and gorgeous music”. It displayed a ‘good use of the medium’ of radio documentary and was a “lovely combination of the metaphysical, literary, personal memory and experience and history and place.” While not all the judges were taken with this piece (“poetic style over substance”), most agreed with the view that “overall it’s a very mature piece of work, a very enjoyable and high-quality production”.

Lewis Harrower – University of Sunderland – Living with Dementia

The judges commented on the programme’s ‘confident start and much promise’, with ‘Interesting choices and ideas from the outset’. It was “well-constructed with an arresting opening and compelling voices”, according to one judge, “taking you inside the experience of dementia and using archive material too.” “The treatment here is ambitious and fairly original,” was another comment. “The way the producer handles the presentation is unusual and nicely done,” while another judge agreed it was “hugely imaginative and brave sonically and tonally. It makes you sit up and listen.”

Charlotte Hurrell – Birmingham City University – Anything Goes in Holbeck

‘A bold, brave piece of investigative journalism’ was the judges’ view. There was a sense of danger and tension and it was made with real power. One judge had praise for its professional sound and clever editing “with a lot of different voices moving in and out of focus.This was well-researched,” she commented, “and involved tough reporting on a difficult subject. At times it was slightly hard to listen to because it was so disturbing.”. “Particular congratulations to the reporting team,” concluded another juror, “for taking on and achieving so much while putting themselves potentially in harm’s way”.

Richard Queree – Bournemouth University – Projectionists

This was ‘a tonic’ according to one judge, ‘well considered and thoughtful’, while for another it was ‘thoughtfully edited with a polished ending’. The programme was praised for its production and contributors who “tell the story with energy and colour, with splendid anecdotes and some excellent music and FX tracks.” “I liked this a lot,” enthused one judge, “a good central figure, and a sense of the dying of the light and contrasting contributions from different generations. Well recorded, good, vivid scenes (especially impressive in this regard).” In short, it was ‘social history made with a purpose’.

Runners-Up

Bruce Guthrie – University of the West of England – The Map of Keynsham

This piece had “a brilliantly preposterous premise, which it jumps into with brio” in one juror’s enthusiastic view, “I like programmes that take a small, ostensibly silly idea and runs with it to deliver something bigger”. It had “some clever sidebar stories that extend the scope of the piece to engage us with local history” in the view of another judge. “There’s lots of content,” commented a third, “with archive recordings and reportage. Experimental, too, with fictional episodes – ambitious and original”.

Chantal Herbert – University of Sunderland – Ode to Kara

The judges were unanimous about the power of this piece in which a woman praises a local support and meditation centre: “another difficult subject bravely attempted, with a striking opening and a lovely archive recording of Maya Angelou”, said one. “Confident, impressionistic, radiophonically ‘musical’”, enthused another, with “some really glorious moments. I have a sense of being in really safe hands.” Others were slightly less taken with it and felt it lacked development, though one judge pointed out that the end was especially moving when “the veneer cracks and we hear her pitiful lament for the way she has been treated by men.” It was, concluded one judge a “nicely crafted treatment of an issue that requires careful handling”.

James Montague – University of Bedfordshire – Autism and its Possibilities

The judges thought that this programme was ‘brave, Insightful and interesting’, with many virtues, “not least its honesty and close-up slice of the author’s own experience. This gives it an authenticity that is exceptional.” ‘Authentic and moving’ was also the description of another judge, with “good use of sound and sonic recreations”. It was well-crafted and “lifted when the listener’s experience melds with the experiences of those with autism. An excellent effort”.

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